Sustainability: Environmental Impact of Materials

The production use and disposal of building materials can account for significant amounts of energy and resources, both within the UK and internationally. One way of assessing the impacts is to consider life cycle analysis (LCA), an approach that considers the performance of materials and construction elements based on a range of environment impacts from” cradle to grave”. The most widely used methodology is that was developed by BRE in consultation with the industry and used in the Green Guide to Specification. However, the development of Environmental Product Declarations, based on the life cycle principles, are gaining in popularity as a means of communicating balanced environmental performance.

Green Guide to Specification

The Green Guide to Specification provides over 1200 specifications, including many that apply to Lignacite masonry construction, for use in various building types.

A rating system has been derived that presents extensive quantitative data for materials in a relatively straightforward way. This is based on a rating system of A+ to E, with A rated constructions having the least overall environmental impact.

How the Green Guide ratings are used

When buildings are subject to a BREEAM assessment, the materials design category considers the environmental impact of materials. Credits are awarded according to the Green Guide rating as follows:

Green Guide Rating


A+ Rating


A Rating


B Rating


C Rating


D Rating


E Rating


Some care and judgement are required when selecting a suitable rating to ensure that other design requirements can be met or are not compromised. To place the ratings in some context, the operational impacts of buildings far outweigh the embodied impacts due to materials production and construction by a factor of about 9:1. Other important design aspects consider may include:

  • Appearance
  • Cost
  • Durability including service life
  • Technical performance (acoustics, fire, structural and thermal requirements)
  • Buildability
  • Operational issues (including the benefits of using high mass materials)
  • Maintenance

Green Guide ratings for Lignacite’s products

Ratings that can be used to assess constructions using Lignacite’s products can be found in the Green Guide to Specification, These provide several blockwork specifications for various building types, based on generic descriptions of blocks. These include ratings for external, internal and separating walls and for beam and block flooring. The following table links the product brands of Lignacite Ltd to these general descriptions.

Lignacite Ltd brand products

Equivalent description in the Green Guide to Specification

Ash GP, Lignacite solid blocks

Medium dense solid blockwork

Lignacite Fibo

Ultralightweight blockwork

Lignacrete solid blocks

Dense solid blockwork

Lignacrete cellular blocks

Cellular dense blockwork

Lignacite Fair Face, Lignacrete Fair Face

Fair Face Blockwork