As an asso­ci­at­ed project part­ner, the Insti­tut für Bauen und Umwelt e.V. (IBU) has been sup­port­ing the Zukun­ft Bau research project PCR4PV since June 1st 2024, which aims to advance the fur­ther devel­op­ment of Prod­uct Cat­e­go­ry Rules (PCR) for Envi­ron­men­tal Prod­uct Dec­la­ra­tions (EPD) of PV appli­ca­tions as part of Zukun­ft Bau research fund­ing under the lead­er­ship of the Fraun­hofer Insti­tute for Solar Ener­gy Sys­tems ISE.

The IBU and Fraun­hofer ISE are coop­er­at­ing on the research project, in par­tic­u­lar to expand exist­ing PCRs for the cre­ation of EPDs for build­ing-inte­grat­ed pho­to­voltaics (BIPV).

The over­ar­ch­ing objec­tive of the 24-month research project is the har­mo­niza­tion of PCRs for EPDs and the devel­op­ment of method­olog­i­cal approach­es for the com­plete eco­log­i­cal assess­ment of PV mod­ules, PV rooftop sys­tems and BIPV over their life­time. As an asso­ci­at­ed project part­ner, IBU is respon­si­ble for project-relat­ed con­sult­ing, the ini­tial pub­li­ca­tion of the devel­oped PCR and the devel­op­ment and ver­i­fi­ca­tion of an aver­age indus­tri­al EPD by a third party.

Research con­tract clos­es def­i­n­i­tion gaps and maps scenarios

The spe­cif­ic aim of the project is to devel­op extend­ed prod­uct cat­e­go­ry rules for envi­ron­men­tal prod­uct dec­la­ra­tions for EPDs of PV mod­ules and their appli­ca­tions in rooftop PV sys­tems and build­ing-inte­grat­ed PV sys­tems. In future, the PCRs should enable man­u­fac­tur­ers to declare envi­ron­men­tal infor­ma­tion for these prod­ucts objec­tive­ly and com­pre­hen­sive­ly through EPDs and at the same time meet the require­ments of the EU EcoDe­sign leg­is­la­tion cur­rent­ly in the devel­op­ment process and the Type 1 “Elec­tron­ic Prod­uct Envi­ron­men­tal Assess­ment Tool” (EPEAT) eco-label.

In addi­tion to the effects of PV mod­ule pro­duc­tion, the focus is on the uti­liza­tion phase and the sys­tem bal­ance. The lat­ter includes those sys­tem com­po­nents that are required for a PV sys­tem in addi­tion to the PV mod­ules. By pro­duc­ing elec­tric­i­ty dur­ing the use phase, PV sys­tems can over­com­pen­sate for their pro­duc­tion-relat­ed envi­ron­men­tal impact, which dis­tin­guish­es them from most oth­er prod­ucts. The elec­tric­i­ty yield and con­se­quent­ly the envi­ron­men­tal impact of the life cycle of PV sys­tems are influ­enced by var­i­ous para­me­ters. The PCRs devel­oped here pro­vide method­olo­gies for the envi­ron­men­tal assess­ment of PV mod­ules them­selves as well as for rooftop PV sys­tems and BIPV sys­tems (roof and façade).

The research work clos­es def­i­n­i­tion gaps of already exist­ing PCRs on the PV mod­ule and sys­tem level.The PCRs in this project will be applic­a­ble for two sce­nar­ios: 1) each as a prod­uct-spe­cif­ic PCR under stan­dard­ized con­di­tions (PV mod­ule and sys­tem), 2) as a use-spe­cif­ic PCR for the eval­u­a­tion of a spe­cif­ic instal­la­tion (PV system).The first sce­nario allows a cross-man­u­fac­tur­er com­par­i­son with­out knowl­edge of a spe­cif­ic use, the sec­ond allows the deriva­tion of the real envi­ron­men­tal impacts in a spe­cif­ic appli­ca­tion situation.

Before the PCR is pub­lished, Fraun­hofer ISE and the IBU are plan­ning an open con­sul­ta­tion with select­ed stake­hold­ers from indus­try and sci­ence respon­si­ble for EPDs for PV prod­ucts and (inte­grat­ed) PV sys­tems in order to dis­sem­i­nate the results and sub­ject them to a crit­i­cal review. The trans­fer of results will pri­mar­i­ly take place via the first pub­li­ca­tion of the devel­oped PCR in the EPD data­base ÖKOBAUDAT.

Rel­e­vance of data for sus­tain­able construction

The Ger­man government’s coali­tion agree­ment gives high pri­or­i­ty to the sus­tain­abil­i­ty of build­ings and the asso­ci­at­ed eco­log­i­cal assess­ment. Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion sys­tems such as the Assess­ment Sys­tem for Sus­tain­able Build­ing (BNB) play an impor­tant role here.

The life cycle assess­ment of build­ings and struc­tures is already required by law in some oth­er Euro­pean coun­tries; in Ger­many, pub­lic fund­ing for sus­tain­able build­ings has now been installed for the first time with the QNG seal. In order to meet the require­ments of these sub­si­dies, it is impor­tant to be able to record all the envi­ron­men­tal impacts of the prod­ucts used over their entire life cycle. It is impor­tant that these envi­ron­men­tal impacts are cal­cu­lat­ed on the basis of rec­og­nized and agreed rules.

The pub­lic data­base for this (ÖKOBAUDAT) does not yet have data for the PV mod­ule, PV rooftop sys­tem and BIPV sys­tem prod­uct groups select­ed in the project.

About the project partners: 

Fraun­hofer ISE is the largest solar research insti­tute in Europe. Its more than 1,400 employ­ees con­duct research into a sus­tain­able, eco­nom­i­cal, safe and social­ly just ener­gy sup­ply sys­tem based on renew­able energies.

As the pro­gram hold­er for EPDs, the Insti­tut Bauen und Umwelt e.V., with over 330 mem­bers, is the largest asso­ci­a­tion of man­u­fac­tur­ers in the build­ing mate­ri­als indus­try com­mit­ted to sus­tain­able build­ing: With over 3,500 pub­lished EPDs, IBU and its mem­bers ensure that the eco­log­i­cal aspect can be includ­ed in the sus­tain­abil­i­ty assess­ment of buildings.

Build­ing tech­nol­o­gy as a future field for EPDs

While the under­ly­ing prod­uct data in the form of EPDs is already com­mon prac­tice for build­ing mate­r­i­al, build­ing prod­uct and build­ing com­po­nent man­u­fac­tur­ers for the life cycle assess­ment of build­ings, LCA data for MEP is also becom­ing increas­ing­ly rel­e­vant on the mar­ket. The IBU is orga­niz­ing a kick-off round table online on July 10th 2024 under the title Let’s Talk TGA & EPD and invites all inter­est­ed parties.