Developing the CAP’EM Compass of building materials

CAP'EM aims to increase awareness and use of environmentally friendly building materials. PRé developed the innovative CAP’EM Compass to share sustainability metrics with architects and other stakeholders.


The building industry, like all industries, has much room for improvement when it comes to environmental performance. Fortunately, engineers are constantly developing new building materials that score well on sustainability metrics. Stakeholders in the building sector, however, aren’t always aware of new building materials and their qualities.

The CAP’EM project was founded to increase awareness of environmentally friendly building materials among architects, constructors and other stakeholders, and in this way increase their manufacture, distribution and use. To do so, CAP’EM performed detailed life cycle assessments on eco-materials, and hired PRé to help develop a way to distribute this information.


The CAP’EM (Cycle Assessment Procedure for Eco-Materials) project was founded to increase the manufacture, distribution and use of eco-materials in the North West Europe (NWE) building industry through better demonstrating their benefits. To facilitate this, CAP’EM calculated detailed environmental profiles for many eco-materials, to be compared to conventional materials. They asked PRé to help effectively convey this information to the target audience of architects, constructors and other stakeholders through an online tool. CAP’EM is financed by the North West Europe (NWE) Program INTERREG IVB, and consists of ten expert partners from Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.


PRé designed and developed a free online tool called the CAP’EM Compass, using our deep technical experience with sustainability metrics and LCA software development to meaningfully communicate the CAP’EM data. Our main tasks were:

  1. Developing recommendations for best practices. This required reviewing the method developed by the CAP’EM expert partners against relevant standards and initiatives in life cycle assessment (LCA) and the building sector.
  2. Designing a graphical user interface (GUI) to easily display environmental and technical information on building products via the web. The interface was developed in a series of workshops involving the target audience of the GUI. Technical implementation of the CAP’EM Compass was done by GreenDeltaTC.

The resulting Compass is a free online tool that allows users to compare the environmental performance of building materials depending on the function they fulfill in a building. The tool’s standard setting is to compare the environmental impact of resource extraction and production of eco-materials. Users can also add the environmental impact of transport of the eco-material to the building site, since we know exactly where they are made, in contrast to the more generic conventional building materials. Depending on a user’s interests, the tool can show results with different levels of detail.


The CAP’EM Compass provides value to architects, constructors, and other stakeholders connected to the building sector, by giving them the information they need to make purchasing and design decisions based on their company priorities, be they technical or environmental.

The Compass features a free online interface that is easy to use and understand, and a solid knowledge database. It allows manufacturers to compare the strengths and weaknesses of eco-materials, and communicate this environmental, technical and commercial information to the market place.

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