Life Cycle Approach

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The environmental impact of your home begins long before your receive your first electricty bill and includes the place where the raw building materials came from, their manufacture, transportation and installation, otherwise known as their embodied energy, through to their disposal at the end of their use.

Whether a new build or renovation, the more you delve into the selection of your building materials, the more complex it appears.    Below is an overview of some of the things to think about, and where you can go to get good information to help you make these decisions.

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You need to consider

  • What are the raw materials and where are they sourced from?
  • Are their alternatives such as second hand materials that you can use?
  • How much energy was needed to make the product, otherwise known as embodied energy?
  • How will it be disposed of – during construction and at the end of its life?

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There are a number of certification schemes that can help you to choose building products with high environmental credentials. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an international, membership based, non-profit organisation founded in 1993 by environmentalists, social interest groups, indigenous peoples’ organisations, responsible retailers and leading forest management companies to develop standards based on the ‘10 Principles for Forest Stewardship’ by which responsible forest practice can be measured.

Greenpeace’s Good Wood Guide aims to aim to help you make an informed, environmentally responsible decision when buying wood and wood products.  

Visit the  Smart Living Centre to see our beautifully crafted benches that showcase sustainably grown or sourced timbers. These show that choosing sustainable timbers does not mean compromising on looks.

Other building materials

Ecospecifier is an award-winning database of eco-preferable products and materials, developed by the Centre for Design in 2000. It aims to be a reliable and informative source for environmentally preferable building products and materials, intended for building professionals and keen homeowners.  This technical guide provides a comprehensive overview of most of the common specifier and homeowner questions. What are the environmental issues? What is Timber Certification? What does Chain of Custody Mean? What are the various preservatives available and which ones are healthiest? What are the carbon sink benefits of MDF as opposed to solid timber, or plastics?

Embodied energy – How is it made?

The Australian Government’s Your Home technical manual provides an overview of embodied energy, or the energy required to make a product.  The embodied energy includes the energy needed to:

It does not include the energy required to operate a product or power a building.  The most important way to reduce the impact of embodied energy is to design durable and adaptable buildings that can meet changing needs.

  • mine and process the raw building materials
  • transport these raw materials
  • manufacture the finished product or parts of the product
  • transport the product.

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The Australian Government’s Living Greener website has comprehensive information on Managing building waste.