Up to 40% of all materials used in human activity is directed into the built environment. This has a direct and visible impact on the world’s resources, energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. However, concrete has an excellent ecological profile compared to other construction materials such as metal, glass and polymers. Although cement is both resource and energy intensive when produced, compared to other products, concrete production consumes the least amount of materials and energy, produces the least amount of harmful by-products, and causes the least amount of damage to the environment. (Concrete NZ website).
However, it is recognised that the manufacture of cement, one component of concrete, contributes the most to the environmental footprint of concrete. To reduce the footprint you need to use a cement with good credentials. Golden Bay Cement are Firth’s preferred cement supplier and they are the only cement supplier in New Zealand to be awarded a licence to use the Environmental Choice Eco-label (EC-42-10) for their EverStar cement product .
Firth and Ecolabel
An ‘Ecolabel’ identifies the overall environmental preference of a product or service within a specific product/service category based on life cycle considerations.
Components of Ecolabel concrete include:
• Cement must meet requirements of EC-42-10 for Portland Cement (Golden Bay Cement)
• Aggregate must be from an approved supplier (Winstone Aggregates)
• An annual report of recycled products used is supplied showing the percentage included, source and
results of chemical testing
• Hazardous substances are excluded
• Policies and procedures are provided on water management
• Discharge to water pH is in the acceptable range of 6-9
• Cement silo requirements include fabric filters, overfill sensors and pneumatic transfer of cement
• Discharges to air are below the required amount
• Dust management and truck washing practices are in place.
The product uses alternatives to the high CO2 emitting cement through fly ash and the Label ensures that manufacturing processes such as waste minimisation, water management and the exclusion of hazardous substances are enforced.
At Firth we …. Declare
At Firth we believe that it is important to look at the environmental impact of building materials, elements and the building as a whole while ensuring durability and longevity of these buildings. Our teams are constantly working towards innovating and developing new products to make it easier for our customers to make smart choices towards a more sustainable lifestyle.
Firth holds Declare labels for our ready-mix concrete, concrete masonry products and mortar products, enabling us to offer customers the whole package.
What is Declare?
Declare is an ingredients initiative for building products that are designed to shape a greener, healthier environment for construction workers, business employees and customers alike.
A Declare label answers three questions:
• Where does a product come from?
• What is it made of?
• Where does it go at the end of its life?
Declare is a transparency tool created in support of the Living Building Challenge Materials Petal requirements, but relevant to all parties seeking product health and source location information. By providing a clear and informative ‘nutrition label’ and a publicly accessible database of building products, Declare facilitates effective communication between manufacturers, building product specifiers and consumers.
More information on Declare can be found here.
Greenstar and Homestar NZ Green Building Council
New Zealand Green Building Council (NZGBC) recognise Declare labels. Using Firth products allows projects to be recognised under the Greenstar and Homestar rating. They receive points that contribute to the overall score of a rated building or home.
NZGBC utilise third-party certification bodies such as Ecolabel to test and carry out environmental assessments of products and materials that relate to the Materials category credits. As a result, products that are environmentally preferable are recognised in the market.
Both labels contribute toward material points in Green Star and Homestar rating tools allowing consumers to make informed choices for sustainable development.
So what are some of the sustainability credentials of concrete?
For more information on Declare and Firth’s Ecolabel product EnviroBlend® click here.