What are Environmental Product Declarations (EPD)?
BRANZ support for EPD development
With the establishment of the Australasian EPD Programme, BRANZ has launched ''The 4-Step Process'' to support manufacturers that want to develop EPDs. Please click here for more information.
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Environmental Product Declarations (EPD)
EPD (or environmental profiles) are an independently verified public declaration of environmental performance of products for all or parts of the life cycle.
EPD provide an internationally recognised format for declaring the environmental performance of a product, based on Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). They are generally voluntary (with some exceptions) and may be produced for specific materials and products or an average of the same or similar products within a sector (for example, at a trade association level). Examples of EPD can be found here.
EPD for the same or similar products must be developed in accordance with specific rules for the product category (called Product Category Rules or PCRs) to ensure that there is consistency and comparability when calculating potential impacts of materials or products within a product category. Example PCRs can be found here.
The overall goal of EPD, according to the international standard ISO 21930 (2007) on environmental declaration of building products, "is to encourage the demand for, and supply of, building products that cause less stress on the environment through communication of verifiable and accurate information on environmental aspects of those building products that is not misleading, thereby stimulating the potential for market-driven, continuous environmental improvement".
An EPD by itself does not provide an indication that a product is environmentally preferable but does when compared, for example:
- A product-specific EPD is compared with a sector average EPD for the same or similar products (demonstrating better environmental performance compared to the sector).
- An updated product-specific EPD (or average product EPD) is compared with an older version (demonstrating continuous improvement at a manufacturer or sector level).
- A product-specific EPD from a manufacturer within a sector compared to another manufacturer with a competing product in the sector (demonstrating better environmental performance of one product over another meeting the same function(s) within a sector).
- A product-specific EPD in a sector compared with an alternative product in another sector provided the EPD are on a life cycle basis (demonstrating environmental performance between products from different sectors). Where the EPD is not full life cycle, this assessment is carried out at the building level in the whole-building whole-of-life assessment so each product can be considered in the context of the building in which both are proposed for use.
What information is provided in EPD?
EPD typically provide the following information:
- Robust data and information about the environmental impact of a product or material across part or all of its life cycle.
- Transparency of reporting on issues such as environment, health and safety, durability, requirements for use and appropriate recycling or disposal methods.
- Third-party verification that the data have been produced following appropriate rules and international standards. Standardsrelevant to EPD of construction products include ISO 14025 (2006) and the European standard EN 15804 (2013).
- A basis for measuring continuous improvement. Manufacturers publishing EPD can demonstrate product integrity with respect to environmental performance and are likely to be more motivated towards continuous improvement.
- An opportunity for the companies that develop them to inform the development of PCRs (where these do not already exist).
- An important building block towards whole-building whole-of-life assessment.
Benefits of EPD
- Identification of cost savings: With forecasts for rising and more volatile energy and resource costs, manufacturers using tools such as Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) that quantify resource and energy use across the value chain of their products will be better positioned to investigate alternative strategies and options that can lead to cost savings and reduced exposure to these trends.
- Meeting customer needs: As corporate clients increasingly develop their corporate social responsibility and sustainability objectives and targets, manufacturers who use LCA and publish EPD demonstrate their own commitment to reporting and continuous improvement, providing a basis for communication with specifiers, architects and clients.
- Ensuring products are assessed on a level playing field: Manufacturers that publish EPD for their products can ensure that data being used to represent the product's environmental performance is accurate, timely and representative. Data reported in an EPD can contribute to a developing whole-building whole-of-life framework that aims to facilitate the calculation of potential environmental impacts of buildings, based on design information, in comparison with a building benchmark.
- Increasing recognition in building environmental rating tools: Building environmental rating tools globally are increasingly recognising construction products that have an EPD, providing an incentive to design teams to incorporate products with EPD. The Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) currently has Innovation Challenge credits available for use of products with EPD.
- Avoiding greenwash: EPD, and the LCAs behind them, are developed using consistent rules and are independently verified, providing a robust basis for declaration of environmental performance.
- Preparing for changing market needs: There is an increasingly strong case for building more sustainable offices and other buildings. This does not just equate to a premium on value and lower operating costs, but also in increased occupant productivity and reduced days when staff are ill. Corporate tenants and owners are becoming more discerning and want to realise these benefits. Similarly, better transparency of information about the environmental performance of products is increasingly required or desired in design and/or procurement. Manufacturers who understand the environmental impacts of their products and have EPD to demonstrate this can more easily meet these changing needs and take advantage of the opportunities they present.
- Building Information Modelling (BIM): The future potential for integrated design and use of BIM provides further opportunities for whole-building whole-of-life assessment. Manufacturers who develop LCAs and EPD for their products will have the quantitative data to make available in BIM in the future, leading to opportunities for more rapid, cheaper assessment of building environmental performance due to the greater interoperability that BIM facilitates.
Why the need for an Australasian EPD Programme?
Globally, manufacturers and their customers are increasingly recognising the value of Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) as a robust science-based communication tool that provides information and data about the environmental performance of products. This is especially true for building and construction - a sector that uses numerous products and materials fulfilling different functions, frequently in combination with other products, which makes assessment inherently challenging. This complexity has made it difficult for manufacturers to demonstrate the environmental credentials of their products, based on objective, transparent, performance-based criteria.
EPD, backed by Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), are developed using consistent rules and are independently verified, providing a robust basis for measuring and communicating environmental performance. They report on the environmental impacts of products for all or part of the life cycle, based on measured data such as amount and types of energy used, water use, amount and type of feedstock materials, packaging and transport, for example.
As a result, they are increasingly being recognised in green building rating tools globally, most recently as Innovation Challange credits in Green Star (Australia). In New Zealand, the New Zealand Green Building Council (NZGBC) has a stakeholder interest in BRANZ's whole-building whole-of-life framework research.
Examples of international EPD schemes include IBU based in Germany and The International EPD System based in Sweden. They operate in compliance with the international standard on EPD - ISO 14025 (2006) - and for construction products, the European standard EN15804. The Australasian EPD Programme, based on The International EPD System is currently being planned by the Australian Life Cycle Assessment Society (ALCAS) and the Life Cycle Association of New Zealand (LCANZ) was launched on the 2nd of September 2014 provising a common platform for manufacturers to develop EPDs across New Zealand and Australia.
The Australasian EPD Programme
The Life Cycle Association of New Zealand (LCANZ) and its partner organisation in Australia, ALCAS (the Australian Life Cycle Assessment Society), signed an MoU with The International EPD System, a globally recognised, well respected EPD scheme. Under the terms of the MoU, The International EPD System provides its resources and materials to support the establishment of the Australasian EPD Programme, to be jointly operated by LCANZ in New Zealand and ALCAS in Australia. LCANZ and ALCAS are committed to establishing one scheme across the Tasman, from a technical and user experience perspective.
The International EPD System is a leading member of the European Construction Organisation (ECO) initiative, which seeks to align EPD requirements and rules across Europe for construction products, and has already signed an MoU with the German EPD scheme (IBU), meaning alignment and mutual recognition of the detailed rules for construction products in both schemes.