October 24, 2019

Decarbonising buildings

Energy efficiency must always take first place in the race to decarbonise buildings.

We understand the need to tackle embodied carbon emissions. However, we must first focus on energy performance and that means creating a more resilient building envelope.
Vincent Briard, Knauf Insulation’s Director of Sustainability

Buildings are responsible for 39% of CO2 emissions globally and the sustainable building debate has put the issue of embodied carbon — carbon emissions associated with materials and construction processes throughout the whole lifecycle — in the spotlight.

Vincent Briard, Knauf Insulation’s Director of Sustainability, says: “In a building constructed in 2010, for example, operational carbon (emissions from heating and cooling) would account for 75% while embodied carbon from construction and materials accounts for 25%. We understand the need to tackle embodied carbon emissions. However, we must — first and foremost — focus on energy performance and that means creating a more resilient building envelope."

“Installing insulation, double glazing and a more efficient boiler adds embodied carbon to a building. Over the course of their lifetime, and depending on their application and location, the impact of these elements on reducing emissions will be many hundreds of times higher than the embodied carbon generated during their creation."


Knauf Insulation has an in-depth understanding of embodied carbon and has always made it a key priority. Most of our products come with Life Cycle Assessments and Environmental Product Declarations which transparently identify their environmental impact from the cradle to the grave. And, of course, we are also looking at ways to be more sustainable in our own production processes.

Since 2010 we have reduced our CO2 emissions by over 20% across the company and we are reducing the environmental impact of our products. We already produce a wide range of solutions with low embodied carbon such as our Glass Mineral Wool with ECOSE Technology® which is created from up to 80% recycled glass. And our commitment to progressively move to ECOSE Technology® for our Rock Mineral Wool ranges will lower the environmental impact of these products as well.

However, as a starting point, we have always called for an energy efficiency first approach to buildings while working with European policy makers in the context of the European Union’s vision of a 2050 carbon neutral built environment and Paris Climate commitments underpinned by revised building directives.


In 2019, the World Green Building Council published a position paper that called for all new buildings, infrastructure and renovations to have at least 40% less embodied carbon and be net zero operational carbon, by 2030.

And by 2050, new buildings, infrastructure and renovations are to be net zero embodied carbon, and all buildings, including existing buildings, must be net zero operational carbon. “Knauf Insulation supports this ambitious plan, but we absolutely need to get the sequence right,” says Vincent. “First, we must tackle the biggest carbon source which is operational energy." 

This means reducing demand through high performing building envelopes, selecting the right set of equipment and control systems, then using renewable energy. “At the same time, through an iterative process, we should consider embodied carbon already in the design phase of the building. This means the right building solutions and products with low environmental footprint.

By applying such a method, we are pushing forward circular economy and completely in line with the principle of Level(s), the EU Commission sustainable building assessment tool.”


Knauf Insulation was awarded the Greenbuild Leadership Award by the US Green Building Council in 2019. Mahesh Ramanujam, President and CEO of USGBC and Green Business Certification, Inc (GBCI), pictured left, said: “Knauf Insulation’s commitment to improving the quality of life is an inspiration. This award recognises your outstanding contributions to positively affect the lives of people today and tomorrow.” Receiving the award, centre, is Vincent Briard, Knauf Insulation’s Director of Sustainability.

Green building leadership award 2019


Our plant offices in Illange, France, are undergoing certification by HQE, the French Green Building Rating Scheme as well as OsmoZ which places emphasis on the health of building users. In Malaysia, our Johor Bahru plant aims to obtain the Malaysia Green Building Index (GBI) certification, and our Shelbyville headquarters in the US is certified LEED Gold. The Knauf Insulation Experience Center at Škofja Loka in Slovenia has been awarded Platinum DGNB certification, is contributing research to the European Commission’s Level(s) assessment initiative and has been certified by the green scheme Active House. In other buildings where we are based, our Brussels offices in Belgium are certified to BREEAM Very Good, our offices in Sweden are certified to LEED Gold while our Prague office is certified LEED-EBOM.




Our Urbanscape Rock Mineral Wool was the first material in Europe to be certified by the new European version of DECLARE — a product label that demands all product ‘ingredients’ and related risks must be transparently revealed. The move is important because DECLARE is used by Green Building Rating Schemes such as Living Building Challenge, WELL and LEED to demonstrate a product’s transparency. The label previously only used an American version of ingredient codes, known as CAS registry numbers, to disclose the full composition of a product including any ‘Red List chemicals’ that may be potentially harmful to health. Now, for Europe, following campaigning by Knauf Insulation, European Chemical Agency codes (EC codes through REACH regulation) are recognised by the DECLARE standard for product transparency.




Our new light façade system in Spain has been certified to Passivhaus Institut standards for Mediterranean weather. The system provides U-values (including thermal bridges) of 0.25UM (W/m2K), effective air-tightness, acoustic and thermal performance and is certified to Euroclass A1 for non-combustibility and A+ for interior air quality.



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