G-06 (Buildings) / G-07 (Products) Functional equivalent

Aspect G-06 (Buildings) / G-07 (Products) Functional equivalent
According to [EN 15643-1], the functional equivalent is a representation of the required and quantified functional and/or technical requirement for a building or an assembled system (part of works), which is used as a basis for comparison. Usually, assessments of individual objects form part of the decision-making process regarding, for instance, whether to build a new building or refurbish an existing building, or which are the most appropriate design options. In such cases comparison should be made only on the basis of functional equivalents. For this reason, in comparative studies between different systems/options, it is essential to define the functional equivalent.How should the functional equivalent be correctly defined?

Related study objective

stand-alone LCA comparative assertion

Related study phase

goal and scope definition inventory analysis (LCI) impact assessment (LCIA) interpretation reporting

Relevant for

new buildings existing buildings construction products screening LCA simplified LCA complete LCA
Provisions At the building level, the functional equivalent should be defined with regard to EN 15978. it needs to include the building type, relevant technical and functional requirements, the pattern of use and the required service life. Other specific requirements or conditions may be relevant for inclusion in the information on the functional equivalent.The functional equivalent concept may be used at the sub-building level. EN 15804 defines the rules for the functional unit to ensure that the comparison is consistent (e.g. for assembled systems or components). In such cases the basis for the comparison is the entire building, ensuring that the same functional requirements are met.
Rules from:

EN 15978


7.2 Functional equivalent

EN 15804

6.3.2. Functional unit

5.3 Comparability of EPD for building products


Provisions: 6.4 Function, functional unit, and reference flow

  • I) SHALL – Identify system or process
  • II) MAY – Photos, specifications
  • III) SHALL – Identify function(s) and functional unit(s)
  • IV) SHALL – Functional unit, details
    • IV.a) Function provided (what),
    • IV.b) in which quantity (how much),
    • IV.c) for what duration (how long),
    • IV.d) to what quality (in what way and how well is the function provided (what)
  • V) MAY – Obligatory and positioning properties
  • VI) SHALL – Measurement methods
  • VII) SHOULD – Alternatives and complements to the functional unit
    • VII.a) Materials and other application unspecific products
    • VII.b) Monofunctional processes
    • VII.c) Multifunctional processes
  • VII) SHOULD – Highly variable function
  • VII) SHALL – Comparative studies
In practice, a building has many different functions, and it is important to define correctly what is included in the functional equivalent. ISO and CEN standards dealing with the sustainability of buildings propose that the reference flow (which is conventionally called the ‘reference unit’) be differentiated from the functional unit (which is conventionally called the ‘functional equivalent’).In EN 15978, the reference unit (i.e. the expression of the results in terms of m² or number of people) is differentiated from the functional equivalent, which includes various aspects related to the characteristics of the building. At the building level, EN 15978 defines the functional equivalent, whereas at the product level, EN 15804 defines the functional unit.

  • Example of the functional equivalent of a building:

Type of building: Office building; 4000 m² net floor area

Use: net floor area heated or cooled to specified temperature level

Relevant technical and functional requirements: heated and cooled rooms with a temperature range between 20°C and 26°C; air change rate of 30m³/(h*person); lighting level 300 lux; see also specifications in national standards.

Pattern of use: 200 workers; working time from 07.00 am till 06.00 pm, 5 days per week, 48 weeks per year.

Design service life: 50 years

  • Example of the functional equivalent of an assembled system:

Type of system: Transparent solar thermal collector

Use: production of thermal energy in kWh per façade area in m². Relevant technical and functional requirements: U-value of 1.0 W/(m²K); function as shading device, reducing solar gains inside the building;

Design service life: 20 years

More information regarding the definition of the functional equivalent is linked to benchmarking criteria. Such concepts are much more developed in another European project (FP7) called ‘SuPerBuildings’. Interested practitioners can look at the online deliverable D5.2 ‘Benchmarking criteria for sustainable buildings in Europe’ on the website of the project.

Comments are closed.