FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions

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FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions 2017-04-12T14:26:37+00:00
What is an EPD? 2017-01-26T15:36:26+00:00

An EPD (Environmental Product Declaration) is a multipage document describing the environmental effects of building products based on a life cycle assessment with quantitative data. It is created by the manufacturer and reviewed at the IBU by independent verifiers on the basis of ISO 14025 and EN 15804 norms, and is subsequently published.

An EPD serves to provide transparency to the public regarding the environmental influences of building products. It is the basis for the ecological evaluation of buildings in building certification systems such as the DGNB or BNB systems, or LEED, BREEAM, and HQE. In addition, EPDs clarify the optimisation potential over the lifetime of their products to manufacturers, who, as a result, can establish processes that conserve more resources, are more environmentally friendly and more economical.

What is a PCR? 2017-01-26T15:41:46+00:00

According to DIN EN ISO 14025, product category rules are the combination of specific rules, requirements, or guidelines used to create an Environmental Product Declaration for one or more product categories. In the IBU’s EPD programme, the PCR is divided into two parts: A and B. PCR Part A contains the uniform life cycle assessment calculation rules for all building products, as well as the requirements for the background report. Part B regulates the specific requirements of each product subgroup for the contents of an EPD.

What does the EN 15804 standard mean? 2017-01-31T09:31:29+00:00

DIN EN 15804 (often shortened to EN 15804) “Building Sustainability – Environmental Product Declarations – Basic Rules for the Product Category of Building Products” ensures that all EPDs for building products, building services, and building processes are derived, verified, and represented in a uniform manner. It stipulates the fundamental product category rules (PCR). According to EN 15804, EPDs in the building industry will form the basis for the description and evaluation of buildings. They thereby specify ISO 14025 for building products.

What does ISO 14025 contain? 2017-01-31T09:38:21+00:00

DIN EN ISO 14025 (often shortened to ISO 14025) “Environmental Trademarks and Declarations – Type III Environmental Declarations – Principles and Procedures” is the basis for environmental trademarks in compliance with Type III. ISO 14025 regulates, among other things, how Type III Environmental Declarations and Type III Environmental Declaration Programmes are created and in particular, specifies the application of the DIN EN ISO 14040 series of standards for their creation. This enables comparisons between products that have the same function – on the basis of quantified environmental information from the life cycle of a product.

Where can I get IBU and EPD logos, and how am I allowed to use them? 2017-01-31T09:42:34+00:00

The logos are available for download by IBU members. When using them, please observe the trademark use statutes stipulated at the end of the statutes.

Are IBU EPDs recognized in other countries? 2017-01-31T09:51:03+00:00

The IBU strives for the mutual recognition of DIN EN 15804 EPDs by other EPD program meoperators. If an agreement for mutual recognition exists between two programme operators, the declaration owner may also have EPDs published in the other EPD programme without another review of the EPD or the creation of a new EPD. The current mutual recognitions are listed here.

How can I get my EPD data into the ÖKOBAUDAT building materials database? 2017-01-31T10:06:35+00:00

To learn how to create a data record for the BMUB ÖKOBAUDAT building materials database, please view the instructions in this video. Prerequisites are that the EPD has been created in the online tool and that it has already been published. Please note that the data records must first undergo an initial evaluation at the Ministry before they can be published in the database. ÖKOBAUDAT updates take place at regular intervals, meaning that new EPDs will not be listed immediately, but only with the next update. The transmission of data records to ÖKOBAUDAT is free.

The automatic transfer of EPDs to ÖKOBAUDAT via the IBU is not possible, since the individual declaration owner is also the owner of the EPD and must actively agree to publication in ÖKOBAUDAT.

Can I also create an EPD offline? 2017-01-31T10:11:44+00:00

Yes, this is possible. To do this, the IBU Editor Client (also called the offline tool) must be downloaded. With this tool, you can work on the EPD that you have created in the EPD online tool (this step is required), using fewer clicks. This has the benefit of faster loading times, or no loading time at all. In addition, the layout process for the EPDs is substantially simplified, since the changes entered are immediately visible in the EPD preview (the “what you see is what you get” principle).

Is the complete EPD creation process displayed digitally? 2017-01-31T10:18:00+00:00

Yes, it is theoretically possible to display the complete EPD process from the beginning up to the online publication of the EPD.

Who can use the tool? 2017-01-31T10:24:04+00:00

The EPD online tool is available following a two-stage registration: Stage 1: for viewing published EPDs; Stage 2: for creating EPDs, click on “Create My Own EPDs”. The second stage will be activated by the IBU office. The multi-user functionality of the tool makes it possible for any number of people to work on a particular EPD document within an EPD. Various safeguards ensure that two people cannot simultaneously edit the same section of the EPD (this also applies to the offline tool).

What functionalities does the EPD online tool offer? 2017-01-31T10:29:08+00:00
  • Multi-user functionality with varying levels of authorisation
  • Offline EPD processing made possible by the EPD Editor Client
  • Fully digital processing of EPD creation, verification, and publication
  • ÖKOBAUDAT interface available free of charge
What is the EPD online tool? 2017-01-31T10:33:03+00:00

The EPD-Online Tool is a database system that facilitates the online production of EPDs. The advantages of this tool are that every EPD maintains the same layout and, during the creation process, is always the most current version of an EPD. In addition, all IBU EPDs are published there.

What does it say in an EPD? 2017-01-31T10:37:35+00:00

Product life cycle description

  1. Chapter: General statements

These contain, among other things, basic information about the manufacturer, the product declared, the range of the validity of the EPD, and the date until which the EPD is valid.

  1. Chapter: Product

This contains, among other things, a detailed product description, the specific intended purpose of the declared product, a description of the most significant (building) technical data for the product, information regarding placement on the market and application rules, specifications for the raw and auxiliary materials of which the product is composed, a description of the production process, as well as the behaviour of the product under unusual influences. Furthermore, it contains information concerning the installation, use and disposal of the product.

  1. Chapter: Life cycle assessment algorithms

These describe, among other things, the unit declared, the system limitations, cutting-off rules, background data, data quality and applied allocation processes with life cycle assessments.

  1. Chapter: Life cycle assessment scenarios and additional technical information

These document the life cycle assessment on the building level and necessary scenario information, e.g., reference service life, or expenditures for cleaning during use.

Life cycle assessment data

  1. Chapter: Life cycle assessment results

This contains the life cycle assessment results in accordance with EN 15804 and ISO 14040ff.

Additional data

  1. Chapter: Life cycle assessment interpretation

This contains a dominance analysis as well as a description of the gap or variance of the results in order to make possible a comprehensive understanding of the life cycle assessment values.

  1. Chapter: Certification and test results

This contains additional environmental or health-relevant statements, e.g., regarding the emissions behaviour of the product (keyword VOC emissions).

  1. Chapter: Reference works

This is a listing of all norms, standards and key documents used that apply to the declaration.

Supplement to the core EPD:

At Institut Bauen und Umwelt e.V., two different EPDs are generally offered: the IBU EPD and the “Core EPD”, in accordance with EN 15804. The primary difference between these two types of EPD is the extent of the information provided.

There is no suitable PCR for my product. What should I do? 2017-01-31T10:40:33+00:00

If there is no suitable PCR Part B for your product at the IBU, please contact your branch office. We will begin the creation process together with you. There is no charge for this service.

What is the difference between Core EPD and IBU EPD? 2017-01-31T10:43:11+00:00

At Institut Bauen und Umwelt e.V., two different EPDs are generally offered: the IBU EPD and the “Core EPD”, in accordance with EN 15804. The primary difference between these two types of EPD is the extent of information provided. The Core EPD contains only normative mandatory required contents. Specifically, this means that a Core EPD, among other things, contains no data regarding the production, product processing, conditions of use, disposal, or the behaviour of the product in unusual circumstances. Further, neither Chapter 6 (Life Cycle Assessment Interpretation) nor Chapter 7 (Evidence) are included. These missing chapters significantly reduce the usefulness of the EPD in comparison to a complete IBU EPD, which is why, in order to supply information that is as concise and comprehensive as possible, the IBU normally recommends the creation of an IBU EPD.

What does the declaration number tell me? 2017-01-31T10:48:34+00:00

The numbering is structured as follows:

  • K = company identifier (capital letters only)
  •  J = year
  • L = serial number beginning with 0001; this will be generated by the system and is reset to 0001 at the beginning of each new year
  • D = type of declaration: C = core EPD; I= IBU EPD
  • S = system boundaries: A = cradle to gate; B = cradle to gate with options; C = cradle to grave
  • R = representative status
  • A = declaration of a specific product from a manufacturer’s factory; to H = declaration of an average product averaged from several factories of several manufacturers, not representative of the association;
  • V =version; the current version begins with 1; changes to the EPD can be made using a version number.
  • SP = language abbreviation
What does the independent verification through third parties mean and how does it work? 2017-01-31T10:57:48+00:00

Independent verification of EPDs is stipulated by ISO 14025 and EN 15804, and indicates that the EPD has been tested and approved by an independent expert (verifier) prior to publication. The review contains the following criteria:

  • Plausibility
  • Completeness
  • Consistency

Using the EPD-Online Tool, the manufacturer submits its EPD to the IBU to be verified. The IBU selects a verifier from the verifier committee and assigns the EPD, allowing the required documents (EPD, background report, or other additional verification documents, if possible) to be made available to the verifier. In the event of questions or discrepancies, the verifier contacts the manufacturer so that the EPD can be revised. If all of the data is correct, the verifier releases the EPD so that it can be published by the IBU. The independence of reviewers is very important to the IBU, and therefore the IBU, rather than the manufacturer, selects the verifier. For this reason, the verification costs are not paid from the manufacturer to the verifier, but rather, the IBU charges a lump sum and pays the manufacturer for the verification.

Who selects the verifier for the EPD review and who pays for the verification? 2017-01-31T11:12:06+00:00

The assignment of the verifier to the individual EPD projects is done by the employees of the IBU branch office, in accordance with the experience and area of activity of the individual verifier, as well as their availability. The verification costs are charged to the declaration owner by the IBU in a lump sum of € 2.000 per EPD. Any additional costs are borne by the IBU. This process of manufacturer-neutral assignment and payment of reviewers ensures the independence and quality of the IBU, and serves as a fundamental element of our claim to credibility.

Where can I find published EPDs? 2017-01-31T11:17:33+00:00

All currently valid IBU EPDs can be found on the IBU website and in the EPD-Online Tool (following free registration).

What is the EPD data used for? 2017-01-31T11:21:19+00:00

EPDs are the fundamental data used for the ecological pillars of sustainability assessment in building certification systems: In the DGNB system and in the BNB, EPDs are applicable for individual building products, in order to calculate the building’s life cycle assessment. With LEED, credit points may be earned through the existence of EPDs, which is similar in function to BREEAM.

Further, through the data collection and evaluation that takes place in the process of creating an EPD, manufacturers are able to gain insights into their own processes. Through the life cycle analysis, the building product can be checked for ecological and economic hotspots, and can be subsequently optimised, not only conserving resources and reducing the environmental effects of the product, but also bringing financial savings through increased efficiency in the process.

The EPD is thus not only an informational document for planners, architects and auditors, but also a valuable instrument for the manufacturer in optimising his/her own products and processes.

In which countries can I publish my IBU EPDs via mutual recognition? 2017-01-31T13:58:06+00:00

At present, the IBU has agreed to mutual recognition with the following countries:

  • USA
  • Sweden
  • Norway
  • Denmark
  • Spain
  • Italy
  • Great Britain

Specific information on the publication process and resulting costs for the individual program operators can be found here.

What do I have to do in order to take advantage of the mutual recognition? 2017-01-31T11:33:17+00:00

To the extent that you would like placement of EPDs in foreign markets where the IBU has mutual recognition with an EPD program, the IBU branch office is available to assist with implementation. The IBU recommends making a decision during the creation of the life cycle assessment as to whether or not you will ultimately make use of mutual recognition, in order to perform potential additional calculations at that time, and thus reduce costs and time.

What is the ECO Platform? 2017-01-31T11:44:01+00:00

The ECO Platform is the umbrella organisation of the various national EPD program operators in Europe, and supports the creation of a European Core EPD system based on the EN 15804 European standard. The European program operators involved have agreed upon certain minimum standards in relation to quality management and the verification procedure, whose observance they have obligated themselves to. EPDs that carry the ECO Platform EPD logo and are listed on the ECO Platform stand for the best possible comparability to date in terms of a coordinated European solution.

The ECO Platform initiative, which is the basis for the creation of international recognition, has been well-received in the industry. Along with IBU, as program operator in Germany, the founding members of the ECO Platform also include the European building materials association Construction Products Europe.

In the future, all “ECO EPDs” from the various programs will be centrally listed on the ECO Platform website (www.eco-platform.org). Manufacturers who publish EPDs with the IBU may also voluntarily issue them with the ECO Platform EPD seal.

How can I use the ECO Platform? 2017-01-31T11:48:00+00:00

In order to display the ECO Platform seal on your EPDs and be listed on the ECO Platform website, please contact the IBU branch office (contact: Frank Grootens). There is an annual fee of €100, which is invoiced from the ECO Platform over the IBU. For multiple EPDs, a tiered discount rate applies.

What kinds of memberships are there? 2017-01-31T11:59:45+00:00

Companies have the opportunity to become full members of the IBU, or to place EPDs with the IBU through an association in which it is a member, which is also a full member of the IBU, as long as the applicable product group falls under the activities of the association.

As full IBU members, associations may forward their authorisation for EPD creation on to their membership organisations. This option does not apply for associate members of the association. In this case, the association may decide to exclusively create association EPDs so that its members may not create individualized EPDs or their own EPDs through the association. To the extent that this is desired, the company itself must become a full IBU member.

In addition, it is possible to become a supporting member of the IBU.

You can find detailed information in the Bylaws and Membership Fee Regulations.

How can I become an IBU member and what do I need to know? 2017-01-31T12:02:59+00:00

For membership in the IBU, a written application (Full/Associated) to the branch office must be submitted, with a completed application form. The Board of Directors makes the decision on admissions. The rules for membership are regulated in the Bylaws and Membership Fee Regulations.

Which general documents should be considered when publishing an EPD with the IBU? 2017-01-31T12:08:12+00:00
Where can I find the product category rules or PCR Parts A and B? 2017-01-31T12:15:04+00:00

The basic PCR document for all PCR Part A product groups may be viewed by those who are registered in the EPD-Online Tool and have administrator authority. If you are working on an EPD project or have set up a new EPD, see the PCR Part A document in the Appendix. This may also be downloaded.

All current PCR Part B documents are also located in the EPD-Online Tool and may be downloaded. These may be accessed following registration in the EPD-Online Tool.

As a developer, which EPD product should I use for my building? Can you give me a recommendation? 2017-01-31T12:20:35+00:00

IBU generally does not provide evaluations and recommendations concerning individual products, since building products are normally semi-finished products. Their efficiency and environmental effects unfold only in interaction with other products in specific installation situations. For this reason, building products are neither “good” nor “bad”, and the key numbers of the life cycle analysis in EPDs are normally not directly comparable. Evaluation and comparison is only meaningful on the complete building level, not with individual products!

I would like some background information on a product with an IBU EPD. Whom can I contact? 2017-01-31T12:26:39+00:00

To be sent manufacturer data on specific contents of the EPD, please contact the declaration owner directly. You can find general contact information for the declaration owner and those responsible for the contents of the EPD on the last page of the EPD document. In addition, you will find specific member contacts on the IBU website in the individual profile.

Where does the difference lie between certification and verification, and why are EPDs not certificates? 2017-01-31T12:34:35+00:00

Product seals‚ quality labels or seals of quality are designated as certificates for products, providing graphic or written product identifiers that certify the quality of a product, for example, regarding safety criteria adhered to, or product contents. Certificates are an evaluation of a product. The EPD does not provide these, because it provides quantitative information about the characteristics and environmental effects of a product and makes these transparent, without making evaluative statements.

This difference, as compared to traditional environmental labels and certificates or seals of quality, is consciously normatively regulated with EPDs, since, here, a life cycle assessment with a multitude of indicators is shown, which cannot be summarised in a single evaluative statement. For instance, an EPD does not test the product for specific characteristics, such as material content or emissions, as is the case in laboratories. On the contrary, verification examines whether the data provided by the manufacturer in its EPD are plausible and complete with regard to applicable standards and rules.

How do I receive up-to-date information from the IBU? 2017-01-31T12:47:52+00:00

In order to receive up-to-date information about the IBU, subscribe to the IBU newsletter or follow us on Twitter.

How is an EPD created? 2017-01-31T12:53:59+00:00

The EPD creation process can be divided into three steps:

Step 1: Development of Product Category Rules

The basis of an EPD is the guidance document (PCR – Product Category Rules), which consists of two parts. Part A, which is uniformly valid for all product subgroups, is written and maintained by the Advisory Board (SVR). It contains the algorithm for the life cycle assessment and the requirements of the underlying background report.

Part B is written for specific product subgroups and describes the requirements for the contents of the respective EPD. Working groups moderated by the IBU define the respective product subgroups, which exhibit similar characteristics and functionalities. They specify the structural data and the additional environmental and health-related evidence that is to be declared. IBU members, working together with external experts, thereby compile a draft of the new PCR Part B guidance text.

The SVR examines the draft for consistency between the product groups and for completeness. Subsequently, interested parties from the public have the opportunity to discuss the draft in an online forum and to contribute suggestions for improvement, before the SVR releases the document.

Step 2: Drawing up the EPD

In the second step, the EPD is drawn up on the basis of the guidelines of PCR guidance text Part B. In order for the results of the life cycle assessment to be checked, an additional “background report” based on PCR Part A must be drawn up. The underlying life cycle assessment model comes from this report, as well as the acceptance and allocation methods. For the writing of the EPD document itself, an easily operated, web-based Online Tool, accessible to all participants, is available.

Step 3: Independent review and confirmation

In the third step, the SVR and the background report are reviewed by the verifier appointed by the SVR as an independent third party, in accordance with the principles of ISO 14025 and EN 15804. Following a review for completeness, plausibility and consistency of the data and calculations, a verification report is completed.

Subsequently, the EPD is published by the IBU. An EPD is valid for 5 years.

What does an EPD cost? 2017-01-31T12:55:46+00:00

The costs for the review and publication of the EPD, along with the accompanying IBU membership, may be found in the Membership Fee Regulations.

The membership costs are tiered into several contribution classes, based on the member’s total sales. The costs for an EPD, called declaration fees, are divided into three parts: The one-time verification costs of 2.000 € for each EPD, and the annual trade mark use fee, tiered according to the number of EPDs (€960 to €120).

I would like to publish the EPD in another language. What do I have to do? 2017-01-31T12:58:26+00:00

In order to avoid re-calculating and re-verifying the EPD again, it is possible to publish a translated version through the IBU. To do this, a certified translation is required. Through the request for this authentication, the IBU ensures that the contents of the original EPD and the translation are identical and are not merely advertising statements or modified data.

The translator may be freely selected, on the condition that he/she is certified by a notary public to issue certified translations. The IBU branch office can, if necessary, provide contact information for agencies experienced with EPD translations.

Aside from the choice of translator, the translated German-English and English-German EPD contents must be transferred to the EPD-Online Tool before the IBU publishes them. To aid in this, the branch office can set up a data record copy into or out of English, so that the contents, and, in particular, the tables, are already available. At that point, the translated texts (and if necessary, the graphics) can be inserted. The certification is added as an appendix (the title page of the translation, with the authentication stamp as a scan), with which it is certified that the translated contents from the original EPD have been accepted without changes.

Where can I get a life cycle assessment and data for the EPD? 2017-01-31T13:01:39+00:00

Collecting the necessary data for the EPD, calculating the life cycle assessment and creating an EPD that conforms to the norms is the responsibility of the manufacturer. Normally, if the appropriate know-how is unavailable at his/her own company, the manufacturer will hire an experienced life cycle assessment service provider for support with the creation of the EPD. A list of companies and experts who have already successfully taken over these kinds of projects for EPDs with the IBU may be found here.

How long does it take to create an EPD? 2017-01-31T13:06:10+00:00

The creation process for an EPD usually takes several months. In particular, the data collection and calculation of the life cycle assessment are time-consuming. The verification of the EPD data by the IBU through the independent reviewers varies significantly for each case. Depending on the quality of the EPD, how quickly the EPD creator makes necessary corrections following the feedback from the reviewer, and how many EPDs currently need to be reviewed, under normal conditions, the process can last several weeks. To this must be added an advance editorial preliminary examination, whose results are usually available within one week, as well as the Review & Release by the IBU president following successful verification (approx. 2 weeks).

What is the structure of the IBU? 2017-01-31T13:11:32+00:00

The IBU is an initiative of building product manufacturers who operate as a registered association. Club members include approx. 180 manufacturing companies and associations from the building materials industry inside and outside of Germany, who are involved in sustainable building.

An executive committee of 13 people is elected at the general meeting, with the chair of the board as its head. In addition, an elected president represents the IBU in public and in strategic tasks.

The Advisory Board (SVR) represents the highest technical authority for the IBU’s work. Ten experts from science and standardisation, building and environmental protection authorities, as well as nature conservation associations voluntarily participate in supervising conformity to norms and ensuring the quality of the verification procedures in the IBU EPD programme.

The IBU uses independent third parties to review the EPDs. These include verifiers from SVR-appointed experts from science and standardisation, and from testing and certification institutions who have comprehensive knowledge of products, methods and standardisation. Before they are certified by the SVR, they go through a supervision phase, in which they are guided by experienced verifiers during their practical training. In addition, they commit themselves to continuous further training within the context of the IBU programme.