All You Need To Know About The Minimum Environmental Criteria
The Minimum Environmental Criteria are a set of requirements designed to identify the most environmentally sustainable design solution, product, or service at every stage of a structure’s life cycle. They were established as part of the plan for the Environmental Sustainability of Consumption in Public Administration and adopted by a Ministry of Environmental Change decree. In Italy, the effectiveness of the MEC is mandated by Article 18 of Law 221/2015 and subsequently by Article 34 of Legislative Decree 50/2016, also known as the “Procurement Code” (amended by Legislative Decree 56/2017), which requires all contracting entities to comply with these criteria. This obligation ensures that national procurement policies aim not only to minimize environmental impacts but also to promote circular, sustainable production and consumption patterns while generating “green” jobs.
The New Minimum Environmental Criteria
The Italian government has updated the Minimum Environmental Criteria for buildings, replacing the previous provisions established in 2017. Effective as of December 4, the new criteria promote the use of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methods, which optimize design solutions for sustainability and help select the best option from different strategies.
The innovation brought by the Minimum Environmental Criteria concerns the life cycle assessment of buildings upstream of design and material selection. The main innovations include:
the new wording of the decree, which more clearly distinguishes the criteria for the type of award (design achievement, construction, or both)
the introduction of a gradual and differentiated mandatory character of the Minimum Environmental Criteria based on the extent of the intervention or planning (whole buildings, parts of buildings, or maintenance services)
the mention of non-financial aspects (so-called Environmental, Social, and Governance) among the reward criteria, which are "assessed according to benchmarks designed to assess the risks of future negative impacts and reported in accordance with European standards
the recognition of the rewarding and non-mandatory nature of the criterion of possession of Environmental Management Systems (EMAS - Regulation 1221/2009 or standard UNI EN ISO 14001)
the indication of the procedures to be followed in case of non-application of one or more criteria of the Minimum Environmental Criteria because they are in contradiction with the technical standards of the sector
For a successful bid, the bidder must provide a comprehensive report certifying that all criteria have been met, including design choices, construction drawings that demonstrate adherence to the Minimum Environmental Criteria, adherence to the material and construction product requirements specified in the technical specifications, and the methods of testing used.
The technical specifications for the Minimum Environmental Criteria are established for different stages of the construction process, with the goal of achieving a minimum level of environmental quality.
At the territorial and urban levels, the specifications aim to reduce the environmental impact of interventions in the landscape.
For buildings, the focus is on reducing energy consumption, ensuring proper archiving of technical documentation in the building's BIM representation, and planning for dismantling and selective demolition.
The specifications also apply to building products, specifying a minimum percentage of materials recovered, recycled, and made from by-products for each product category, including concrete, steel, brick, wood products, thermal and acoustic insulation, partitions, flooring, doors and windows, piping, paints, and varnishes.
Apart from focusing on the construction and material aspects, the technical specifications for buildings also emphasize the importance of the operational phase and maintenance plan. The updated criteria require a performance review of key environmental aspects, such as insulation and waterproofing, using both qualitative and quantitative measures. Furthermore, the report must include a program for monitoring and controlling indoor air quality. Another obligation is to maintain technical documentation of the building in BIM format, ensuring interoperability with digital IFC formats. This step promotes the exchange of data and information related to the building's digital representation.
BIM and Minimum Environmental Criteria: rewarding criterion
In addition to the mandatory Minimum Environmental Criteria, the document also identifies worthwhile criteria.
In cases where the contracting authority bases the selection of the economic operator on the best value for money, it may specify in the tender documents one or more award criteria that assign a higher score to the technical solution that offers better environmental performance than that indicated in the technical specifications.
Among the award criteria, particular importance is given to BIM design. In tenders requiring the design of BIM, the economic operator who undertakes to establish the database BIM with the environmental information on the technical specifications will receive a worthwhile score. According to this indication, by exploring the BIM building model, it is possible to verify whether the requirements of the Minimum Environmental Criteria for buildings are met, for example, by comparing the content of recycled and/or recovered materials of the individual building product with the value indicated in the technical specifications.
The Minimum Environmental Criteria are not the only criteria identified in the document; there are also worthwhile criteria that can be used to select the best value for money. The contracting authority can include one or more award criteria in the tender documents that award higher scores to technical solutions that offer better environmental performance than the one specified in the technical specifications. One of the most important award criteria is the use of Building Information Modelling (BIM) design. In tenders that require BIM design, economic operators who establish a BIM database with environmental information on the technical specifications will receive a higher score. By exploring the BIM building model, it is possible to verify if the building meets the Minimum Environmental Criteria, for example, by comparing the content of recycled and/or recovered materials of the individual building product with the value indicated in the technical specifications.
Minimum Environmental Criteria and circular economy
Green public procurement is an important national policy that aims not only to reduce environmental impacts but also to promote sustainable production and consumption patterns, such as the circular economy. The Minimum Environmental Criteria set by the government for public procurement require public administration to meet certain standards when selecting products and services, which in turn encourages companies to adapt and develop circular economy supply chains to be eligible as suppliers. By leveraging public demand, this policy promotes the growth of a market for sustainable products and services, thus contributing to the overall development of a circular economy.
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