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Glossary of Terms

SIG Sustainable Solutions is seeking to provide more than just a website to purchase products. We want to develop and evolve a centre of excellence for all things sustainable. That’s why that as well as the glossary and frequently asked questions sections, we have also incorporated a newsfeed of up-to-date environmental information, a continually updated database on government legislation and created a forum for you, the customers, to debate sustainability issues amongst yourselves and share best practice. We will of course, chip in as and when with relevant comments and information!


The British Board of Agrement is the UK's major approval body for new construction products and installers. Our Agreement Certificates are recognised by specifiers and other industry decision-makers as proof that the products covered by them have been rigorously assessed, will allow compliance with Building Regulations to be achieved and will last for a defined period.


Bio-diesel, derived from renewable resources such as vegetable oils from soybeans and canola's, animal fats and used cooking oil, is an alternative fuel that can be mixed with petroleum to power vehicles. It can also be used in industrial applications without the need to mix it with other fuels.


Biodegradable products break down into the raw materials of nature and disappear into the environment. This could be the process of a solid product biodegrading into the soil, or a liquid biodegrading into water.


Bio-fuel is any kind of fuel that has been produced by either a natural resource, or the waste of a natural resource. They are deemed to be more environmentally friendly as, even though the fuels release carbon dioxide when burned, they also absorbed carbon dioxide during their natural life.


Best Practical Environmental Option. The BPEO is a decision taken on completion of an assessment which makes changes to a building or region that are felt with have the lowest negative impact on the environment.


BREEAM (BRE's Environmental Assessment method) is the world's longest established and most widely used environmental assessment method for buildings. It sets the standards for best practice in sustainable development and demonstrates a level of achievement. It has become the defacto measure of a building's environmental performance. Created by the BRE (Building Research Establishment).


A brownfield site is an area of land available for development that has previously being built on. Redeveloping these sites is preferred by environmental campaigners to building on previously undeveloped land. See Greenfield.

Carbon Footprint

A carbon footprint is a "measure of the impact human activities have on the environment in terms of the amount of green house gases produced, measured in units of carbon dioxide". It is meant to be useful for individuals and organisations to conceptualise their personal (or organsational) impact in contributing to global warming.

Carbon Offsetting

Carbon offsetting is the act of mitigating ("offsetting") greenhouse gas emissions. A well-known example is the purchasing of offsets to compensate for the greenhouse gas emissions from personal air travel. The idea of paying for emission reductions elsewhere instead of reducing one's own emissions is known from the closely related concept of emissions trading.

However, in contrast to emissions trading, which is regulated by a strict formal and legal framework, carbon offsets generally refer to voluntary acts by individuals or companies that are arranged by commercial or not-for-profit carbon-offset providers. Nonetheless some formal standards for voluntary carbon offsets are emerging.


Carbon Emissions Reduction Target.


Chloroflurocarbons are compounds consisting of chlorine, fluorine and carbon, which is a greenhouse gas and has a negative effect on the ozone layer.


Cavity Insulation Guarantee Agency.


Carbon dioxide is a chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms covalently bonded to a single carbon atom. It is a gas at standard temperature and pressure and exists in Earth's atmosphere in this state. It is currently at a globally averaged concentration of approximately 375 ppm by volume in the Earth's atmosphere although this varies both by location and time. Carbon dioxide's chemical formula is CO2.

Carbon dioxide is produced by all animals, plants, fungi and microorganisms during respiration and is used by plants during photosynthesis to make sugars which may either be consumed again in respiration or used as the raw material for plant growth. It is, therefore, a major component of the carbon cycle. Carbon dioxide is generated as a by-product of the combustion of fossil fuels or vegetable matter, among other chemical processes.

Combined Heat Power

The process of generating useful electricity and heat energy simultaneously.


Dwelling Emission Rate. The DER is the actual emissions of a residential property once construction has been completed, and must be lower than the previously set TER to receive a SAP certificate.


The process of removing salt from water, desalination equipment could be used to purify sea water for washing or drinking purposes, thus preserving natural water resources.

Ecological Footprint

Ecological footprint (EF) analysis measures human demand on nature. It compares human consumption of natural resources with planet Earth's ecological capacity to regenerate them. It is an estimate of the amount of biologically productive land and sea area needed to regenerate (if possible) the resources a human population consumes and to absorb and render harmless the corresponding waste.


Environmental Impact Assessment. EIA is a method used for identifying the environmental effects of development projects, requiring a scoping study to be undertaken in order to focus the assessment. This is best carried out in the field, but can be done as a desk study depending on the scale of the project.

Embodied Energy

Embodied energy is the amount of fossil fuel - coal, oil, gas - used to produce, process and transport a given material. It is measured in KWh per tonne or cubic metre

Emissions Trading

Emissions trading is an economic result of international bodies or large governments placing a cap on greenhouse gas emissions from large industry or whole countries. Once the cap has been set, participants are awarded a number of emissions credits, which equate to tonnage of gas emissions. Participants in the scheme must not exceed the agreed emission levels. The only way to be permitted to emit more is to buy some of the credits off other participants who pollute less.

Environmental Management

Environmental management concerns carefully managing the impact that humans have on the natural environment.

Fossil Fuel

Fuel such as oil and coal that were naturally produced from decaying material belonging to animals and plants which died millions of years ago. The general consensus is that these fuels will eventually run out and we will have to look to alternative sources of power to continue to develop.


Forestry Stewardship Council. The Forest Stewardship Council is an international organization that brings people together to find solutions which promote responsible stewardship of the world's forests.

Geothermal Energy

Geothermal energy is a form of heat energy located below the surface of the earth. This energy can be accessed as an alternative form of heat energy by using ground source heat systems. Pipes pump water below the surface where it is heated by geothermal energy and returned to the surface to be used in the home or industry.

Green Roofing System

A green roof is partially or completely covered with vegetation and soil, or a growing medium, planted over a waterproofing membrane.


A greenfield site is an area of land being considered for development that has had no previous building on it. It is appealing to developers as there are less potential roadblocks to construction than if you were using a previously developed site e.g. contamination. However, environmental groups are against the destruction of greenfield sites and government planning agencies are developing strategies for preserving greenfield sites.

Greenhouse Effect

The greenhouse effect is a result in the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere such as carbon dioxide causing the planet to warm.

Greenhouse Gas

Carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride are all greenhouse gases which contribute to the warming of the planet.

Grey Water

Is water that has been treated for re-use from a home or business. Treated water can be used for things like flushing toilets or watering plants.


Hydrochlorofluorocarbons are used primarily as substitutes for CFC's, as they only have approximately 10% of the effect of CFC's on ozone depletion.


Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning. Name given to air conditioning systems that heat, cool, filter or dehumidify a building.


Electricity generated by using falling water to turn turbines.


Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The IPCC is a scientific intergovernmental body set up by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Its constituency is made of :

The governments: the IPCC is open to all member countries of WMO and UNEP. Governments of participate in plenary Sessions of the IPCC where main decisions about the IPCC workprogramme are taken and reports are accepted, adopted and approved. They also participate the review of IPCC Reports.

The scientists: hundreds of scientists all over the world contribute to the work of the IPCC as authors, contributors and reviewers

The people: as United Nations body, the IPCC work aims at the promotion of the United Nations human development goals.


The K-Value is given in relation to a materials thermal conductivity. The lower the value, the better the material is at retaining heat.

Kyoto Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol is a legally binding target for emissions reduction, agreed upon by 174 nations in the world. The target is to ensure emissions do not rise above 1990 levels during 2008-2012. The most significant absentee from the Kyoto Protocol is the United States, who cited economic pressure and the exemption of newly industrialising countries such as India and China as reasons for non-ratification.


Term most commonly associated with flooding, referring to the occurrence of an event, e.g. heavy rainfall, and its resulting effect, e.g. flooding. The lag time is the time between the rain falling and flooding occuring.


LPG, or liquid petroleum gas, is a low carbon fuel produced either as a result of refining oil or occuring naturally.


Any power generation equipment that produces less than 50Kw of electricity is classed as micro-generation. This is a figure achievable in homes and small businesses with the use of products such as solar panels, wind turbines and micro-hydro turbines.

Ozone Layer

A layer of ozone gas surrounding the earth, reflecting the majority of solar radiation back into space, but also preventing greenhouse gases from escaping our atmosphere. Thus contributing to the warming of the planet.


An R-Value is used to express the level of thermal resistance in insulating products. The higher the number, the better the insulation.


Taking a used product and processing it to retrieve the raw material which can be re-used to produce a similar product.

Renewable Energy

Renewable energy effectively utilises natural resources such as sunlight, wind, tides and geothermal heat, which are naturally replenished. Renewable energy technologies range from solar power, wind power, and hydroelectricity to biomass and biofuels for transportation.

About 13 percent of primary energy comes from renewables, with most of this coming from traditional biomass like wood-burning. Hydropower is the next largest source, providing 2-3%, and modern technologies like geothermal, wind, solar, and marine energy together produce less than 1% of total world energy demand.


Renewables are energy generating products that do not rely on fuel that is liable to become unavailable in the future. E.g. Coal-fired power stations. Typical renewables are sunlight, wind, used by solar panels and wind turbines to generate electricity.


Standard Assessment Procedure. Term given to assessing the energy performance of a new build residential property.


Simplified Building Energy Model. The same assessment carried out in commercial buildings as the SAP's carried out in residential.


SIPs is an acronym for Structural Insulated Panel System. Joining high performance rigid polyurethane foam insulation to oriented strand board, (OSB), produces these engineered building components. The result is a building product that is predictable, resource efficient and cost effective. SIPs are used as floors, walls and roofs on all types of building.


Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems. SUDS is the practice of better control of sources of water or storm water, to reduce the possibility of flooding in urban areas.


Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. (WCED, 1987)

Sustainable Development

Defined in the Brundtland report as 'development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.'


Target Carbon Emission Rate


Target Emission Rate. The TER is the amount of C02 a residential property is to emit to receive a SAP certificate. TER is calculated by taking the emissions for a similar property listed in the 2002 Part L building regulations and reducing the emissions by 25%.

Thermal Conductivity

Thermal conductivity indicates the ability of a material to transmit heat through its bulk and, by direct contact, to other substances and the atmosphere.

U Value

The U-value concept is used to quantify heat loss through plane elements of the building envelope or shell. U-value is defined as the overall thermal transmittance of a particular construction element (a wall or a roof for example), including the effect of surface resistance. It depends upon the thickness and thermal conductivity of its component layers and, in the case of air cavities, the emissivity of the surfaces.


United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The UNFCCC is an economic treaty drawn up at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 to begin to consider what can be done to reduce global warming and to cope with whatever temperature increases are inevitable. This treaty was a pre cursor to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

WEEE Directive

The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive's purpose is to prevent WEEE, and the reuse, recycling and other forms of recovery of such wastes, with a view to reducing the disposal of waste.


WRAP works in partnership to encourage and enable businesses and consumers to be more efficient in their use of materials and recycle more things more often. This helps to minimise landfill, reduce carbon emissions and improve our environment.

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