11 February 2019Silvia Pagliuca

Construction: the certification that traces the origins and sustainability of building materials has arrived

Declare, an American certification that represents a 'revolution in transparency' has been presented at the NOI Techpark. It has already been adopted by a company near Mantua, the first in Italy to do so

Building materials also have their own transparency label, just like food or clothing. It is called Declare and was launched in Europe during ‘Klimahouse 2019’ at NOI Techpark in Bolzano, in the presence of the International Living Future Institute (ILFI), the Living Future Europe Initiative (LFEI) together with the Living Building Challenge Collaborative Italy, which are true references for green buildings and design. Declare is a data sheet that provides clear and accurate information about the origin of products, their composition and end of life solutions. In brief, the label presents all key information needed to make a sustainable decision. "Declare is the revolution of transparency. - says Carlo Battisti, executive director of LFEI - Just as in other sectors, such as food or textiles, even in the construction sector, it is essential to have precise information on which materials are used and what their composition is, especially if we consider the time we spend inside buildings and therefore the exposure we have to these products. Declare is the answer we were waiting for: a label whose benefits are to everyone’s advantage.

Thanks to ILFI, the Declare transparency programme has been adapted to the European building market, meeting the requirements of various building sustainability certification programmes, such as the Living Building Challenge Red List, the REACH SVHC list and the SIN List of substances present in the final product. "Toxic chemicals and compounds can endanger human health and the resilience of our ecosystems. They not only damage building occupants, they also cause damage throughout their life cycle. - explains Amanda Sturgeon, ILFI’s CEO - That's why Declare was born and why I'm happy to bring the program to Europe, where designers and builders already have a strong environmental awareness. Having a dedicated program and an extensive database of reference will be further supporting them.” Mafi, an Austrian company specialised in wooden floors, is using the Declare label since February 2018, which guarantees that its natural wooden floors are completely biodegradable and free of harmful substances. "We have always had a 100% green soul: we are convinced that nature is our best designer and that it is not necessary to add any kind of chemical product to our product. But, taking a sustainable approach in the building environment also means using the healthiest materials, which is why we believe in the Declare programme. Not only do we certify our materials but, in a single label, we also clearly describe how we work" - explains Georg Klampfer, Senior Sales Manager at Mafi.

And even in Italy, there are companies who are already moving towards natural and transparent products. Ulrich Pinter, founder of Ton Gruppe, a South Tyrolean company specialised in sustainable construction, describes himself as a pioneer in green building: "I've always gone against the tide by creating completely natural homes for over 40 years. We use ancient materials, such as hemp, raw earth bricks and clay which are perfect for the circular economy. Nature already gives us everything we need, as long as we return to simplicity and really decide to change our approach towards how we design and construct". A trend on which even the new generations are ready to bet, as demonstrated by the case of Giovanni Toniato, young Business Development Manager of Eurofinestra, a family business in the province of Mantua. "We will probably be the first Italian company to have the Declare label. We strongly believe in this program and our products are in line, on several levels, like the eco-modular window, which I designed using only wood and cork – says Toniato - I am convinced that having a sustainable approach for buildings is fundamental for our future and for the future of those who will come after us.

The rules of building green, therefore, even before relying on solid standards of references, start from a heartfelt sharing of values. "Having better information will allow manufacturers, architects and designers to make the best decisions. Greater awareness means more choice. A choice that, if made according to sustainability criteria, will encourage the rediscovery of a new balance between men and nature" - concludes Sturgeon.