There are a number of independent certificates and eco-labels that guarantee health and safety standards when building and renovating green. Stefan Schindele, an expert in building biology at Baufritz, gives you an overview of the most important seals of approval
TOXPROOF, seal of approval from TÜV Rheinland
One of the most important building labels is TOXPROOF from TÜV Rheinland. As the name suggests, this certificate is only awarded to buildings that have been tested for harmful substances and where no health hazards are to be expected in the indoor air. Before the actual examination for harmful substances, it is determined how the product is manufactured and which chemicals are used. The test itself includes all known suspect substances, possible contaminants and substances used for preservation during transport and storage. In some cases, the criteria go beyond what is required by law and take into account the possible effects of the substances used on human health through inhalation, skin contact or ingestion. With the neutral TOXPROOF test mark, you ensure that the products you have selected do not pose any health risks for you and your family and that you do not even have to replace the products with new ones at a later date due to major defects in this area.
The SHI health pass
Air – the most important resource in the world. Without them we can only survive for a few minutes and our body suffers correspondingly when we mainly breathe in bad, polluted air. The indoor air analysis is a central aspect of the awarding of the health pass by the Sentinel Haus Institut (SHI). 28 to 100 days after the last building work relevant to the room air and before the furniture is brought in, the final room air measurement is carried out, which checks compliance with the specified limit values. These are based on the guidelines of the Federal Environment Agency for indoor hygiene. With the help of the SHI health pass, construction companies and builders can contractually determine what indoor air quality the building should have.
A comprehensive component description naming the health-relevant materials and products is also required for the award of the certificate, as well as proof that the installed products have been approved by the SHI in advance. The criteria of the SHI are constantly being developed and adapted to the latest research findings.
“28 to 100 days after the last building work relevant to indoor air and before the furniture is brought in, the final indoor air measurement is carried out to ensure compliance with the specified limit values.”
Evaluation system for sustainable small residential building (BNK)
The evaluation system for sustainable small residential buildings was developed as part of a research project commissioned by the “Foundation for Research in Housing and Settlement”. The aim of the BNK is to describe and evaluate new one- and two-family houses and apartment buildings with up to five residential units with regard to selected sustainability criteria. The evaluation system contains a total of 19 criteria, which are divided into four main categories:
- sociocultural and functional quality
- economic quality
- ecological quality
- process quality
The list of criteria is very broad and ranges from soundproofing and building services to life cycle cost calculation and process quality assurance. The four sub-aspects are each evaluated separately and finally added together to form an overall result, with each of the four quality criteria having the same weight. From an overall degree of fulfillment of 50%, the buildings receive the BNK seal of approval, whereby the buildings are only evaluated after their completion or when they are commissioned. During the planning and construction phase, the catalog of criteria serves as a checklist for the planning goals to be implemented.
Swiss label MINERGIE ECO
The Swiss label MINERGIE ECO, which arose from a cooperation between the eco-bau and MINERGIE associations, is a quality certificate for new administration buildings, single and multi-family houses and schools. The aim of this certification is an improved quality of life with less environmental pollution. The former is to be guaranteed by increasing comfort, for example through summer heat protection or systematic air renewal, and improving health-related aspects, such as creating optimal daylight conditions or low pollution and noise emissions. The environmental impact is reduced by a total energy consumption of at least 25% and a fossil energy consumption of at least 50% below the average state of the art. Ecological building aspects such as the availability of resources and simple dismantling, recycling and disposal also play a role. The advantages for owners and users are extensive: a high quality of work and living thanks to optimal indoor air quality and comfort, the property’s value retention due to the absence of pollutants, resource conservation and low environmental pollution from production to dismantling, as well as preferential conditions based on recognized criteria for financing institutes when granting mortgages . The certification costs depend on the energy reference area.
Basically, I recommend paying attention to seals of approval when it comes to testing the room air. A closer examination of the materials is therefore particularly worthwhile for interior wall paints, floor coverings and adhesives, plasters, varnishes, sealants and fillers as well as primers.
Despite all efforts, I also urge caution, because not everything that says “ healthy living” actually includes a plus for healthy living. 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 building 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 seals of quality mentioned above when building your dream house!