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EPD Transparency Brief Makes it Easier to Specify Green Products

In this day and age of crowded eco-labels and competing claims, specifiers need reliable, third-party verified, life-cycle based product data to assess the environmental impacts of their material selections. EPDs provide this information, but specifiers rarely have time to read and understand a full EPD. The EPD Transparency Brief fulfills the need for in-depth and verified environmental information in an easy to understand two-page format.

The EPD Transparency Brief is a two-page summary of the most critical data presented in an EPD, published and third-party verified by UL Environment. The EPD Transparency Brief is a standardized format that will report product ingredients, life-cycle environmental impacts, recycled content, water and energy usage, end-of-life management, and product certifications. In other words, this is one concise document with our favorite nuggets of EPD data, including carbon footprint, water footprint, and product ingredients.

The EPD Transparency Brief reconciles the tension between the demand for third-party verified, life cycle based environmental impact data and the time constraints of those who desire this information, and brings us one step closer to the ideal of a Nutrition Facts approach for assessing products’ ingredients and environmental impacts. Specifiers can quickly and easily review the data in an EPD Transparency Brief, and compare impacts within a Product Category with confidence in the 3rd party verified data.

Learn more about our EPDs

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Posted in Category Sustainability | 2 Comments

EPDs: With The Complete Picture Comes A Better Choice

All types of products, from food to clothing to cleaning supplies, claim to be green. The question is, how green?

An EPD, or Environmental Product Declaration, is a statement of product ingredients and environmental impacts that happen during the life of a product.

  • It meets international standards.
  • It is third-party verified.
  • It gives you the complete picture of a product’s environmental impacts.
  • It helps you make better choices about the products you use, and better choices will ultimately lead to greener buildings.

Get “The Complete Picture” in our booth at Greenbuild 2011 (823N) or in the slideshow below.

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My EPD Journey: A designer’s perspective

Gretchen Holy

EPD HeaderBy now you are probably pretty familiar with the concept of EPDs (thanks to this blog) and how their inclusion in the new LEED Pilot Credit 43 could have a major influence on transparency in the manufacturing industry, not to mention access to robust information for the architectural and design community.

My EPD journey started in the spring of 2010 when I was approached to speak at the U.S. Green Building Council’s Annual Greenbuild Conference on the topic of Radical Transparency: The New Way to Define Green. I began familiarizing myself with the concept of life cycle analysis based EPDs by doing my own research (which was difficult at the time as not many EPDs existed).

As I was preparing for Greenbuild I realized that my journey actually started much earlier; back in 2002, to be exact, on one of my first projects at BNIMThe School of Nursing and Student Community Center for the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. The University’s goal for all furniture and moveable wall selection was to enhance sustainability by minimizing the impact of embodied energy and the resulting carbon dioxide emissions.

EPD-in-design

In order to accomplish this task BNIM’s internal sustainable consulting group, Elements, developed an extensive questionnaire that was issued to major manufacturers in the form of an RFI. The questionnaire was not a comprehensive sustainability questionnaire, nor was it a scientific life-cycle analysis. Instead it was a series of 47 questions designed to collect key pieces of comparable data. As with any analysis, the margin of success rested on the accuracy of the information provided. A comparative analysis report was created to facilitate product selection. It was a long and arduous process, but in the end we prevailed in identifying products that met the client’s goals. The project won three environmental awards among many other awards for its design. The firm, and our interiors team, continued to use this approach on many subsequent projects. I look back now and think, “How much easier and more precise would that process have been if LCA-based EPDs were in existence!”

The great thing about an EPD (besides its transparency) is that it explains the LCA information in a clear, concise, and consistent manner from product type to product type. My favorite analogy is to think about coffee. (Forget paper vs. plastic, it’s way overused!) Let’s say you are making a trip to your local coffee shop. You have many options to choose from as to how to drink your coffee. If you are getting your coffee to go (and you don’t live in California) you might get coffee in a Styrofoam cup or in a paper cup. Perhaps you are meeting someone at the coffee shop and you intend to stay, then your options might be a ceramic or glass mug. Or perhaps you are very environmentally conscious and you bring your own travel mug. You might be wondering, “What does this have to do with EPDs?” An EPD would allow you to look at the life cycle analysis data of all these different coffee vessels, so you could determine which one had the least environmental impact and enjoy your coffee with a clear conscience.

The same concept holds true no matter the material: carpet vs. porcelain tile; porcelain tile vs. hardwood; hardwood vs. carpet. An LCA-based EPD allows you to compare products that serve the same function and make an educated selection on behalf of your client. It allows you to compare different aspects of a product, such as embodied energy, water used to manufacture, etc. much like single or multi-attribute certifications, but it’s much more robust information. The only thing that could make EPDs better would be a sexy little label to relay the information at-a-glance!

In closing I’ll share one of the best quotes I heard last year at Greenbuild: “Transparency causes self-correcting behavior. It’s not the metrics, it’s peer pressure.” So, kudos to Interface for putting the pressure on their peers! On behalf of all of us fighting the good fight for sustainability, thank you for the opportunity to explain the benefits of EPDs from a designer’s standpoint. Here’s hoping many others pursue increased transparency in the industry!

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New LEED® Pilot Credit for EPDs Rewards Transparency and Performance

Melissa Vernon

Perspectives on EPDsIn November of 2010, InterfaceFLOR made a pledge to pursue Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) for all of our carpet tile products. Fast forward eight months, and EPDs are being recognized by the U.S. Green Building Council’s newly released LEED Pilot Credit 43: Certified Products. Over the next five weeks, we're bringing you an educational series breaking down EPDs. This post from Melissa Vernon, InterfaceFLOR Director of Sustainable Strategy, will begin our five-week discussion.

For years, the Architecture and Design community and end users have been seeking greater transparency, apples to apples comparisons, and 3rd party verification of green product claims.

The new LEED Pilot Credit 43: Certified Products can foster the conditions for more of these sought after attributes in the building product marketplace. It’s earned by using products with 3rd party certification of a single attribute or to a multi-attribute standard, and/or products with a 3rd party reviewed Environmental Product Declaration (EPD).

The Certified Products Pilot Credit accelerates market transformation, a goal of LEED, by encouraging transparency and performance. EPDs are recognized as tools for disclosing environmental impacts and the ISO standards on which EPDs are based ensure transparency. Life Cycle Assessment data, together with environmental impact information prescribed by the Product Category Rules, disclose the significant environmental aspects of the product. EPDs = Transparency. In addition, the Pilot Credit rewards the additional depth and rigor provided by multi-attribute, life cycle based 3rd party certifications.

Is the credit perfect? No. But that is the purpose of introducing the intent and requirements through the Pilot Credit system – to gain user feedback with real world projects. Much of the commentary around this credit has been focused on critiquing the list of single attribute 3rd party certifications. Let’s take a moment to look at this credit’s full potential.

EPDs and Multi-Attribute 3rd Party Certifications – An Effective Combination

Used alone, an EPD and a certification do not provide the complete picture. The Certified Products Pilot Credit is attempting to find the synergy between performance and disclosure. Are there scenarios where we get the best of both worlds? Yes.

An EPD or a certification individually may not provide exactly what a user is looking for. An EPD provides transparency through 3rd party verified, life cycle based environmental attribute data, but no rating or ranking is applied. Just like a nutrition label on a donut, an EPD can be applied to unsustainable products. On the other hand, certifications may provide a rating or ranking of environmental preferability (such as the Platinum or Gold levels in NSF 140) but does not always offer the transparency that a user demands. Certifications plus EPDs offer the greatest opportunity for both evaluation and verified transparency.

At InterfaceFLOR, our carpets are certified to the NSF/ANSI 140 Sustainability Assessment for Carpet, and styles in the Convert platform have an EPD. InterfaceFLOR has committed to producing EPDs for all products by 2012. As the first carpet company to market products that have both NSF 140 and EPDs, we have already seen how well they work together.

  • Both are 3rd party verified
  • Both are based on life cycle impacts
  • Both offer the ability to compare products from different manufacturers
  • EPD offers transparency and disclosure beyond NSF 140 categories
  • NSF 140 indicates overall environmental preferability – Platinum, Gold or Silver

With LEED 2009, products and materials became a smaller proportion of the total credits available in a LEED project. The future of LEED and other green building rating tools must consider materials beyond single attributes, use phase, and material composition. To truly transform the market, LEED must shift to focusing on life cycle considerations, full disclosure of product ingredients and total environmental impact.

InterfaceFLOR is proud to be leading the way with EPDs and NSF 140 certified carpets.

Click here for more information on how InterfaceFLOR contributes to the Certified Products Pilot Credit.

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Why EPDs Matter & How You Can Incorporate Them Into Your Business

While Life Cycle Assesments (LCAs) and Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) have become increasingly important, they are often portrayed as complex programs that are difficult to understand. In turn, the Global Products Alliance is taking steps to make these processes more user friendly. As we become more sophisticated in our understanding of environmental sustainability, the need for transparency becomes more important than ever. Environmental impacts are complex and LCAs that measure those impacts are necessarily complex too. EPD is a tool that takes the complex results of an LCA and creates an easy to understand and transparent summary. The Global Products Alliance is taking steps to make EPDs more accessible to the manufacturers and purchasers.

InterfaceFLOR wants people to know about the impacts of their products and EPDs have given us a credible way to share this information. We want purchasers to be aware of the effect their decisions have on the environment and to use this information to make good product management and purchasing decisions. 

Who is the Global Products Alliance?

The Green Standard President and CEO Deborah Dunning formed the Global Products Alliance at a recent forum on The New Way to Define Green  co-hosted by TGS with the Institute for Construction & the Environment in Germany. The forum included leaders from education, government and industry and was held at the headquarters of the American Institute of Architects in Washington D.C.

The primary goals of The Green Standard Global Products Alliance are threefold:

1. Create a special website providing the best available information on resources available to manufacturers and purchasers of products on LCAs and EPDs

2. Develop monthly webinars for Alliance members featuring core principles and their practical application in diverse types of building projects

3. Plan an annual forum on The New Way to Define Green to bring together diverse shareholders to learn about new and profitable resources

Want to learn more? Attend Our Free Webinar

The Green Standard’s Global Products Alliance is providing a webinar “Developing and Using LCA-based Environmental Product Declarations to Increase Brand Value”.  It is a great opportunity to learn more about EPDs and how they are defining best practices in the green building sector. Register here.

The webinar will include a discussion of the types of ecolabels currently in the market and explain how EPDs are unique, how they’re created and their key characteristics and value.

To learn more about InterfaceFLOR’s EPD initiative read the case study by Five Winds International or join the webinar on July 20, 2010.

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