Many builders wish to build in a sustainable and low-emission way as well as to save costs in the long term. However, it is usually not so easy to see which products and materials can be used to fulfill this wish. Independent certificates and environmental labels should help. In this article, Stefan Schindele, an expert in building biology at Baufritz, provides an overview of the most important test seals and certifications.
The natureplus seal of approval aims to make sustainable building easier for you and focuses primarily on the ecological balance of individual building materials, which have to meet very extensive requirements.
If you consider that around 40% of the world’s resource consumption and around 30% of the world’s energy consumption can be traced back to the building and living sectors, the natureplus goal seems all the more important. Natureplus certifies emission-tested building materials that are primarily made from renewable raw materials. All products that bear this seal of quality have been strictly tested for climate protection, sustainability and healthy living .
As a consumer, you can ensure that the products you select are functional, healthy and environmentally friendly. But participation in the natureplus system is also worthwhile for manufacturers: the label supports effective marketing and public relations and improves the competitiveness of sustainable product lines. However, manufacturers must actively seek the eco-label.
The eco-Institut label helps with the selection of building products. The eco-INSTITUT is a test center for emission measurements within the framework of the Construction Products Ordinance. Here, experts measure the emission values of almost all materials related to construction, such as floor coverings, textiles and furnishings, but also leisure and sporting goods. In doing so, the eco-Institut orients itself towards the currently legally prescribed and voluntary standards at national and international level. The institute also awards its own seal of approval: the eco-INSITUT label. With the help of transparent test criteria, products are tested for safety and harmlessness to health. So you can be sure that only products that are toxicologically harmless and largely environmentally friendly receive this label.
IBR seal of approval
The Institute for Building Biology Rosenheim GmbH (IBR for short) tests building products such as insulating materials, wallpaper, floors and paints. If the products ensure safe living in terms of building biology and at the same time protect the environment, they can be awarded the IBR test seal “tested and recommended by the IBR”. The institute attaches particular importance to the use of scientific analysis methods that correspond to the current state of laboratory technology and are comprehensible for the end user. In the meantime, more than 300 building products from Germany and abroad already bear the IBR seal of approval.
Manufacturers of products relevant to residential medicine can apply to the Society for Residential Medicine, Building Hygiene and Interior Toxicology eV for the certificate “Recommended for Residential Medicine”. The certificate can be awarded for different products or product groups, including building materials, furniture and interior design as well as household appliances. As soon as the application is submitted, the manufacturer should submit a proposal for the criteria for his product, the healthy living conditions of which should be confirmed by the test seal. This can be any objectively assessable criteria from a technical or (residential) physiological point of view that have an impact on aspects of healthy living (see info box). The proposed criteria are discussed together with the examination board and a selection is then made as well as an agreement on the costs of the certification. As long as the tested product is offered on the market unchanged in its technical properties, but for a maximum period of three years, the certificate “recommended for residential medicine” remains valid.
The GEV, the “Association for Emission-Controlled Installation Materials, Adhesives and Building Products”, was founded with the aim of giving consumers, craftsmen, planners, architects and dealers orientation about the low-emission systems and technologies available on the market. The GEV is the licensing and control authority for EMICODE, a protected, non-competitive classification system for installation materials. The GEV-EMICODE seal of quality is divided into three levels: EMICODE EC1 PLUS, EMICODE EC1 and EMICODE EC2. If you use the EMICODE EC1 PLUS level as a guide for products, you are well advised.
Basically, I recommend paying attention to test seals and certificates with proof of emissions, especially for materials used on large areas with direct room air access, since the quality of these products plays a major role in healthy living. A closer examination of the materials is therefore particularly worthwhile for interior wall paints, floor coverings and adhesives, plasters, varnishes, sealants and fillers and primers.
Despite all efforts, I also urge caution, because not everything that says “healthy living” actually includes a plus for healthy living.
“I can therefore only advise the consumer to critically examine the competence of the provider. The product labels mentioned above can offer good help here.”Stefan Schindele, expert for building biology at Baufritz
Since the topic of healthy building is very trendy today, many house providers are now advertising it. Unfortunately, the quality of the processed materials sometimes leaves a lot to be desired.
The most important thing is to keep the whole picture in mind and to offer a solution for all harmful influences. I can therefore only advise the consumer to critically examine the competence of the provider. The product labels mentioned above can offer good help here. As a rule, indoor hygiene is the priority for them.
So make it easier for yourself when choosing a product and do something good for your health by paying attention to the above-mentioned test seals when building your dream house!