Def­i­n­i­tion of an EPD

EPD is an abbre­vi­a­tion for Envi­ron­men­tal Prod­uct Dec­la­ra­tion. An EPD describes build­ing mate­ri­als, con­struc­tion prod­ucts, or build­ing com­po­nents in terms of their envi­ron­men­tal impact, based on life cycle assess­ments, as well as on their func­tion­al and tech­ni­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics. This quan­ti­ta­tive, objec­tive, and ver­i­fied infor­ma­tion cov­ers the entire life cycle of the build­ing prod­uct. EPDs thus con­sti­tute an impor­tant basis for assess­ing build­ing sustainability.

EPD — A Type III Envi­ron­men­tal Label

In addi­tion to legal­ly-man­dat­ed prod­uct labelling – CE labels, for instance – there are sev­er­al vol­un­tary envi­ron­men­tal labels, which are divid­ed into three cat­e­gories. EPDs are asso­ci­at­ed with Type III envi­ron­men­tal labels: In IBU EPDs, the sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly-deter­mined val­ues from a product’s life cycle assess­ment are sum­marised and doc­u­ment­ed in a uni­form for­mat: fac­tu­al, neu­tral, sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly sound and, above all, unbi­ased. It is pre­cise­ly this aspect that dif­fer­en­ti­ates EPDs from Type I and Type II envi­ron­men­tal labels. The EPD is not a cer­tifi­cate. There are no require­ments with regard to prod­uct qual­i­ty, but rather, in terms of the qual­i­ty and for­mat of the data. EPDs are based on the ISO 14025 and EN 15804 stan­dards. Pri­or to pub­li­ca­tion by the IBU, EPDs are test­ed and ver­i­fied by inde­pen­dent third par­ties for com­plete­ness, plau­si­bil­i­ty, and con­for­mance to stan­dards. The quan­ti­ta­tive infor­ma­tion con­tained in EPDs on the envi­ron­men­tal per­for­mance of con­struc­tion prod­ucts makes them valu­able to a wide range of stake­hold­ers: plan­ners, archi­tects, con­struc­tion com­pa­nies, investors, facil­i­ty man­agers, and, of course, man­u­fac­tur­ing and ser­vice com­pa­nies along the entire val­ue chain, from raw mate­ri­als to fin­ished buildings.

The EPD Pro­gramme: Based On Inter­na­tion­al Standards

ISO 14025 sets forth reg­u­la­tions on the prin­ci­ples and pro­ce­dures for Type III envi­ron­men­tal labels, which pro­vide quan­ti­fied envi­ron­men­tal infor­ma­tion over the life cycle of a prod­uct. This allows com­par­isons to be made between prod­ucts that serve the same func­tion. Again, the basis for an EPD is the life cycle assess­ment, con­duct­ed in accor­dance with ISO 14040/44.

EN 15804 spec­i­fies the basic rules for EPDs in the cat­e­go­ry of build­ing prod­ucts. These fun­da­men­tal prod­uct cat­e­go­ry rules ensure that all EPDs for con­struc­tion prod­ucts, build­ing activ­i­ties, and con­struc­tion process­es are derived, depict­ed, and ver­i­fied in a uni­form man­ner. EN 15804 stip­u­lates the con­di­tions for EPDs that are valid Europe-wide.

EPD — An Impor­tant Data Basis for Sus­tain­able Building

Sus­tain­able build­ing involves exam­in­ing and assess­ing build­ings in terms of their eco­log­i­cal, eco­nom­ic, and social qual­i­ties. EPDs for build­ing mate­ri­als, con­struc­tion prod­ucts, and build­ing com­po­nents per­mit eco­log­i­cal aspects to be includ­ed in sus­tain­abil­i­ty assess­ments of build­ings.  EPDs pro­vide build­ing prod­uct data rel­e­vant to the con­struc­tion of sus­tain­able build­ings as well as for build­ing cer­ti­fi­ca­tions. This con­sists pri­mar­i­ly of basic data that can be used for assess­ing the eco­log­i­cal qual­i­ty of a build­ing. The equal­ly com­pre­hen­sive and detailed life cycle assess­ment data and infor­ma­tion con­tained in EPDs is uni­form­ly sum­marised and pre­sent­ed in a con­cise overview con­sist­ing of only a few pages. It forms the basis for describ­ing and assess­ing struc­tures, allow­ing those build­ings with an espe­cial­ly low envi­ron­men­tal impact can be iden­ti­fied. To accom­plish this, a life cycle assess­ment is per­formed, in which the entire lifes­pan of the build­ing, from the con­struc­tion phase to the use phase, includ­ing pos­si­ble changes in usage, as well as dis­man­tling and dis­pos­al are tak­en into con­sid­er­a­tion. EPDs pro­vide infor­ma­tion about a num­ber of dif­fer­ent indi­ca­tors. For instance, EPDs reveal how build­ing prod­ucts con­tribute to ener­gy effi­cien­cy or to oth­er aspects of sus­tain­able build­ing man­age­ment. Inter­na­tion­al­ly-recog­nised EPDs are there­fore cru­cial cor­ner­stones for such build­ing cer­ti­fi­ca­tion sys­tems as DGNB, BNB, BREEAM, and LEED

EPDs facil­i­tate not only life cycle and build­ing assess­ments, but are also an aid to inte­gral plan­ning. As ear­ly as in the design phase, EPDs allow archi­tects and plan­ners to com­pare dif­fer­ent com­po­nents, con­struc­tion meth­ods, and options, and select the ide­al com­bi­na­tion of con­struc­tion prod­ucts for the spe­cif­ic build­ing in question.

Whether archi­tects, plan­ners, engi­neers, build­ing own­ers, facil­i­ty man­agers, or audi­tors – the pub­licly-avail­able EPDs make it pos­si­ble for any­one with an inter­est to obtain an overview of life cycle assess­ment key fig­ures and prod­uct-relat­ed envi­ron­men­tal impact.

 

EPDs Pro­vide Trans­par­ent and Neu­tral Doc­u­men­ta­tion on Envi­ron­men­tal Impact

As envi­ron­men­tal labels, EPDs are suit­able for all build­ing-relat­ed prod­ucts and ser­vices. Since build­ing mate­ri­als as well as con­struc­tion prod­ucts and build­ing com­po­nents are inter­me­di­ate, not end prod­ucts, they are not per se either envi­ron­men­tal­ly friend­ly or harm­ful. Their influ­ence on the envi­ron­ment is depen­dent upon many fac­tors, as the envi­ron­men­tal impact of indi­vid­ual build­ing prod­ucts will ulti­mate­ly be deter­mined by their inter­ac­tion with­in a build­ing. For instance, the use of a con­struc­tion prod­uct made from nat­ur­al raw mate­ri­als is not by itself a guar­an­tee of sus­tain­abil­i­ty. For sus­tain­able build­ing, the fact that a prod­uct has received a pos­i­tive assess­ment of its indi­vid­ual envi­ron­men­tal char­ac­ter­is­tics, as, for instance, with Type I envi­ron­men­tal labels, is not suf­fi­cient. Every prod­uct must be viewed holis­ti­cal­ly. This is because in order to be able to deter­mine and assess the eco­log­i­cal dimen­sions of a structure’s sus­tain­abil­i­ty, it is nec­es­sary to have com­plete infor­ma­tion about all of the char­ac­ter­is­tics and envi­ron­men­tal influ­ences of the installed prod­ucts, includ­ing their inter­ac­tion.  EPDs pro­vide ver­i­fied datasets that are used to cre­ate the building’s life cycle assess­ment. For this rea­son, Type III envi­ron­men­tal prod­uct dec­la­ra­tions, i.e. EPDs, are used in the plan­ning of sus­tain­able build­ings and in the assess­ment of their eco­log­i­cal sustainability.

EPDs Con­tain Infor­ma­tion On a Product’s Envi­ron­men­tal Effects

Rather than assess­ing the indi­vid­ual char­ac­ter­is­tics of a prod­uct, EPDs, on the basis of life cycle assess­ments, doc­u­ment all rel­e­vant envi­ron­men­tal aspects in a trans­par­ent, inde­pen­dent, and com­pre­hen­si­ble man­ner. EPDs pro­vide clear infor­ma­tion about the envi­ron­men­tal impact of the prod­uct through­out its com­plete life cycle. The entire process is reviewed – from raw mate­r­i­al extrac­tion to pro­duc­tion, trans­port, and instal­la­tion into the build­ing, up to and includ­ing the end-of-life stage and dis­pos­al or recy­cling options. EPDs con­tain quan­ti­ta­tive prod­uct infor­ma­tion derived from life cycle assess­ments. This includes state­ments regard­ing ener­gy and resource util­i­sa­tion, the amount of waste gen­er­at­ed, and infor­ma­tion on the extent to which a prod­uct con­tributes to such fac­tors as green­house effect, acid­i­fi­ca­tion, over-fer­til­i­sa­tion, ozone deple­tion, and smog formation.

EPDs Con­tain Infor­ma­tion On a Product’s Func­tion­al and Tech­ni­cal Characteristics

The assess­ment of a con­struc­tion product’s per­for­mance with­in the con­text of an entire build­ing is based on var­i­ous tech­ni­cal spec­i­fi­ca­tions. These include, e.g. infor­ma­tion on pres­sure resis­tance, lifes­pan, or ther­mal and acoustic insu­la­tion. An EPD may also include envi­ron­men­tal and health-relat­ed data, such as emis­sions into indoor air.

EPDs Pro­vide Infor­ma­tion On Recy­cling Man­age­ment and Disposal 

EPDs also indi­cate what will be done with a con­struc­tion prod­uct or its com­po­nents dur­ing the end-of-life phase: Whether it will be dis­posed of, thus end­ing its life cycle (cra­dle to grave), or whether, and to what extent, it can be re-entered into the pro­duc­tion cycle (cra­dle to cra­dle) there­by con­tribut­ing to resource effi­cien­cy. This clar­i­ty and trans­paren­cy make it pos­si­ble to cal­cu­late the long-term effect of indi­vid­ual com­po­nents on the ecosystem. 

How Is an EPD Created?

blankAs part of the EPD pro­gramme at the Insti­tut Bauen und Umwelt e. V. (IBU), com­pa­nies and asso­ci­a­tions have the abil­i­ty to cre­ate envi­ron­men­tal prod­uct dec­la­ra­tions for their prod­ucts. In addi­tion to the indi­vid­ual man­u­fac­tur­er and the IBU as EPD pro­gramme oper­a­tor, pro­gramme par­tic­i­pants include the IBU Advi­so­ry Board, inde­pen­dent audi­tors, and inter­est­ed indi­vid­u­als from the pub­lic. This guar­an­tees objec­tiv­i­ty and trans­paren­cy. An EPD is cre­at­ed in a three-step process:

1. Prod­uct Cat­e­go­ry Rules (PCR): The Basis for EPD Creation

The basis for cre­at­ing an EPD is a two-part guid­ance text that con­tains Prod­uct Cat­e­go­ry Rules (PCR). Accord­ing to ISO 14025, a PCR is the com­pi­la­tion of spe­cif­ic rules, require­ments, and guide­lines for cre­at­ing EPDs in one or more prod­uct cat­e­gories. In the IBU EPD pro­gram, PCRs are divid­ed into two sep­a­rate parts.

PCR Part A, which is cre­at­ed and main­tained by the Advi­so­ry Board, con­tains both uni­fied cal­cu­la­tion rules for life cycle assess­ment as well as gen­er­al require­ments for EPD cre­ation. PCR Part B describes the con­crete require­ments for EPD con­tent with­in spe­cif­ic prod­uct sub­cat­e­gories. If a PCR does not yet exist for a par­tic­u­lar prod­uct group, the tech­ni­cal infor­ma­tion and envi­ron­men­tal/health-relat­ed doc­u­men­ta­tion required will be deter­mined by an IBU-led work­ing group. The Advi­so­ry Board will review the draft for com­pli­ance to stan­dards as well as for con­sis­ten­cy and com­plete­ness. Pri­or to release of the PCR by the Advi­so­ry Board, inter­est­ed indi­vid­u­als from the pub­lic will have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to con­tribute sug­ges­tions for improvement. 

The cur­rent PCR for con­struc­tion prod­ucts may be accessed fol­low­ing free reg­is­tra­tion at EPD-Online Tool.

2. Cre­ation of the EPD

In a sec­ond step, on the basis of the PCR, the build­ing prod­uct man­u­fac­tur­er cre­ates an EPD for the indi­vid­ual prod­uct. To do this, all required data and infor­ma­tion must be entered into the IBU EPD-Online Tool. In addi­tion, the man­u­fac­tur­er may also enter tech­ni­cal infor­ma­tion, inter­pre­ta­tions of the life cycle assess­ment, and doc­u­men­ta­tion. The cre­ation of a so-called ‘back­ground report’ on the basis of PCR Part A makes the life cycle assess­ment results ver­i­fi­able and plausible.

3. Inde­pen­dent Ver­i­fi­ca­tion and Pub­li­ca­tion of the EPD

The third step is the ver­i­fi­ca­tion of the EPD. This is per­formed by an inde­pen­dent third par­ty appoint­ed by the Advi­so­ry Board, who reviews the EPD and the back­ground report, tak­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion the require­ments of ISO 14025, EN 15804, and the IBU pro­gramme rules with regard to com­plete­ness, plau­si­bil­i­ty, and con­sis­ten­cy of the cal­cu­la­tions and infor­ma­tion. The EPD is then pub­lished by the IBU. An EPD is valid for five years before it is required to be updated.

EPD

All pub­lished IBU EPDs to date are avail­able as follows:

The Added Val­ue Envi­ron­men­tal Prod­uct Dec­la­ra­tions (EPDs) Pro­vide – An Overview: 

EPDs Rep­re­sent Objec­tiv­i­ty, Trans­paren­cy, and Credibility

  • EPDs pro­vide sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly-based, quan­ti­ta­tive data from life cycle assess­ments, detail­ing all of a con­struc­tion product’s per­ti­nent envi­ron­men­tal effects in a trans­par­ent, unbi­ased, and com­pre­hen­si­ble manner.
  • EPDs are ver­i­fied by inde­pen­dent third par­ties who exam­ine the data for com­plete­ness, plau­si­bil­i­ty, and com­pli­ance with standards.
  • EPDs are based upon inter­na­tion­al stan­dards and are inter­na­tion­al­ly recognised.
  • EPDs are pub­licly acces­si­ble at the fol­low­ing sites: 

EPDs Con­tribute to Sus­tain­able Construction

  • EPDs facil­i­tate inte­gral plan­ning for con­struc­tion projects by pro­vid­ing infor­ma­tion to aid in envi­ron­men­tal­ly-con­scious plan­ning as well as in pur­chas­ing decisions.
  • EPDs serve as an impor­tant data basis for eco­log­i­cal build­ing assessment.
  • EPDs are recog­nised by Green Build­ing Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion systems.

EPDs Enhance the Mar­ket Posi­tion of Con­struc­tion Prod­uct Manufacturers

  • Man­u­fac­tur­ers who cre­ate EPDs for their con­struc­tion prod­ucts and build­ing com­po­nents are sus­tain­abil­i­ty pioneers.
  • EPDs make it eas­i­er for man­u­fac­tur­ers to gain access to pub­licly-adver­tised con­struc­tion projects.

EPDs pro­mote sus­tain­abil­i­ty strate­gies with­in companies

  • EPDs reveal the poten­tial for prod­uct opti­mi­sa­tion, e.g. where mate­r­i­al and ener­gy cost reduc­tions can be achieved in prod­uct manufacturing.
  • EPDs reveal hotspots in a product’s life cycle, e.g. with regard to the increas­ing ener­gy effi­cien­cy of a prod­uct dur­ing its use phase.
  • EPDs reveal the poten­tial for opti­mis­ing com­pa­ny process­es, e.g. logis­tics or oper­at­ing costs.