Industry Voices - Exploring concrete and sustainable construction

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by Charles Kelly

The public discussion on how to achieve greener, more energy efficient and sustainable buildings has been profoundly influenced by the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green building rating system.
Industry Voices - Exploring concrete and sustainable construction

That influence is now incorporated in procurement systems at all levels of government.

At the national level, all buildings costing more than $10 million must be certified as Gold or better.

In Vancouver, the majority of all mid-rise and taller buildings are either LEED certified or described as LEED equivalent.

The Canada and U.S. Green Building Councils have grown LEED Accredited Professionals (AP) into an international movement with more than 500,000 professionals either accredited or in process, making this the fastest growing NGO in the world.

The certifications have now been through four iterations.

The most recent, LEEDv4 has been approved in Canada and the US.

This new regime is a change in how building material manufacturers will be asked to declare the composition and energy impacts of their respective products.

More specifically, procedures and requirements have been established for Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) and Health Product Declarations (HPDs).

LEEDv4 was set to be implemented in June 2015, but last November the implementation date was revised to October 2016. This postponement was welcomed in the construction sector as preparing an EPD is not an easy task.

As an introductory step to EPDs, LEEDv4 enables industry-wide EPDs for companies that participate in an aggregated data analysis exercise.

An industry-wide EPD has a value of .5 point as compared with 1 point for a specific product EPD.

In the case of concrete. This .5 point is extremely valuable for building designers, as each mix design is recognized as a product.

Using numerous mix designs, the allowed materials classification category for points can be readily maximized.

The BC Ready-Mixed Concrete Association has decided to offer all of our members the opportunity to participate in a B.C., industry-wide EPD program.

Our LEED program manager will be the National Ready Mix Concrete Association. The data analysis will be conducted by the Athena Sustainable Materials Institute and the third party validation of the information through the National Science Foundation.

The program will be timed and co-ordinated to ensure that all participating companies will be ready for the October 2016 implementation of LEEDv4.

The B.C. concrete industry welcomes the LEEDv4 approach to product transparency and health concerns.

In the future, our industry wishes to work with partners to bring forward recommendations on whole building Life Cycle Assessment measures.

The current "Cradle to Gate" approach is not sufficient to address the full measure of sustainability assessment.

It is the material and product impacts throughout the life of the building and the inclusion of recycling at the end of life that will provide a truly meaningful "Cradle to Cradle" sustainability assessment method.

Charles Kelly is the president of the BC Ready-Mixed Concrete Association. Send comments or questions to

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