In response to a growing demand by consumers for understanding the true impact of a product on the environment, Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) have become a standardized way for companies to quantify the embodied environmental impacts of a product and to communicate this information to interested parties. The EPD analysis addresses environmental impacts at each stage of a product’s life cycle - from raw material extraction, production and packaging, to distribution, end use and disposal. The disclosure information provided in an EPD typically includes such data as energy consumption (MJ), global warming potential (kg CO2e), ozone depletion (kg CFC-11 eq), photochemical oxidant creation (kg O3 eq or kg NOX), acidification of land/water (kg SO2 eq), and eutrophication (kg nitrogen or kg phosphate). An EPD can also include disclosure concerning other key parameters of interest – such as water consumption and composition of chemical constituents related to the product. In essence, EPDs are analogous to a nutrition label except that the information conveyed is related to environmental impacts. Recent revisions to scoring methodologies for the widely recognized Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification process have created a distinct driver for companies in the Building Construction Materials (BCM) sector to develop EPDs for their respective products. Basically, additional LEED points are awarded to architectural and design project teams that have considered the life cycle impacts of materials they select. Project teams demonstrate that they have evaluated life cycle impacts by selecting a minimum number of materials for which life cycle disclosure is available in an EPD.
Due to this emerging LEED driver, along with having to face steadily increasing customer requests for life cycle information, the BCM sector has a newly formed interest in EPD development.
EPDs in Sustainable Construction and Building
As discussed in Trinity’s Winter 2014 issue of Environmental Quarterly, EPDs provide a standardized way for a company to collect data, assess impacts, communicate information, and review the environmental performance related to its products. An EPD can be developed only after a Product Category Rule (PCR) has been created and approved for a certain industry or process type. The PCR essentially establishes the ground rules for conducting an EPD for the designated industry/process type. As noted below in this article, the Building Construction Materials Sector has been very active during the past few years with respect to both PCR and EPD development.
According to PE International1, the application of EPDs in the Building Construction Materials sector can encourage environmental sustainability benefits in several ways. The process of preparing an EPD clarifies for manufacturers the environmental impacts associated with their products’ life cycles, as well as enables the manufacturers to communicate transparently to architects, designers, and end users. Thus, EPDs enable consumers to make consistent and robust comparisons between products used a building materials. Furthermore, under a new LEED Pilot Program established to increase transparency and performance among the Architecture and Design community, firms are having their EPDs 3rd party certified as a means to demonstrate a strong commitment to high level environmental performance.
EPDs Leaders in Building Construction Materials Sector
The Building Construction Materials Sector has published more PCRs and EPDs than any other sector to date. These PCRs and EPDs apply to flooring, floor coverings, ceiling panels and building insulation, and other types of construction materials. Some examples of this activity are highlighted below.
- Flooring has the largest number of developed EPDs, mostly certified by UL Environment. These EPDs are also mostly based on NSF’s PCR for Flooring: Carpet, Resilient, Laminate, Ceramic and Wood. Participant manufacturers include Mannington Mills, Dal-Tile Corporation, Beaulieu Commercial, Mohawk Group, Shaw Industry Groups, Resilient Floor Covering Institute, Tandus Flooring, and Tarkett.2
- Manufacturers that have developed EPDs in the floor covering field include Bentley Mills, FLOR and Interface.3 Their EPDs are certified by UL Environment based on the PCR for floorcoverings and the Harmonized Rules for Textile, Laminate and Resilient Floor Coverings.
- CertainTeed Ceilings was the first manufacturer in the ceiling products industry to issue EPDs (initial publication was in 2012). Their series of EPDs covers more than 27 ceiling product families, and all are certified by the program operator UL Environment.4 Since then, Armstrong World Industries also issued 9 EPDs for ceiling panels.
- Manufacturing organizations that have developed EPDs in the building insulation field include CertainTeed, Dow Corning,Kingspan, Knauf Insultation, North American Insulation Manufacturers Association (NAIMA), Owens Corning, and Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance.5 Their EPDs are certified by UL Environment based on the PCR for Building Envelope Thermal Insulation.
In the Cement Sector, ASTM and the Portland Cement Association are the program operators that are in the process of developing a PCR for cement - specifically slag cement, Portland cement, and blended hydraulic cement. ASTM and the Carbon Leadership Forum also have developed PCRs for concrete.
There are several published EPDs in various other segments of the construction industry. The program operator National Ready Mix Concrete Association (NRMCA) has certified EPDs for three companies - Central Concrete, Ceratech, and CEMEX, in the concrete field. Their EPDs cover almost 1,500 concrete products.6 In addition, Titan Concrete issued 10 EPDs certified by the National Science Foundation (NSF) in December 2013. NSF also certified three EPDs for concrete products produced by Argos Ready Mix in May 2014, as well as four EPDs for concrete products produced by Cadman Inc. in May 2014.7
Below is an example of an EPD in the BCM sector. The declaration owner is CeraTech USA and the program operator is NRMCA. This EPD covers ekkomaxx™ concrete for industry-average mixes produced in the United States. The essential data is highlighted below.
Proceeding with EPD Development
Many companies in the BCM sector have been tracking the creation of PCRs relevant to their operations and have initiated EPD planning as the PCR is at or near completion. Some helpful hints in planning for the development of your EPD include the following:
- Find the correct PCR or create your own – It is important to identify the PCR that is most relevant to your product. If a relevant PCR does not exist, you should consider working with a Program Operator to develop a new PCR that is representative of your product.
- Make sure you follow the methodology outlined in the PCR – Once you have identified the relevant PCR, it is essential that you follow the approved methodology set forth in the document.
- Clearly document EPD assumptions – Particularly if you plan to have your EPD certified, you must document how you followed the PCR methodology and clarify any underlying assumptions you made in determining the EPD results.
- Seriously consider having the EPD certified by a recognized 3rd party – A general rule for disclosure of any sustainability data is that 3rd party certification increases credibility of the analysis and reliability of the data.
Trinity can assist you with developing an EPD and/or evaluating any existing LCA data your company may have to ensure that it aligns with a relevant PCR. We have conducted LCAs for many different sectors and have good insight into the PCR process (note that Trinity staff have served on the Review Panel for the PCR for Portland cement). Furthermore, Trinity has established strong relationships with several organizations qualified to certify EPDs. For more information, please contact Rich Pandullo, Director of Sustainability & Environmental Management at firstname.lastname@example.org PE International, http://www.pe-international.com/america/topics/what-are-environmental-product-declarations/ 2 UL Environment. Sustainable Product Guide. http://productguide.ulenvironment.com/SearchResults.aspx?CertificationID=15&pageNumber=16 3 UL Environment. Sustainable Product Guide. http://productguide.ulenvironment.com/SearchResults.aspx?CertificationID=15&pageNumber=16 4 CertainTeed Corporate Sustainability Report. http://www.certainteed.com/resources/Green_CertainTeed-Sustainability-Report.pdf 5 UL Environment. Sustainable Product Guide. http://productguide.ulenvironment.com/SearchResults.aspx?CertificationID=15&pageNumber=16 6 NRMCA EPD Program. http://www.nrmca.org/sustainability/epdprogram/Index.asp NSF 7 EPD Program. http://info.nsf.org/Certified/Sustain/listings.asp?ProdCat=EPD