Flower Power for Buildings

United Kingdom

The general idea behind the EU Flower Label (“Flower Label”) is that the entire life-cycle of a product or service should cause as little impact on the environment as possible. This can only be achieved, however, if clear guidance is in place. A study exploring possible environment criteria for the development of the Flower Label for buildings was published on 14 January 2009 by the Italian Institute of Environmental Protection and Research (“Study”). The proposed criteria are due to be formally put forward to stakeholders at the next Ad Hoc Working Group on Eco-Labels meeting in late March 2009. The study identifies buildings’ main environment impacts and reviews criteria for existing national and international eco-labels, to establish a standard which buildings must achieve in order to be awarded the label. From the point of view of Cleantech and Green Public Procurement (GPP), such a move is not only indicative of EU’s commitment to utilising GPP as a tool to improve the efficiency of the building sector, but also forms part of the EU’s wider efforts to create a single and harmonious set of environment criteria for 10 priority sectors, of which the construction and real estate sector is one. The introduction of the Flower Label for buildings is likely to create opportunities for the cleantech industry as demand for energy efficient products and services increases. Further, it is envisaged that a building which has a high rating on its Energy Performance Certificate as well as a Flower Label will not only provide a double boost to the reputation and brand value of the occupying entity, but would also be highly regarded by landlords and tenants alike. The final draft of the proposal is expected to be submitted to the European Parliament in November 2009.

Background

At present, no single set of environment criteria for buildings exists, creating uncertainty and disparity between standards (see Existing Criteria below). A single set of criteria would remove that uncertainty and would create uniform standards for all European buildings. In this regard, this Study forms part of the wider objective to provide the real estate industry with a legislative, environment and economic context for the continuous buildings criteria development.

Flower Label

The chief purpose of the Flower Label (first introduced by Council Regulation 880/92 in 1992 and subsequently revised in 2000 and 2005) is to promote the design, production, marketing and use of consumer products and services that have as little impact on the environment as possible during their entire life-cycle. Only those products that meet robust environment and performance-related criteria are awarded with the Flower Label. In this way, the Flower Label aims to allow consumers to make better informed choices about the environment quality of products and services they are purchasing.

Advantages of the Flower Label

The main advantage of the Flower Label is that it is a single common instrument that incorporates characteristics of other national labels. Compared to other, national labels, the Flower Label promotes transparency and simplicity, since the same criteria apply for the same product, regardless of the Member State in which it is produced or sold, so that once the Flower Label has been awarded by a Competent Body in one country (in the case of UK this will be the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)), the product can be marketed with the Flower Label in all 27 Member States, and those countries that are signatories to the European Economic Area (EEA) Agreement (Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein).  The scheme is open to any product and service, except food, drink, pharmaceuticals and medical devices. When a product has been awarded with both a national and the Flower Label, the two logos can be displayed side by side on the product. For example, the Flower Label can be displayed next to the verified environment management system, such as ISO 14001. Importantly, applicants to the Flower Label scheme who have already received certification under EMAS or ISO 14001 will be entitled to reductions on the annual subscription fee for the Flower Label of up to 25%.  It is envisaged that a building carrying a Flower Label would provide assurance to the occupiers that the indoor environment as well as the overall use of energy and waste meets the necessary environment standards. It may also increase the valuation of a building and help strengthen an owner or occupier’s image, particularly when considered in combination with a favourable Energy Performance Certificate.

Buildings

‘Buildings’ are defined in the Study as any buildings ranging from small houses, new (including major refurbishments) or existing buildings (including renovations), public or private buildings, buildings used for residential purpose or buildings for office use.  Specific criteria to address the design, energy calculations, performance and operation of future Flower-Labelled buildings.  The Study presents examples of possible criteria. 

Existing Criteria

The Study examines existing criteria which are used to assess buildings’ standards in different countries. Amongst those discussed in the Study are the Sustainable Homes Code (UK), the Nordic Swan Labelling of Small Houses, the Austrian Klim:Aktiv, the French Haute Qualite Environnementale, the US LEED rating system, the international iiSBE standard, the Japanese CASBEE system and the Italian SB100 standard. The Study underlines the fact that such schemes are not comparable to each other as they use different assessment methodologies and criteria addressed to specific life-cycle phases. Nonetheless, all of these standards are similar in that they take into account waste, water, energy, materials, design, indoor air quality and ventilation as well as health and safety features.

Connection with other EU instruments

Beside the analysis of existing criteria of Eco-label Schemes other European initiatives were considered by the Study such as the development of (i) European Committee for Standardisation CEN/TC 350 standards regarding sustainability (ii) the Construction Products Directive (89/106/EEC) and proposed Regulations and (iii) the GPP criteria. 

Points to consider

The Study also includes the result of an analysis carried out under the Eco-indicator 99 method which is an environment performance indicator method for life cycle assessment and ecodesign.  This analysis revealed that approximately 60% of environment impacts come from the buildings’ use phase and recommends that future criteria should place a particular focus on modification and improvements of environment performances related to the use phase. The Study underlines the importance of continued use of eco-materials such as cork and sawdust which are considered to have good environment performance. Furthermore, the Study stressed the importance of the increased use of the solar collectors for water heating, of low-emissions condensing boiler and the installation of radiating panel instead of radiators.

How to apply?

The UK Competent Body is Defra. Defra runs the scheme with UK Ecolabel Delivery (a partnership between TUV NEL Ltd and Oakdene Hollins Ltd), which handles all enquiries and applications for the Ecolabel on Defra’s behalf.

E-mail:            ecolabel@tuvnel.com

Website:          Please click here

Useful links for The European Eco-labelling Board (EUEB), The Competent Bodies, Guidelines for the application of life-cycle assessment in the EU, Eco-label Award Scheme, EU Eco-label frequently asked questions for manufacturers can be found here.