Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs)
An Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) is an internationally recognized summary report used to transparently communicate the environmental performance of products and services based on Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). EPDs distill complicated information to empower customers such as architects, designers and contractors to make informed decisions based on environmental factors.
Environmental Product Declarations are a relatively new concept to the building industry. However, the LEED consultants at SBS forecast that developing and submitting EPDs will become mainstream practice for product manufacturers and project teams pursuing LEED v4 certified projects. Why?…Because a new credit called Building Product Disclosure and Optimization – Environmental Product Declarations will be very easy and inexpensive LEED point to achieve with little burden on the project teams…so it’s highly likely that architects, interior designers and contractors will be requesting Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) for their favorite products from product manufacturers.
An Environmental Product Declaration reports a handful of environmental impacts, such as greenhouse gas emissions and smog-forming potential, as well as several other environmental factors that result from product manufacturing, use and disposal. An Environmental Product Declaration is a summary of the much longer but well known concept…the Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) report.
To qualify for full credit in LEED, a product’s Environmental Product Declaration must follow a certain process and reporting format outlined in a wide ranging and impressive array of ISO standards and has to be certified by a third party. Additionally, a project pursuing the LEED credit can get partial credit by using LCAs created according to ISO standard 14044 as well as generic Environmental Product Declarations for a whole class of materials.
The intent of the LEED credit is to jump-start transparency for products as soon as possible by getting more manufacturers to produce Environmental Product Declaration reports. Ultimately the goal is to encourage better environmental performance from products. Once more and more manufacturers release EPDs, project teams will be able to use Environmental Product Declarations to make informed decisions about sustainability issues like embodied carbon, energy and water.
For a deeper look at the strengths and weaknesses of Environmental Product Declarations see, “The Product Transparency Movement,” Environmental Building News Jan. 2012.