The Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) method was developed by the Institute for Environment and Sustainability (IES) of the Joint Research Centre (JRC), a Directorate General of the European Commission (EC) upon mandate of the EC Directorate General Environment (DG ENV). The development of the PEF method has to be seen in the context of the initiative of creating a single market for green products that also includes communication vehicles. The EC Environmental Footprint is a multi-criteria measure of the environmental performance of products (i.e. goods and/or services) and organizations from a life cycle perspective. EC environmental footprint studies are performed for the overarching purpose of seeking to reduce the pressures of products and organizations in the context of resource efficiency and the environment, taking into account supply chain activities (from extraction of raw materials, through production and use, to final waste management). It is a supporting method to the EC’s objective to “establish a common methodological approach to enable Member States and the private sector to assess, display and benchmark the environmental performance of products, services and companies based on a comprehensive assessment of environmental impacts over the life-cycle ('environmental footprint')”. The PEF method was adopted by the Commission on 9 April 2013 and is being evaluated since 2014 in several PEF and OEF pilot projects. These in total 27 pilot projects will end by 2017. The PEF4Buildings project at the building level will contribute to the ensuring that there is a practical link between the assessment of the building level and the environmental footprint assessments at the product level.
Our support of the European Commission in the PEF assessment of a newly built office building, in the development of a possible approach to benchmark buildings and define classes of performance and in the development of an approach to extend the results towards other typologies of buildings clearly fit within the PEF policy context of the European Commission. In addition during the PEF assessment of the newly built office building we will try to align as much as possible with the work that has already been carried out in the framework of CEN/TC350 (Sustainability of Construction Works) which is responsible for the development of horizontal standardized methods for the assessment of the sustainability aspects of new and existing construction works (buildings and civil engineering works), including horizontal core rules for the development of environmental product declaration of construction products (EPD).
The main research questions of the study are defined as follows:
- How can the assessment of the environmental performance of construction products be used in buildings be linked to the assessment of the building level by using the PEF method?
- How can the results and experiences from the PEF assessment of a specific newly built office building be used to develop an approach for benchmarking office buildings and for the definition of performance classes?
- How can the results and experiences from the PEF assessment of a specific newly built office building be used to extend to other possible typologies of buildings?
- What are the lessons learnt and the recommendations based on the experiences and results of the PEF study for a new office building based on the assessment of the environmental performance of construction products?
The PEF4Buildings project will be carried out in close consultation with the European Commission. Two 1-day workshops with stakeholders will be organized at the premises of the European Commission in Brussels (Belgium).
VITO/EnergyVille gives added value to this project, as:
- VITO/EnergyVille has a strong track in the development of the methodology to assess the sustainability of buildings and building elements;
- VITO/EnergyVille does not only have a lot of expertise in relation to energy performance of buildings but also have a strong record with regard to other sustainability aspects: construction materials and the link to the complete cycle management and waste management, water consumption, well-being of occupants, indoor air climate, flexibility of buildings, life cycle costing, etc.;
- VITO/EnergyVille is actively involved in three PEF pilots related to the building materials: hot and cold water supply piping systems (as main consultant and member of the Technical Secretariat – TS), thermal insulation materials (as consultant for Eurima for PEF screening studies for mineral wool and as consultant for Eurima, Exiba and PU Europe for several PEF supporting studies) and metal sheets (as consultant for ArcelorMittal for the PEF supporting study of steel sheets);
- VITO/EnergyVille is already supporting the European Commission (DG JRC IPTS in Seville) in the framework of the development of core indicators for sustainable buildings with specific projects
We consider this project both as an opportunity and a challenge to transfer our common knowledge to the European Commission in the framework of the development of benchmark and classes of performance for buildings and by linking the assessment of the environmental performance of construction products to the assessment of the building by using the PEF method.