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Construction emissions may now be compared – new emissions database lays foundation for statutory guidance of low-carbon construction

Ministry of the Environment
Publication date 1.3.2021 10.04
Press release

A new service opened today provides impartial data on the climate impacts of construction products used in Finland, such as carbon footprint and handprint, material efficiency and recyclability. This information harmonises the calculation of greenhouse gas emissions throughout the life cycle of buildings, facilitating low-carbon building design. The service is free of charge and open to everyone.

Press release of the Ministry of the Environment and the Finnish Environment

“The first open emissions database will be an important part of low-carbon construction, making it much easier to calculate emissions from buildings. The database will now be put into trial use, and we shall also continue seeking to enhance data model-based emission calculation,” explains Ministry of the Environment Senior Advisor Matti Kuittinen.

The service is a compilation of average data on the most common and typical construction products, and contains no individual environmental product declarations. Its core comprises information on the harmful and beneficial climate impacts of construction products, end-of-life recycling and recovery options, the waste volumes generated on construction sites, and the theoretical usable life spans of frequently replaced products. The database also includes emission data for the most common construction processes and services, such as haulage, construction and waste management.

The information is based on open sources, which are mainly environmental product declarations for construction products that have enabled comparison, selection and calculation of averages in partnership with construction product industry specialists. While catering specifically to construction industry professionals, such as designers, product manufacturers and construction firms, the database information will be useful for researchers and anyone who is interested in the climate impacts of construction.

Product emission details have been set out on easy offprint pages, with further opportunities to examine more detailed background studies. The service will initially be available in English, to be supplemented with content in Finnish and Swedish at a later date.

Construction industry involved in development work

Collaboration with the construction industry has been close, with more than 100 construction professionals contributing to the first release of the database. This co-development will continue, with the next content update scheduled for autumn 2021.

“The construction industry has been commendably involved in creating the service. The benefit has been mutual: we want to ensure that the service is well known and widely used in the industry. The construction industry will benefit from being able to see and anticipate changes in operating conditions and the direction of statutory guidance. We shall continue open development of the service in partnership with the construction industry,” says Senior Specialist Janne Pesu of the Finnish Environment Institute.

The database lays a foundation for statutory guidance of low-carbon construction. The current government programme envisages legislative control of the whole life-cycle carbon footprint of buildings by the year 2025. A low-carbon assessment method for buildings developed by the Ministry of the Environment has been trialled in construction projects since 2019.

A reform of the Land Use and Building Act is introducing statutes to promote low-carbon construction, for example concerning the climate assessment of buildings, and design based on digital information models. The database forms part of work to collate information on the built environment for greater accessibility in a compatible and machine-readable format. The Ryhti project at the Ministry of the Environment and SYKE is constructing a new information system for the built environment that will provide information on such aspects as the climate impact of building.

A pan-Nordic initiative to combat climate change

The Nordic countries have intensified collaboration in recent years with a view to reducing climate emissions from the built environment. The construction emissions database is a practical example of this work. The goal is for low-carbon buildings to be assessed on the same principles, as opposed to parallel development of separate assessment and calculation methods in these countries.

Sweden is publishing its own complementary database on the same day as Finland: the information will be country-specific, but collected and collated in the same way. The database user interfaces will also correspond. Open information exchange, joint development and sharing of best practices between countries will help to ensure the comparability and quality of information. The Nordic construction industry in particular will benefit from this collaboration.

The Ministry of the Environment has tasked the Finnish Environment Institute with responsibility for maintaining and developing the database.

For further details, please contact:

Construction emissions database: Janne Pesu, Senior Specialist, Finnish Environment Institute, tel. +358 29 525 1405, [email protected]

Statutory guidance for low-carbon construction and Nordic co-operation:  Matti Kuittinen, Senior Advisor, Ministry of the Environment, tel. +358 29 525 0268, [email protected]