What is an EPD?
An EPD is an objective report based on life cycle assessment (LCA). It is used to communicate information about the potential environmental and human health impacts of a product. It states what a product is made of and how it impacts the environment across its entire life cycle, from raw material extraction to disposal.
What is Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)?
LCA measures the human health and the environment impacts associated with a product. It examines each stage in the life cycle of a product, including raw material extraction, manufacturing, transportation, use and maintenance, and disposal. Credible LCAs conform to international standards such as ISO 14044, ISO 14025, and ISO 21930 (for building products), and measure potential environmental impacts such as:
- Climate Change
- Acidification (e.g., acid rain)
- Smog Formation
- Eutrophication (a type of water pollution)
- Ozone layer depletion
What Data is collected?
To develop an LCA model, the following main types of data will be needed:
- Annual energy use (i.e., electricity and fuel use)
- Annual water use
- Annual waste generation and emissions generation
- Material composition and supplier location
- Transportation distance representing distribution of the product
- Anticipated product lifetime and required maintenance (for cradle-to-grave EPDs only)
What is a Product Category Rule (PCR)?
The first step to getting an EPD is to look at the Product Category Rule (PCR), which defines how to conduct the LCA for the product category being assessed (e.g. carpet, steel framing, etc.). It lays out which impacts must be reported and ensures that all EPDs under the same category report the same information.
Many PCRs have been developed for products across industries, including but not limited to:
- Steel Construction
- Concrete and Cement
- Wood Construction Products
- Office Furniture
- Building Sealants
*Many more PCRs are in the process of being developed for additional categories. Contact SCS today to see if a PCR is available for your product.
How does the LCA become an EPD?
Once the LCA is completed, it is critically reviewed by an independent expert for conformance to the ISO standards. After the review, an EPD is prepared which summarizes the LCA. The EPD is verified by a third-party to ensure it accurately reflects the LCA report, and follows the PCR requirements. Then the verified EPD is registered through the Program Operator website and is made publicly available. The validity period for the EPD depends on the PCR, but this is typically five years.
How are EPDs used?
EPDs qualify products for credit towards buildings destined for LEED v4 rating and other green building ratings. Having EPDs can help a manufacturer become a preferred supplier amongst designers and architects specifying for green building projects.
Manufacturers also use the data from EPDs to identify areas of improvement within their manufacturing process, helping them become more efficient and set realistic sustainability goals.
What LEED v4 credits do EPDs qualify for?
EPDs qualify for up to two points following the Materials and Resources credit:
MR: Building product disclosure and optimization - environmental product declarations
Qualify for up to 1 point by meeting one of two criteria in Option 1:
- A manufacturer participates in an industry-wide (generic) EPD. (½ point)
- A manufacturer works with a Program Operator, such as SCS, and creates a product-specific EPD. (1 point)
Earn an additional point (for 2 points total) by comparing and showing a reduction of impacts via the criteria for Option 2:
- A manufacturer demonstrates reduced impact with a product-specific EPD against an industry-wide EPD, provided the manufacturer was part of the study and the two conform to the same PCR (1 point), OR
- A manufacturer demonstrates reduced impact of the same product, over time, with two product-specific EPDs. (1 point)
Visit USGBC’s website for the full details on meeting this criteria.
I am a manufacturer and would like to get an EPD for my product(s). How do I get started?
The first step will be to have a life cycle assessment conducted for your product scope. Contact a Sales Executive to discuss the scope of your project and next steps.