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CEN sustainable building standards prevent sustainable solutions


13 Oct 2011


Health & Consumers
Climate & Environment

ANEC urges the European Commission not to support or recognise the CEN standards for sustainable buildings[1] now under development. These standards are methodologically flawed and not focused on the essentials. They even go against established building schemes and will be very cost-intensive to implement.  Finally, they will be of little value to consumers, if at all.

A new ANEC position paper2 highlights the deficiencies of the CEN approach focusing on environmental and health related aspects. In this paper, we stress the limitations of the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology, such as incompleteness, limited accuracy and limited comparability of results. Although LCA can be an excellent tool for orientation purposes, it is not a reliable tool for labelling or rule making, including in the construction sector.

We also stress fundamental flaws of the CEN approach include: precise rules to calculate environmental indicators are not provided (not even for operational energy); the requirements of ISO 14025 on type III environmental product declarations (EPDs) are ignored; provisions for chemicals - including emissions to indoor air - are wholly inadequate; building site provisions (noise, dust, particles) are not included; qualitative indicators (such as compliance with sustainable forestry management standards) disregarded. In addition, EPDs are inadequate instruments in aiding purchasing decisions as they do not allow for the identification of environmentally-superior products due to their lack of benchmarks, scales and letter/colour codes.

ANEC proposes an alternative approach, based on a study commissioned from the Austrian Institute of Healthy and Ecological Building (IBO). It uses a mix of different instruments, both quantitative and qualitative in nature. This approach includes energy consumption during the use stage of the building, as well as embedded energy in construction products, together with requirements for chemicals and releases to indoor air, construction site and end-of-life requirements.

Stephen Russell, ANEC Secretary General concluded: “ANEC urges the European Commission not to recognise the CEN standards, not to support their elaboration financially and not to contract further work in this regard. We call for a Green Paper on sustainable construction and for a debate on sustainability concepts, involving a broad range of actors, with the aim of establishing a substantive approach and the alignment of different activities in this area.”


[1] Prepared by CEN Technical Committee 350 “Sustainability of construction works”

2 ANEC position “Sustainable construction – a building site without end. Alternatives to flawed standards”, September 2011


ANEC in brief

Raising standards for consumers

ANEC is the European consumer voice in standardisation, defending consumer interests in the processes of technical standardisation and conformity assessment as well as related legislation and public policies. ANEC was established in 1995 as an international non-profit association under Belgian law and represents consumer organisations from 31 European countries. ANEC is funded by the European Union and EFTA, with national consumer organisations contributing in kind. Its Secretariat is based in Brussels.

More information:

European Association for the Co-ordination of Consumer Representation in Standardisation, AISBL

Av. de Tervueren 32, box 27 – B-1040 Brussels, Belgium - phone +32-2-743 24 70 - fax +32-2-706 54 30

E-mail: - internet:


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