Simple explanations. Easy to understand.

In addition to eco-labels and product declarations, there are other technical terms, abbreviations and designations that apply in the field of sustainable building and construction products. These also serve the purpose of clearly documenting the environmental compatibility or sustainability of products or materials. We define this terminology for you here.

Acidification potential (AP)

The acidification potential states the impact of acidifying emissions; it is measured in sulphur dioxide (SO2)-equivalents. Air pollutants like sulphur- and nitrogen compounds react in the air with water, forming harmful acids that fall to earth as "acid rain", entering the soil and bodies of water. This primarily causes damage to living creatures and buildings. In acidic grounds, nutrients get digested much more quickly and thus get washed out faster. Also, poisonous substances can form in the soil and attack the root systems of plants and disrupt their water balance. Overall, the many individual effects of acidification have 2 severe consequences: the death of forests and fishes. But acid rain also attacks buildings, in particular freestone, which is often obstructed in historical buildings.

Acoustic comfort

Sound is spread by the vibration of air or solid objects (for example walls or furniture in the room). Noise pollution can occur at low sound pressure levels, making it difficult to sleep or relax and negatively affecting productivity. To prevent this, attention must be given to good room acoustics. Through their sound absorption levels, the used construction products can have an influence on acoustic comfort.

Adaptability of technical systems

Due to the constant technical improvement, technical systems are the components with the shortest lifecycle of all. On the other hand they have a major impact on the serviceability of a building. Therefore, the flexibility of those systems is crucial when it comes to sustainability. Through this property it is possible to influence user acceptance, life cycle duration and cost of operation. For this reason, this issue should be considered already in the planning phase.


Building products can be an important source for the pollution of indoor air through volatile organic compounds (VOC). The committee for the declaration of construction products developed a scheme for VOC emissions. All indoor construction products are evaluated on the basis of this scheme. The AgBB schematic will be a benchmark for the production of construction products in the future and shall support the development of particularly emission-low products.

Building envelope quality

Temperature and humidity have a major impact on indoor comfort. For this reason, climate control is an important consideration in the planning and operation of buildings. Heating requirements should be kept as low as possible. At the same time, a high degree of thermal comfort must be achieved and structural damage avoided. This makes optimized facade systems essential.

Building related life cycle costs

Conventional planning and construction processes focus primarily on production costs. However, buildings generate high costs over their entire life cycle from construction and use phase to demolition. To achieve true cost effectiveness, therefore, these life cycle costs must also be included in the calculation. The products chosen for use in construction have a significant effect on various downstream costs, such as inspection, maintenance and cleaning.

Building site/ building process

Construction and various building processes have a direct environmental impact. Waste, noise and dust are generated. In addition, soil and groundwater pollution can be occurred. This means that appropriate measures must be taken – product solutions, for example – to minimize these impacts and create construction sites with optimized environmental and soil protection measures which produce lower amounts of waste, noise and dust.

Documentation for facility management

Experience has shown ways to optimize the use and management of a building. Precise facility management documentation helps to simplify processes over the entire life cycle of the structure. Compiling instructions for maintenance, inspection, operation and servicing is a prerequisite to prolonging service life. Detailed planning documents that are adapted to the building in question ensure that facility management will run smoothly. And the creation of a user handbook makes it possible for users to find, apply and file the required documentation. The documentation should also cover the construction products that were used. The Navigator provides all information needed for the creation of guidelines and tenant handbooks.

Ease of cleaning and maintenance

Targeted cleaning and maintenance of building parts and materials can facilitate maximum service life. In addition, the use of easy-to-clean building elements can minimize the amount of detergents and the time and effort needed for cleaning, which has positive environmental effects. Therefore, the ease of cleaning and maintenance of the building – and of the individual products used – also has a significant influence on operating costs as well as environmental impact during service life.

Ease of dismantling and recycling

The construction sector is responsible for a significant proportion of the flow of materials in Germany. Fifty per cent of the waste generated can be traced back to this industry. To reduce this impact, it is important to select the optimal construction products for each purpose and location. In the planning phase, special attention must be paid to how the selected product will interact with fixing materials and technologies.


Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a method that allows the analysis and evaluation of the environmental aspects and impacts of products, buildings, processes or entire districts. The entire product life cycle is considered – from the extraction of raw materials through processing to the end product and the emissions and waste that are generated. In the DGNB System, the LCA of the entire building is one of the central elements in the equation, the results of which are reflected in a broad range of criteria.


EMICODE is an emissions classifications system for flooring installation products that was developed by the Association for the Control of Emissions in Products for Flooring Installation, Adhesives and Building Materials (GEV - Gemeinschaft Emissonskontrollierte Verlegewerkstoffe, Klebstoffe und Bauprodukte e.V.). It classifies the emissions performance – the impact on indoor air quality – of primers, levelling compounds and adhesives into three emissions classes:

- EMICODE EC 1 Plus – very low emission
- EMICODE EC 1 – very low emission
- EMICODE EC 2 – low emission.

EPD - Environmental Product Declaration

The environmental product declaration (EPD) facilitates the transparent comparison of the environmental impact of individual products and building materials. It is therefore an important cornerstone of building certification using the DGNB System. An EPD provides a clear summary of all information relevant to the environmental performance of a product. It identifies the raw materials and their origins as well as the product manufacturing process, taking resource and energy consumption into account. In addition, the EPD considers environmental compatibility, toxicology and service life. Structural and technical criteria, tests and certificates – regarding sound insulation or flammability, for example – are also documented. Independent third parties were involved in the development of the testing criteria. The verification of the EPDs is also carried out by independent committees. The basic rules for the production of EPDs are defined in DIN EN 15804:2011-05.

Eutrophication potential (EP)

In the manufacturing of construction products or the scrubbing of combustion emissions, phosphorous and nitrogen compounds can be released into soil and water. This causes the ecosystem to go from a nutrient-poor to a nutrient-rich state – resulting in what is known as eutrophication. This can lead, for example, to a major increase in algae in a body of water, which in turn causes a reduction in the fish population. The eutrophication potential is calculated using the life cycle assessment of products and/or buildings.

Fire prevention

A building fire is a danger to life and limb, causes material damage and releases harmful emissions. For this reason the spread of fire and smoke must be prevented, escape routes must be optimized for the safety of building occupants, and rescue crews must be able to carry out their work efficiently. Planning a sustainable building therefore includes structural and technological fire prevention and safety measures. Through their fire performance and fire resistance classification, construction products play an important role.

FSC - Forest Stewardship Council

Wood is a renewable raw material. For this reason, responsible forestry can make an important contribution to sustainability. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is a non-profit organization which has made promoting the sustainable development of forests to its goal. It has defined ten principles and 56 criteria for sustainable forestry. These not only apply to forest management, but to the value chain that extends from forest to end consumer. Only when all aspects are certified the end product can be labelled with the FSC Seal.


GISCODE is a hazardous-material information system put together by the German building industry's professional association. It is based on the fact that many materials and products used in construction have been shown to pose a comparable level of health risk. They can therefore be categorized into groups for which identical protective measures and rules of behaviour apply. This makes it possible to reduce a large number of chemical products to a small number of product groups. These encompass primers, flooring and parquet adhesives, epoxy resins and products that contain cement. The GISCODE consists of a letter/number combination which can be attached to containers, safety data sheets, technical specifications and price lists. Detailed information on hazardous materials can be found online at

Global Warming Potential (GWP)

The accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere leads to the warming of air films that are close to the ground. The global warming potential of a substance is always stated in comparison to the global warming potential of carbon dioxide (CO2), which means that the greenhouse-relevant emissions are always expressed in CO2-equivalents. Due to the fact that different greenhouse gases stay within the atmosphere different fractions of time, the gwp-value has to be related to a specific period. For the characterization of the contribution to the global warming potential a 100 year period is taken as a basis. Moreover, impact factors are used to describe the contribution of different substances to the global warming potential. For example: given a time period of 100 years, the impact factor of methane is 25 times bigger than the one CO2 has. Thus, the CO2-equivalent of methane is 25, which means the contribution of methane to the greenhouse effect is 25 times the one of CO2 (with a gwp-value of 1).


The GUT label was developed by the German Association for Eco-friendly Carpets (GUT - Gemeinschaft umweltfreundlicher Teppichböden e.V.). It is awarded to textile floor coverings that are tested for toxic substances and manufactured in an environmentally compatible manner. Before receiving the label, the carpets are tested by an independent institute for compliance with certain criteria, such as a ban on the use of flame-retardants, azo dyes that can release carcinogenic amines, and dyes containing allergens and/or heavy metals. Carpets which meet these criteria receive the GUT label with an individual test number. This provides the consumer with a guarantee of environmentally sound production processes as well as minimal emissions and odours from the new carpet. In addition, the label documents that the product contains no toxic substances and that the manufacturer recycles used carpets and production waste.

Local environmental impact

Whether during their service life, while being transported or processed on the construction site, or after disposal, certain materials, products and preparations can pollute soil, air, groundwater and surface water. To minimize these risks, such materials should be employed as little as possible. Especially those construction materials, products and preparations, which influence the health of humans and wildlife or damage them in the short-, mid- or long-term have to be reduced, avoided or substituted. This concerns their whole life cycle. Transparency in the product selection process is necessary here. The DGNB Certification System investigates the presence of hazardous groups of materials and substances, both individually and in products. This includes halogens, heavy metals, organic solvents, substances and products that fall under the directive on biocide products and the REACH regulation.

Noise protection

In modern times, noise pollution can cause significant disruption. This is why there are minimum standards for noise protection. However, these only apply to unreasonable levels of noise; measures that contribute to noise protection in sustainable office buildings are not included. These include preventing the loss of concentration, allowing the protection of confidentiality, and accommodating individuals with hearing impairments. The sound insulating properties of the products used in construction can have an effect on these aspects.

Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP)

The ozone layer protects human beings and nature from harmful UV radiation. However, it is being damaged by concentrations of certain substances in the atmosphere. To counteract this effect, the use of these substances must be gradually reduced and discontinued where possible. There is enormous potential for reductions in planning and construction. The ozone depletion potential is calculated using the life cycle assessment of products and buildings.

PEFC - Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes

PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes) is the biggest institution in forest certification.It made verifying and promoting the sustainable forest management to its goal. Independent accredited certification centres not only certify forest areas but also enterprises which are involved in the wood processing. The PEFC Seal states that the whole product creation that extends from raw material to final product is operated in a sustainable manner.

Photochemical Ozone Creation Potential (POCP)

In the summer, increased levels of UV radiation can cause trace gases such as nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons to form harmful ozone at ground level. This "summer smog" attacks human respiratory organs and is dangerous to plants as well as animals. The photochemical ozone creation potential is calculated using the life cycle assessment of products and/or buildings.

Potable water demand and wastewater volume

Meeting the world's demand for drinking water is considered one of the future's greatest challenges. After all, every human being needs between two and three litres of drinking water every day to survive. In Germany, every single citizen needs around 130 litres water per day. This amount must be drawn from the natural water cycle, purified and re-treated. Since a large proportion of this water is used for personal hygiene, cleaning and sanitation, drinking water demand and wastewater volume can be drastically reduced – independent of user behaviour – by applying measures such as the installation of water-saving faucets and the use of grey water or rain water to flush toilets. This will also minimize disruptions to the natural water cycle. Building planning and the use of water-saving products have a key role to play here.

RAL - quality label

One of the best-known eco-labels in the world, the "Blue Angel", is behind the RAL UZ designations. They are used to identify products of all types that are more eco-compatible, demonstrate better usability, and are better for the health than similar products in the same category. An independent jury evaluates the products and awards the Blue Angel label in one of four categories of protection targets. This category is also noted on the seal, which states "protects environment," "protects climate," "protects water" or "protects resources." The number following "RAL UZ" in the designation defines the respective product group. At present there are 90 of these. RAL-UZ 12a, for example, stands for "low-pollutant varnishes." For more information, please visit

Responsible procurement

The dramatic deforestation and destruction of boreal coniferous forests as well as tropical and subtropical rain forests have fatal consequences for our ecosystem. This can be counteracted by encouraging the use of wood and wood-based materials from sustainably managed forests. The minimum standard of the DGNB System is that tropical, subtropical and boreal wood can only be used when the supplier can document the "regulated, sustainable management of the forest of origin." This applies not only to the structure itself, but to the construction process as well. The only documentation accepted is a verifiable certificate issued by a certification organization that is accredited by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or the Program for Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes (PEFC). The supplier is also required to declare the country of origin and the type of wood. A FSC certificate is only valid when accompanied by the corresponding FSC chain of custody (CoC) certificate.

Safety and security

Feelings of insecurity and fear can negatively affect an individual's freedom of movement and sense of well-being. When planning a building, attention must therefore be given to improving users subjective feelings of safety as well as preventing and minimizing damage when incidents actually occur. In addition to measures that improve the subjective sense of safety and optimize protection from attack, objective safety in cases of accident or natural disaster is also evaluated. Construction products have a significant effect on the risk caused by combustion gases.

Typ I: Certified eco-labels

Type I certified eco-labels signify better environmental performance that does not affect the quality of the product. The specific properties do not have to be declared. Products with this type of eco-label comply with various environmental criteria, distinguishing them from otherwise comparable products. These criteria are required to have been developed by a third party. Certification is carried out by an independent organization. The best-known German eco-label in this category is the Blue Angel.

Typ II: Self- declaration

Type I certified eco-labels signify better environmental performance that does not affect the quality of the product. The specific properties do not have to be declared. Products with this type of eco-label comply with various environmental criteria, distinguishing them from otherwise comparable products. These criteria are required to have been developed by a third party. Certification is carried out by an independent organization. The best-known German eco-label in this category is the Blue Angel.

Typ III: Product declaration

Type III environmental declarations are product declarations. Using predefined criteria, they provide a systematic and comprehensive summary of the product's environmental performance – without awarding points or scores, however. The information consists of environmental impact data, e.g. consumption of raw materials or global warming potential over the entire product life cycle, and of supplementary explanations.

Visual comfort

The visual comfort of the workspace helps users to work efficiently and has an effect on their health. For this reason, rooms must be well-lit and the lighting must function efficiently. Natural, glare-free light should be incorporated as much as possible to achieve lower energy consumption and cut operating costs. The use of appropriate products can optimize visual comfort.


Volatile organic compound (VOC) is the collective designation for carbonic substances that vaporize easily. These are released in large quantities when solvents or liquid fuels vaporize, for instance. They can also work their way slowly and steadily from the interior to the surface of products, however, where they are then released into the air. In certain circumstances this can lead to massive adverse effects, ranging from offensive odours to health damage.
Building products can pollute the room air considerably through volatile organic compounds. Although it is currently not possible to calculate the future VOC-concentration of the indoor air already during the planning, the selection of declared emission-low building products can be the foundation for interior rooms with low substance concentrations. Such products can be identified through environmental labels (e.g. the "Blue Angel"), through product identification (e.g. the EMICODE for flooring installation) as well as through certifications of the "Committee for Health-related Evaluation of Building Products" (AgBB). After the completion of the building, the positive result of the choices made can be proved by measuring the indoor air quality.

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