14 September 2015

The topic of ‘Environmental Product Declarations’ - or EPDs – and their use has been circulating in the construction industry for a while. However, like many terms, understanding of what it actually means can sometimes be limited. We know from our own experience that there is still confusion among specifiers about what EPDs are, why they’re important, and how they can be effectively used in specification.  

We’ve been helping architects and specifiers better understand the role of EPDs in the specification process.

There is quite a lot of jargon surrounding EPDs which can cause confusion. We've developed a guide which includes a jargon buster to explain the key areas specifiers need to be aware of. 

Below, we answer frequently asked questions about EPDs.

1. What is an EPD?

An Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) is a document which can be used in the specification process.  It provides an assessment of the environmental impacts of a product through its entire life cycle, taking into consideration the manufacturing, transportation, assembly, use, removal and recycling or disposal of the product.  

2. EPD vs LCA (Life Cycle Assessment)

An EPD is independently verified and issued to set criteria, by an independant Programme Operator, following a set of Product Category Rules (PCR). This ensure that the products are assessed in a consistent and unbiased mannger. This process is controlled by ISO and EN standards.

An LCA (Life Cycle Assessment), can be produced by a manufacturer, who may be making favourable assunptions such as longevity of a product, that can impact or skew the results.

EPDs provide an independently-verified method of evaluating the environmental impact of construction products, enabling specifiers to complete specifications by comparing one product’s impact against another. 

3. Do EPDs provide a guarantee of sustainability?

There has also been a lack of clarity around what an EPD actually is, with some clients requesting products that have EPDs for projects as they believe they provide evidence of a product’s sustainability.

Having an EPD does not necssarily mean a product has a good environmental impact. An EPD isn't a sustainable seal of approval, instead it simply reports the facts on the environmental impact of a product.

In addition, there has been some confusion about how to actually compare EPDs in the specification process.

4. Are there tools for using EPDs in the specification process?

While there are currently no tools available that can compare all EPD data, there are a number available designed to make the task of comparing EPDs simpler. These include IES’ IMPACT compliant suite within its VE software, based on the BRE protocol for building Life Cycle Assessments. 

These tools enable comparisons at the building level or between material choices. However, as no tool exists to compare all EPD data, it is important to understand which EPDs a tool will actually compare.

The integration of Life Cycle Assessments into BIM is also becoming a reality with the introduction of Tally® – a software application for Revit® that calculates the environmental impact of building materials. While it only uses American generic EPD data, it is the only application to be fully integrated into Revit, providing insight into how material-related decisions made during design influence a building’s overall ecological footprint.

To find out more on EPDs, our guide - ‘Getting to grips with an EPD’ - is designed to help those who may be confused about them and their role in the specification process. It is available to download here.

There are EPDs available for a range of Marley Eternit products including EQUITONE, Cedral weatherboard, Thrutone, Garsdale, Rivendale and Birkdale slates.

Do you have any questions on EPDs? Comment below and we’ll get back to you.

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