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PASS SERVE is a counterbalance to Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) that is promoted by EU as the only way to judge how 'Green' things are.

PASS SERVE is part of NGS CODE, it is a new scheme, related to and a variation of GreenSpecPASS. it informs the content of GreenSpecPRODUCT PAGES, all products on GreenSpec will pass GreenSpecPASS, SERVE or CIV if assessed or have done so.  GreenSpec has been in existence since 2001 but GreenSpecPASS was introduced much more recently.  GreenSpec initially judged materials, before LCA had established itself, on a less formal system with 57 criteria listed on the website, at How We Select Products.

In reality LCA results tell you how bad something is (in GreenSpec Jargon, how 'Violet' it is) and you can then compare the LCAs of two things, (to find the least Violet) but only if they are from an exactly identical LCA processes.  Most current LCA processes are different but the methods and the resulting LCA from them will get closer in the future, but remain different for some time yet. The processes usually consist of quantifying the impact of all making and processing of the ingredients and the manufacturing processes, packaging, waste and emissions.

LCA does not address indoor air quality and EPD fails to address toxicity of content, so it begs the question how LCA can be regarded as a measure of ‘Greenness’.

GreenSpecPASS on the other hand considers the positive properties and positive contribution a material or product has to make in its application in a building, its performance or the improvement of performance of an adjacent material or product, its ability to reduce consumption of other resources over the life of the building.  GreenSpecPASS currently considered 400 criteria (the list continually grows), predominantly positive and to ensure we do not ignore the negative aspects they are there too, including: Does it have an LCA?

GreenSpecPASS, SERVE and CIV also has a summery document that highlights how a product is better or worse than the Average product in any function group.


Any Architect or Designer going about their normal duties does not need LCA to be part of that process, they can and doo select appropriate materials, products and methods of construction to suit the location, site, building and their application in elements, taking into account the aspirations of the clients brief and the designers own preferences to create something exhibiting ‘commodity, firmness and delight’.  This process may be intuitive, methodical or even calculated, but will result in ‘appropriate competent sustainable construction’.  The choices of materials and products may be all new to them or based on what they have done successfully before and developed with new requirements of a particular project. 

If the client is an asthmatic family they may choose low allergy, low VOC, low off gassing, non-toxic materials; no fitted carpets and pollen filtering ventilation; if the client is a cold storage company they may highly insulate the buildings to reduce running costs, if they really understand materials, a high decrement delay material, or if a health spa then they may include water and heat saving technologies. If in the process they have adequately considered all the requirements, then the products they have shortlisted or chosen will be the right products, for the job, fit for purpose.

GreenSpec call this process ‘Screening’ out of materials, products or system that are not appropriate generally and more specifically for the project.  We use a traffic light system in the Screening process: green for good and red for bad occasionally a rainbow from green to violet when more detail is needed.  ‘GreenSpecPASS Product Assessment Screening System’ filters out inappropriate materials and products, and for a project and the few left after screening are appropriate. In this process all materials that are regarded by the specifier or their client or their brief to be unacceptable or undesirable are excluded, after screening the resulting products should be free of high impact materials and be dominated by healthy, resource saving, low impact materials or products.  With such a small set of screened environmentally sound materials there is no need to carryout expensive LCA and less need to compare alternatives.


In the UK, the official ‘Greenness’ selection process comes in the form of BRE Green Guide to Specification which is based on LCA, but not of products but the average output of different manufacturing sectors, mostly making conventional material products and then bundled into elemental assemblies and rated F (bad) to A and A+ (good) like building EPC Energy Performance Certificates.  Individual PVC window manufacturers using virgin PVC would not get better than a C rating if assessed individually but as an industry sector generic rating PVC is recycled into garden gnomes therefore PVC windows are A+ rated.  Most architects would not specify PVC as an unsound environmental material choice, unreliable for ironmongery attachment, preferring more robust and competent products like aluminium and timber composite windows which get a worse C rating.

In contrast in the UK, Design and Build procurement we are lead to believe the constructor is also a capable designer and specifier and encouraged by CPD (Construction Products Directive) and UK authorities to trust them to use their expertise to do their job; but they are also in charge of the costs and these two priorities are potentially in conflict.  Design and Build is usually adopted to let the contractor reduce costs, in reality they reduce costs to increase profit margins at the expense of the quality of the material and product choices and consequently the resulting building.  Strong specification and strong contract administration is needed to avoid the worst excesses of specification reduction and substitution or value engineering (posh for cost cutting) that will occur. BRE Green Guide to Specification tells the D&B Specifier that PVC windows are A+ rated; they will choose the best LCA and the lowest price ignoring all other performance criteria and result in a high risk short-life window which in the opinion of most if not all greenies is the worse environmental choice.

The unofficial ‘Greenness’ selection process is GreenSpecPASS which WAG Welsh Assembly Government hold as ‘Or Equivalent’ to BRE Green Guide.

© NGS BrianSpecMan aka Brian Murphy

11th December 2012 - 19th February 2014







© NGS BrianSpecMan aka Brian Murphy

11th December 2012 - 19th February 2014

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© NGS BrianSpecMan aka Brian Murphy
28th January 2013 - 10th March 2014