In this article the method of environmental quickscans is introduced. This method is developed in the EU-funded project 'BioBuild'. The goal of BioBuild is to develop biocomposite building products with 50% reduction of embodied energy and no increase in costs, compared to current alternatives. To ensure that the developed products have this improved performance, environmental quickscans are executed for important design decisions related to fibre selection, fibre treatment, matrix selection, painting and coating of the building products. In this article the benefits and lessons learned of the environmental quickscan approach will be explained by using the quickscan on fibre treatment as an example. The quickscan indicates that the embodied energy of fibre treatment processes differs with a factor 6. This shows that investigating the environmental impact of production options is of importance as the options can differ substantially in environmental performance. © 2013 Taylor & Francis Group.