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Previous Newsletters


Sept. 2010

Click here to receive the CAP'EM newsletter by email in English, French, Dutch or German.
What is CAP’EM ?
• Partner Zoom: VIBE (BE)
• Out and about
• The CAP’EM Eco Material Evaluation Tool
Welcome to the first edition of the CAP’EM newsletter.
The project team has been working together for a year now, and we are quite excited to inform you of our progress.
We will publish these newsletters at least once a year,
with additional editions for big occasions!

The next issue is expected in December 2011.
The CAP’EM team
What is CAP’EM?      

Eco construction materials provide an effective and lasting solution to the environmental issues facing the construction sector. However, it can be difficult to define exactly what constitutes an eco-material as they seldom have recognised industry certification. This makes it hard to compare their performance with traditional building materials.

For the eco-materials market to flourish, it requires a robust evaluation process that:

• defines and identifies eco-materials using common terms of reference and criteria,
• develops a solid knowledge-base for manufacturers, and
• supports the lasting integration of eco-materials into mainstream construction products.

The CAP’EM (Cycle Assessment Procedure for Eco-Materials) Project is a North-West European programme to improve the production, distribution and use of eco-materials.

The objectives of CAP’EM are to:

1. Develop a shared methodology for the life cycle analysis of the environmental and health impacts of construction materials.
2. Evaluate and classify a series of materials according to this new methodology.
3. Enable end users to compare the strengths and weaknesses of these materials, and develop technical and commercial information for the market place.
4. Disseminate the evaluation results for the selected eco-materials.

The project brings together the expertise of 11 partner organisations across North West Europe:
• Belgium: Green Building Cluster Namur and VIBE
France: CD2E, Fédération Nord des SCOP BTP  and Globe 21
Germany: Handwerkskammer Münster (HWK)
The Netherlands: De Groene Stee and Stichting Agrodome          
UK: Association of Community Rail Partnerships, Business Support Kent and Greenspec

Partner Zoom: VIBE (Belgium)      
Each newsletter we will take the time to present one of our partners in more detail. We are starting with VIBE, as they are leading on the first work package, which will propose a shared definition for an eco material and develop the evaluation tool.

VIBE (Vlaams Instituut voor Bio-Ecologisch bouwen en wonen) is a
Peter Thoelen, VIBE DirectorFlemish non-profit organisation that promotes healthy and ecological building with natural construction materials through education, awareness  raising, lobbying and consultancy. They promote an integrated vision on ‘sustainable building’ which comprises lowering energy and water consumption, well-balanced use of space and ecological urbanism, natural building materials. VIBE advocates a high ambition level in all these aspects, including ecological and health aspects. General background is the original (‘Brundtland’) definition of sustainable development, added by the motto ‘a healthy mind in a healthy body in a healthy home in a healthy environment’.
VIBE manages its own label for building professionals and is the Belgian representative of the international label of quality for all building and accommodation products “natureplus” ( They also produce the ‘Wonen met de Natuur’ (Living with Nature) section in Flanders’ biggest building magazine for the general public ‘Beter Bouwen & Verbouwen’ (Better building and refurbishing- published quarterly).
Their experience in evaluating building materials makes VIBE the perfect partner to lead the development of CAP’EM’s eco-material assessment tool. Their strong network will help both to identify relevant materials to assess and disseminate project findings in their region.
More information on VIBE is available on their website
Out and about      

A key element of CAP’EM is engaging with the marketplace to show building professionals and home-owners alike that eco-materials are an accessible alternative when building or renovating. To this end, partners have been presenting the CAP’EM project and eco material samples at trade shows at each of the five countries. Here are just some of the events we have been present at over the past year.

PassiveHouse Fair, Brussels, Belgium, September 2009

Focused exclusively on passive and highly energy efficient building and living, the PassiveHouse Fair is the largest of its kind in the Benelux. Our Belgian partners VIBE and Green Building Cluster Namur organised CAP’EM’s first major presence at an international trade fair.
Over 100 exhibitors were present at the 2009 edition, which welcomed over 4000 guests from the general public to building professionals and academics focussed on energy efficient building techniques.
The CAP’EM stand received much interest, with visitors most curious about:
How to differentiate between ecological and conventional building materials
The CAP’EM partners our relationships with ecomaterial manufacturers
CAP’EM’s tangible outputs
These questions helped us to develop a suite of communication tools for subsequent events.

Batir Ecologique, Paris, France, November 2009

Batir Ecologique is France’s most important event for sustainable construction and healthy housing. With over 4,000m2 of exhibition space, 150 exhibitors and 15,000 visitors, this provided an important platform for the CD2E and Globe 21 partners to promote the project. In addition to the stand presenting CAP’EM and a selection of eco-materials, the French partners organised a conference on evaluating the environmental impacts of buildings.

> Batibouw, Brussels, Belgium, February-March 2010

Back to Brussels in February to present to the biggest trade show in Belgium. 337,000 visitors attended Bati Baow, which presents 1000 exhibitors over 11 days. Despite gloomy economic conditions, there were 4000 more visitors than last year, and energy savings and renewable were the big hit at this mainstream event.
Around 75,000 of the attendees were building professionals, so Bati Bauw presented a fantastic occasion to raise awareness to a very wide audience.
> Ecobuild, London, March 2010
Ecobuild 2010 was a huge success with more than 1,000 exhibitors, over 41,000 visitors. Ecobuild is by far the largest sustainable construction event in the UK, and a major focus for CAP’EM. Here we presented our new tools for displaying eco materials and educating public and professionals alike on “eco” building practices. Over 100 students visited the stand and were given impromptu interactive lectures by Brian Murphy (GreenSpec) and Thomas Plankeele (CD2E). They were able to touch samples of the materials, and see how they fit into constructive sustems.

The stand had much interest from public authorities, manufacturers and even builders that want to reeducate their customers regarding green building practices from the UK, but also across Europe and even America. 

> Bauen & Wohnen, Munster Germany, March 2010
The annual fair "Bauen und Wohnen" in Münster (11th to 14th of March) was a good place for discussing and presenting the aspects of eco-materials and the CAP'EM-project. The fair was visited by about 25,000 guests. At our German partner HWK’s stand, visitors were most interested in how to handle the materials in the different constructions.
The CAP’EM Eco Material Evaluation Tool… how are we progressing?    
One of CAP’EM’s most important outputs will be a publicly available evaluation tool for ecological building materials. The method will combine approaches currently being applied across North West Europe, to develop a commonly agreed and harmonized assessment procedure, structured around LCA.

Each of the partners in this working group brings to the table expertise in a sp
ecific approach: the VIBE and Nature Plus labels and methodologies for VIBE in Flanders, GreenSpec’s “Stars” methodology in the UK, CD2E’s eco-materials database and methodology in France, the NIBE Twin model used by DGS in the Netherlands and the “Bio sourced materials” methodology used by Globe 21 in France.

So far the group has proposed clear definitions for an “ecological” building material and a ‘bio-ecological’ building material, which are both published for consultation on the CAP’EM internet site.

With the help of an external expert, Andrew Norton of renuables in the UK, the group has evaluated and benchmarked different LCA methods and databases, to come up with the general outline of the joint CAP’EM methodology. We have chosen SimaPro for the calculating system and the well-known Ecoinvent as our core database. To this, we will add further data and our own CAP’EM selection criteria.

The next steps are to engage further with LCA specialists across North West Europe and to test the method with 30 preselected building materials. This process will ensure that the tool is scientifically rigorous, whilst financially accessible for eco-material manufacturers.

What is LCA?
Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a tool that can be used to assess the environmental impacts of a product, process or service from design to disposal i.e. across its entire lifecycle. The impacts on the environment may be beneficial or adverse, and include impacts on human health. These impacts are sometimes referred to as the "environmental footprint" of a product or service.
LCA involves the collection and evaluation of quantitative data on the inputs and outputs of material, energy and waste flows associated with a product over its entire life cycle so that the environmental impacts can be determined.

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