CEN/TC350 standards provide the horizontal EN-standardised methodology and indicators for the sustainability assessment of buildings using a life cycle approach in a transparent way. This is the main principle in the CEN/TC350 standards, because without a long-term perspective and life cycle approach it is not appropriate to refer to sustainability.
The assessment methods for environmental, social and economic performance of buildings given in the standards of CEN/TC350 take into account performance aspects and impacts that can be expressed with quantifiable indicators, which are measured without value judgements and which lead to a clear result for each indicator. This means that the CEN/TC350 standards are purely technical instruments with the performance based approach as this is the basic precondition for a trade barrier free movement of construction products within the Internal Market and in the global market area. For this reason, these standards do not provide valuation methods and do not set levels, classes or benchmarks for any measure of performance. Valuation methods, levels, classes or benchmarks may be prescribed in the requirements for environmental, social and economic performance in the client’s brief, national building regulations, national application standards, building assessment and certification schemes, etc.
The environmental standards for sustainable construction cover so-called "ecological dimension" of sustainability. These standards of CEN/TC350 provide the horizontal methodology and standardized quantitative environmental indicators under mandate M/350, where the main standards are:
However, it should be kept in mind that construction products are intermediate products for incorporation in a permanent manner in construction works or parts thereof. This means that environmental performance of construction products have only their meaning, when they are as assembled systems in the construction works. Therefore, setting requirements on the environmental performance of products without its context is totally arbitrary and potentially misleading. CEN/TC350 standards (EN 15643-2, EN 15978 and EN 15804) are technical instruments enabling decision making related to the environmental performance of the works in a transparent and performance based way. The meaningful environmental assessment of the construction products can only come from the EN standardized methodology and indicators aiming at the level of the construction works while the construction products are fulfilling the technical and functional requirements in their end use application (the works).
It should be understood that according to the general framework standard for the sustainability assessment (EN 15643-1), health effects of buildings on the building occupants and neighbors (indoor air quality, noise, dust, etc.) are covered in the package of social standards for sustainable construction. These standards of CEN/TC350 provide the horizontal methodology and standardized quantitative and qualitative social indicators for the assessment of social performance of buildings, i.e.:
Especially from the regulatory point of view the environmental indicators defined in EN 15978 and EN 15804 should be regarded as a basket of indicators that have an agreed scientific basis for European standardization and therefore included in the standards of CEN/TC350. The interpretation of meaningfulness of those indicators depends on the national and/or political preferences and subjective value choices and therefore their use is up to these preferences (e.g. national building assessment schemes or public procurement rules). However, it should also be kept in mind that even though certain environmental issues have been solved in the EU region, the environmental problem (e.g. acid rain, ozone destruction, etc.) may still be valid and very relevant in other parts of the world.
Although the standards of CEN/TC350 are officially agreed technical instruments for sustainable construction, the European and global agreed scientific basis for standardization relies on the continuous improvement. Therefore, in the future, there will be a chance to improve the content and coverage of the current first generation of CEN/TC350 standards. Currently this public website serves the purpose of gathering extremely important feedback and field experience from implementation of EN 15804 and EN 15978.
CEN/TC 350 chairman