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The need for a comprehensive and consistent approach in sustainability assessment of buildings - the EC Product Environmental Footprint

To date a proliferation of sustainability claims in architecture is noticed. The major focus is on energy and related CO2 and on the use stage of buildings. Although energy during the building use stage is highly relevant, a more comprehensive life cycle approach is needed to support decision making in order not to overlook relevant environmental burdens such as respiratory effects and land use. This proliferation of sustainability claims is not only noticed in the building sector. Also in other sectors confusion in the market on how to measure the environmental performance has appeared due to this proliferation of claims. This can lead to unfair commercial practices and greenwashing. As a base for addressing the current confusion in the market, the Environmental Footprint was developed and has recently been adopted by the European Commission. This method provides specific guidance for comprehensive, robust and consistent environmental assessment of products and organisations. It is based on four main principles: (1) multi-criteria, (2) life cycle thinking, (3) consistency and (4) ensuring maximally physically representative modeling. This paper presents the Product Environmental Footprint in the specific context of buildings.