Your building may be certified green, but what about the materials that went
into it or the supplies used to run it? A new
study by the United Nations Environment
Programme examines the supply chain in
an attempt to understand its environmental impact.
Focusing on new and existing office
buildings (both public and private) as a
representative building type, the study
evaluates potential green interventions
in the design, delivery, and occupation of
buildings, as well as the material supply
chain that enables each of those stages.
Purchasing and procurement offer
unique opportunities to meet green goals,
according to the study authors; emphasizing sustainable purchasing practices
“helps create value for the businesses
involved by providing a clearer picture of
purchasing-related impacts and potential
risks.” Standard criteria for green private
procurement policies are sorely needed,
but in the meantime, FMs can look to responsible purchasing trailblazers for ideas.
The multinational building materials
manufacturer Saint-Gobain, for example,
developed a Suppliers Charter that
How Green Is Your Supply Chain?
New report examines the environmental impacts of production and delivery
The study also introduces the Intensity
explains its requirements for service
providers in the areas of human rights,
business practices, and economic and
social performance. Compliance with the
charter is monitored with a questionnaire
and regular site audits. In addition, it
relies on lifecycle assessments (LCAs) to
measure the environmental footprint of
its products, and the company’s Building
Distribution sector now enforces an En-
vironmental Timber policy that monitors
the origin of wood products and ensures
Analysis Methodology, an LCA-based
attempt to understand the impacts of 10
flat glass, mineral wool, plaster board,
polystyrene, polyurethane, rebar, structural steel, and timber. Lifecycle data indicates that structural steel, aluminum, and
cement were the biggest contributors to
the studied materials’ total environmental
impact, an assessment that looked at
primary energy consumption, fresh water
use, disposed waste, and global warming
potential. Rebar, brick, and polyurethane
were characterized as making a “modest”
contribution to the total impact compared to the other materials.
However, the study clarifies that
“a high contribution is not necessarily
equivalent to a high reduction potential,”
so FMs looking to minimize their usage
of high-impact materials should look
for additional information on reduction
potential and consider which resources
are most endangered in their areas – for
example, facilities in drought-stricken
states should prioritize products with a
low impact on usage of fresh water.
Interested in boosting the green cre-
dentials of your own materials purchases?
Greening the Building Supply Chain is
available free at unep.org.
San Francisco Sets LEED Record
City Hall’s Platinum achievement highlights the potential of existing buildings
At a century old, San Francisco’s historic City Hall recently became
the oldest building in the U.S. to receive
Platinum certification for LEED for Exist-
ing Buildings. The award underscores the
potential for existing buildings to slash
water and energy consumption, says EPA
Administrator Gina McCarthy.
Thanks to the 100% greenhouse
gas-free electricity provided by the local
utility’s Hetch Hetchy
Power System, City
Hall already boasted
bona fides before
However, the city
aimed high to ensure
the building was as
as California is enter-
ing its fourth year of
drought. A $700,000 grant from the EPA
covered the replacement of 76 toilets
and 17 urinals, while additional operation-
al and energy efficiency upgrades were
funded by ratepayers.
Other improvements included:
• Installing a daylight management sys-
• Replacing 200 faucets that used 7
gallons per minute with 0.5 gpm
models. The water efficiency upgrades
together save roughly 825,000 gal-
lons of drinking water per year.
tem to reduce electric lighting when
enough natural light is available.
• Reconfiguring the first-floor HVAC
systems to monitor temperature and
CO2 levels and adjust fresh air circula-
tion depending on occupancy.