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Glossary for Sustainability

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Welcome to the Sustainability Glossary for ClarkDietrich, your comprehensive guide to understanding key terms and concepts related to sustainability in the construction industry. This glossary has been curated to provide both our customers and employees with a valuable resource for navigating the sustainable aspects of our products and practices.

In an era where environmental consciousness is paramount, having a clear understanding of sustainability terms is crucial for making informed decisions. This glossary aims to demystify the language surrounding sustainability, making it easier for you to understand the environmental impact of our products and how they contribute to a greener future.

Whether you're a customer looking to make environmentally conscious choices or an employee seeking to deepen your understanding of sustainability in construction, this glossary is designed to be your go-to reference. We hope that it will empower you to make informed decisions and contribute to a more sustainable future for our industry and our planet.


ASHRAE 90.1: A standard that sets the minimum requirements for energy-efficient design of most buildings, except low-rise residential buildings, by offering, in detail, the minimum energy-efficient requirements for design and construction of new buildings and their systems, new portions of buildings and their systems, and new systems and equipment in existing buildings, as well as criteria for determining compliance with these requirements.*


Basic Oxygen Furnace (BOF): The traditional method for producing steel. It starts with mining raw materials out of the ground, including iron ore, limestone, and coal. These materials are melted in an energy-intensive blast furnace (BF), which reacts iron oxide and carbon (in the form of coke) to form two products: iron (saturated with carbon) and CO2. Liquid iron from the blast furnace is then reacted with oxygen in a second step via a basic oxygen furnace (BOF) to remove excess carbon, producing even more CO2. This reduced form of iron is steel. Learn more

Building Envelope: The interface between the interior of a building and the outdoor environment. Reducing the transfer of hot or cold air through the building envelope is important for energy efficiency measures. Insulation, air sealing, and windows can each play an important role in minimizing heat transfer. *


Carbon, Embodied:  In the building industry, embodied carbon refers to the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions arising from the manufacturing, transportation, installation, maintenance, and disposal of building materials. Learn more

Carbon Footprint: In order to quantify greenhouse gas emissions and their potential effects on climate change, scientists use a method called life cycle assessment (LCA) to track the emissions produced over the full life cycle of a product or process. These emissions are converted into metrics that reflect their potential effects on the environment. One of these metrics is global warming potential (GWP), which is quantified in kilograms of CO2 equivalent (kg CO2e). This quantity is also commonly referred to as a carbon footprint. Learn more

Carbon, Operational: In contrast, operational carbon refers to the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions due to building energy consumption. Learn more

Cradle to Cradle: A term applied to a product if a new use can be applied to it after the end of its first useful life, diverting it from a landfill.*

Cradle to Gate: A term describing the system boundaries of an environmental life-cycle assessment (LCA) that covers all activities from the beginning of its production (i.e., the extraction of raw materials, agricultural activities, and forestry) up to the factory gate.*

Cradle to Grave: A term applied to a product if its lifetime is limited to one application or use, ending in a landfill.*


Downcycling: To recycle (something) in such a way that the resulting product is of a lower value than the original item: to create an object of lesser value from (a discarded object of higher value). Learn more


Electric Arc Furnace (EAF): Type of melting furnace that uses high-current electric arcs to melt steel scrap and convert it into liquid steel of a specified chemical composition and temperature. Learn more

EN 15804 Sustainability of construction works, Environmental product declarations, Core rules for the product category of construction products: This European standard provides core product category rules (PCR) for Type III environmental declarations for any construction product and construction service. Learn more

Environmental Product Declaration (EPD): Environmental Product Declaration (EPD): An EPD is a standardized document based on a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) that quantifies the environmental impact of a product across its entire life cycle.  Think of it as a detailed report card for a building product's environmental performance. EPDs consider the environmental impact from raw material extraction, steelmaking, manufacturing, transportation, use and maintenance, and ultimately, disposal or recycling. Common metrics include energy and water consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and potential impacts on air, water, and soil quality. EPDs rely on verified life cycle assessment data, ensuring a credible and objective evaluation. LEED defines an EPD as a statement that the item meets the environmental requirements of ISO 14021–1999, ISO 14025–2006 and EN 15804, or ISO 21930–2007. Learn more

Exemplary Performance: For eligible LEED credits, a performance beyond the LEED credit requirements will earn projects exemplary performance points, which are generally achieved by doubling the credit requirements and/or achieving the next incremental percentage threshold. Learn more


Forest Stewardship Council (FSC): A third-party certification body that certifies wood that is cut from a sustainably managed forest.*


Global Warming Potential (GWP): GWP was developed to allow comparisons of the global warming impacts of different gases. Specifically, it is a measure of how much energy the emissions of 1 ton of a gas will absorb over a given period of time, relative to the emissions of 1 ton of carbon dioxide (CO2). The larger the GWP, the more that a given gas warms the Earth compared to CO2 over that time period. The time period usually used for GWPs is 100 years. GWPs provide a common unit of measure, which allows analysts to add up emissions estimates of different gases (e.g., to compile a national GHG inventory).  Learn more

Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI): A third-party organization that provides independent oversight of professional credentialing and project certification programs related to green building.*

Green Building Initiative: An international nonprofit organization and American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Accredited Standards Developer dedicated to improving the built environment's impact on climate and society. Founded in 2004, the organization is the global provider of the Green Globes® and federal Guiding Principles Compliance building certification and assessment programs. Learn more

Green Globes: A comprehensive, science-based, three-in-one certification system that evaluates the environmental sustainability, health & wellness, and resilience of all types of commercial real estate. Learn more

Greenhouse Gases (GHGs): Greenhouse gases are gases in the Earth's atmosphere that trap heat, contributing to the greenhouse effect and global warming. These gases include carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), fluorinated gases, and water vapor. Human activities, such as burning fossil fuels, deforestation, and industrial processes, have significantly increased the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, leading to climate change. Learn more


Health Product Declaration (HPD): A Health Product Declaration (HPD) is a standardized format for reporting product contents and associated health information for building products and materials. It provides a full disclosure of the potential chemicals of concern in products, along with information on safe handling, use, and disposal. HPDs are used to communicate the health and safety impacts of products to architects, designers, building owners, and other stakeholders in the building industry. They help in making informed decisions about product selection, ensuring that products used in buildings contribute to healthier indoor environments. Learn more

HPD Threshold Disclosure: Manufacturers must choose to establish thresholds at a Material or Product level on their HPD’s.

  • Material: The manufacturer must disclose all ingredients above that concentration in each material within the overall product.
  • Product: The manufacturer must disclose all ingredients above that concentration in the entire product.

HPD Threshold Levels: The disclosure threshold level appears descending order of granularity - as you move down the list less information on the ingredients is available.

  • 100 Parts Per Million (ppm) - ingredients that make up at least 0.01% of the material
  • 1000 Parts Per Million (ppm) - ingredients that make up at least 0.1% of the material
  • Per GHG SDS - substances meets the level of resolution required for Safety Data Sheets by the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals
  • Other - Inventory of substances in a material or product is based on a completely different protocol, or has more or less stringent thresholds than any of those described above. 

HPDC Third Party Verification Program: Established to manage the credentialing and methodology for independent review and verification of completed Health Product Declarations (HPDs).  The basic quality assurance provided by the Third Party Verification Program is that the verification is conducted through an objective process by an independent, approved Third Party Verifier.  Verification is a separate process, distinct from the preparation of the HPD by the manufacturer or a consulting preparer.  Verification is initiated by the manufacturer of the product, after the preparation of an HPD is complete, by contracting with an HPDC-approved Third Party Verifier.


Inventory Reporting Format; Basic Method: Under this method, contents are only reported at the “substance” level regardless of the material structure of the product.

Inventory Reporting Format; Nested Materials Method: Under this method, contents are first reported at the “material” level then at the “substance” level.

ISO 14025: Establishes the principles and specifies the procedures for developing Type III environmental declaration programmes and Type III environmental declarations. Learn more

ISO 21930: Provides the principles, specifications and requirements to develop an environmental product declaration (EPD) for construction products and services, construction elements and integrated technical systems used in any type of construction works. Learn more


LEED Rating System: LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the world's most widely used green building rating system. LEED certification provides a framework for healthy, highly efficient, and cost-saving green buildings, which offer environmental, social and governance benefits. LEED certification is a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement, and it is backed by an entire industry of committed organizations and individuals paving the way for market transformation. Learn more about the LEED Rating System: LEED rating system | U.S. Green Building Council

LEED: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Learn more about the LEED Mission and Vision: Mission and vision | U.S. Green Building Council

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA): According to ISO 14040:2006,  Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a technique for assessing the environmental aspects and potential impacts associated with a product system throughout its life cycle. It's a comprehensive method that considers all stages of a product's life, from "cradle to grave" or even "cradle to cradle" if it includes recycling or reuse. The ISO standards define LCA as a four-stage framework: 1) Goal and Scope Definition, 2) Life Cycle Inventory (LCI), 3) Life Cycle Impact Assessment, 4) Life Cycle Interpretation. 

Living Building Challenge (LBC) Red List:  The Living Building Challenge (LBC) Red List represents the “worst in class” materials, chemicals, and elements known to pose serious risks to human health and the greater ecosystem that are prevalent in the building products industry. The International Living Future Institute (ILFI) believes that these materials should be phased out of production due to human and/or environmental health and toxicity concerns. While there are certainly other items that could be added, this list was determined by selecting items with the greatest potential impact if they were significantly curbed or eliminated from the building industry. ILFI worked with the Healthy Building Network and the Pharos Project to develop the original Red List in 2006. Learn more

Living Building Challenge (LBC):  The Living Building Challenge (LBC) is a green building certification program and sustainable design framework developed by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI). It sets the highest standard for sustainable building design and construction, aiming to create buildings that operate as cleanly, beautifully, and efficiently as nature's architecture.  The Living Building Challenge goes beyond traditional green building certifications by focusing on regenerative design principles. Buildings seeking LBC certification must meet stringent criteria across seven performance areas, known as Petals: Place, Water, Energy, Health & Happiness, Materials, Equity, Beauty. Learn more


Product Category Rule (PCR): The product category-specific requirements for conducting life cycle assessment (LCA) studies and reporting their findings through Environmental Product Declarations (EPD), consistent with international standards ISO 14025 and ISO 14044. Learn more

Product Health Declaration (PHD): A GreenTag PHD™ proves that products are safe for human health (and ecosystems) and can be used with absolute peace of mind in workplaces and homes - while also reducing risks for Building, Design, Procurement & Construction Professionals as well as Company Directors who need to discern robustly but easily between products that support user and occupant health and wellbeing and those that don’t. Learn more

Project Administrator: Person who plays a key quality role by checking that the LEED submission is complete and accurate before submitting the project to GBCI for review and by accepting the review results once the review is complete.*


REACH: The Regulation on the registration, evaluation, authorization and restriction of chemicals (REACH) is the main EU law to protect human health and the environment from the risks that can be posed by chemicals. This is done by better and earlier identification of the intrinsic properties of chemical substances and by taking measures, such as phasing out or restricting substances of very high concern. REACH also aims to enhance innovation and the competitiveness of the EU chemicals industry. Learn more

Recycled Content – Postconsumer: LEED defines postconsumer recycled content as waste generated by households or commercial, industrial and institutional facilities in their role as end users of a product that can no longer be used for its intended purpose. Learn more

Recycled Content - Preconsumer: LEED defines preconsumer recycled content as matter diverted from the waste stream during the manufacturing process, determined as the percentage of material, by weight. Examples include planer shavings, sawdust, bagasse, walnut shells, culls, trimmed materials, overissue publications, and obsolete inventories. The designation excludes rework, regrind, or scrap materials capable of being reclaimed within the same process that generated them (ISO 14021). Formerly known as postindustrial content. Learn more

Recycled Content: LEED defines recycled content in accordance with the International Organization of Standards document ISO 14021 – Environmental labels and declarations – Self-declared environmental claims (Type II environmental labeling) Learn more

Regional material: Material that is extracted, manufactured, and purchased within 100 miles (160 km) of a project site.*


Scope 1 emissions: Scope 1 emissions are the result of the direct combustion of fossil fuels by a given company. These emissions can be grouped into four categories, Stationary Combustion, Mobile Combustion, Process Emissions, and Fugitive Emissions. Learn more

Scope 2 emissions: A company’s indirect emissions such as electricity.

Scope 3 emissions: Scope 3 includes many of companies’ most significant impacts, such as emissions in the supply chain from producing the materials a company purchases (e.g. from outsourced manufacturing) and the emissions from the products the company makes and sells. Learn more

Steelmaking Process: According to the World Steel Association, the steelmaking process is comprised of up to 7 stages: 1) Input of raw materials, 2) Raw materials preparation, 3) Ironmaking, 4) Steelmaking, 5) Semi-finished products, 6) Hot-rolled products, 7) Finishing operations. Learn more about the steelmaking process here. A glossary of language related to the steelmaking process can be found here.


Triple Bottom Line: A business concept that states firms should commit to measuring their social and environmental impact—in addition to their financial performance—rather than solely focusing on generating profit, or the standard “bottom line.” Learn more


USGBC: A nonprofit organization made up of member organizations, chapters, and credentialed professionals that was formed to promote sustainability within the built environment and has been releasing versions of the LEED rating systems since 2000.*


WELL Building Standard (WELL): A performance-based system for measuring, certifying, and monitoring features of the built environment that impact human health and well-being. It covers areas like air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind. Cold-formed steel framing can contribute to WELL certification by supporting healthy material choices and efficient building envelopes that can improve indoor air quality and thermal comfort. Learn more


*Definitions came from the LEED Green Associate Exam Preparation Guide