Category Archives: EPDs

Product Environmental Performance Requirements

Paul Betram, JR FCSI, DCT, LEED AP

EPD Header

“Green” Product Background

The US Green Building Council and their LEED® Certification programs have led design teams to evaluate building product sustainability attributes that go beyond traditional performance and compliance requirements. Manufacturers have responded to these expanded environmental reporting requirements, which has resulted in several outcomes:

First, a barrage of “green” ecolabels, and third party validated/certified programs with very specific scopes, completely confused the marketplace. The industry has reached a point where most building products and materials are claiming some level of “green” without any standardized method of reporting the true measurement of sustainability (or lack thereof) of a product. So much so the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) developed the Part 260 Guides For The Use Of Environmental Marketing Claims.

This regulatory effort from the FTC, along with LEED® and their recognition of specific third party environmental labels, was an attempt to help manufacturers, designers and consumers better understand the intent of reporting various environmental attributes, such as recycled content, by requiring clearly demonstrated data. The second outcome is the trend towards acceptance of ISO Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) reporting. The broad scope and transparency required in the ISO LCA, and respective EPD (Environmental Product Declaration), are considered to be reliable and creditable environmental footprint data, making it easier for specifiers to make informed product choices.

Moving beyond LCA: The next steps

Kingspan Insulated Panels*, North America, chose to develop a product environmental reporting pathway through an ISO based LCA, and respective Certified EPD. LCA reporting is framed by ISO EPD requirements and contains a variety of information about the entire manufacturing process, including upstream supplier impacts and product environmental characteristics of manufacturing processes based on an ISO compliant LCA. EPDs are based on sound scientific and engineering approaches that can accurately reflect and communicate the environmental aspects contained in the declaration.

The exact type of information is specific to a particular type of product group, determined by Product Category Rules (PCR) to ensure “comparable” LCA reporting within specific product categories. PCR and EPD development requires working with an independent “Program Operator.”

The first responsibility in developing a PCR is to research existing PCRs in a category and then modify as applicable through a consensus based process. Kingspan’s Program Operator utilized The Construction Specifications Institute MasterFormat Structure 07 40 00 Roofing and Siding Panels to register the PCR. Kingspan’s “cradle to grave” (cradle to grave LCA is an assessment that tracks the life of a product from the point of creation until the disposal of the product takes place) LCA provides a measurable baseline to improve manufacturing processes and report environmental performance, including “use phase” benefits and “end of life” of products.

The next step is to identify EPD specifiable environmental performance requirements of products. This multi-facet challenge begs the question, are we specifying LEED®, labels, environmental single attributes or environmental performance requirements, or all of the above? How is the design team able to understand a balanced comprehensive product evaluation that considers functional performance, compliance and environmental and sustainability attributes? In response, CSI (The Construction Specifications Institute) created GreenFormat as an interface to identify specifiable product environmental performance requirements.

There is much to learn about the information that is reported in a LCA and respective EPD, including the scope and understanding how the environmental impacts that are reported compare to other materials.

Basic examples of ISO product standards:

  • ISO 14021:1999, Environmental labels and declarations — Self-declared environmental claims (Type II environmental labeling)
  • ISO 14024:1999, Environmental labels and declarations — Type I environmental 3rd party labeling
  • ISO 14040:20061, Life cycle assessment
  • ISO -21930, Sustainability in building construction
    •    Environmental declaration of building products
  • ISO 14025 for the EPD of building products
    •    PCR – Product Category Rules
  • Set of specific rules, requirements and guidelines for developing Type III environmental declarations
  • ISO 14025 for the EPD of building products
    • PCR – Product Category Rules (CSI MasterFormat-
  • Set of specific rules, requirements and guidelines for developing Type III environmental declarations
  • Responsibilities of the program operator required to register the PCR
    • The program operator shall be responsible for the administration of a Type III environmental declaration
    • The program operator owns  and manages the PCR

*Author Paul Bertram, FCSI, CDT, LEED AP is the Director of Environment & Sustainability
at Kingspan Insulated Panels, North America

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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.


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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Environmental Product Declarations and International Trade

Rita Schneck

Perspectives on EPDs
Environmental Product Declarations Are Sweeping the Globe
Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) are life-cycle based ecolabels that disclose environmental performance, in much the same way that nutrition labels disclose nutrient information.
As you can see in the map below, many countries host EPD programs, typically operated by not-for-profit organizations. In fact the US exports about $1 Trillion per year to countries with EPD programs in place.

Figure 1 Countries with EPD Programs

What is new in this field is that in 2007, France passed a law, the Grenelle Environment that required environmental product declarations for all mass produced consumer goods. On July 1 of this year, the French government began a set of experiments that are seeking the best way to implement the law. The European Commission has begun a program to develop guidance on environmental product declarations, so it seems that it is only a matter of time before the requirement will expand to the entire EU.

Product Category Rules are the Pivot
All environmental product declarations require that one first have agreement on how to calculate the environmental impacts and how to disclose those results. These agreements are formalized in product category rules (PCRs), which are simply specifications on how to perform the life cycle assessment and how to disclose the results.

While there are many national and international standards providing guidance on developing PCRs, there is already a great deal of confusion at the level of international trade. Likely we will need to have tens of thousands of PCRs to cover the entire economy. However, already there is overlap between programs in different countries, with PCRs being developed on the same product in more than one country. Furthermore, many PCRs are not tight specifications. When there is a great deal of freedom about where one can get data and how one must calculate the results, there is no comparability between programs.

There is an international group seeking to harmonize the PCRs developed in different countries: The PCR Roundtable, a group formed under the aegis of Thema1, a German non-profit. Some of the issues being addressed include standard vocabulary for PCRs, standard formats for PCRs and approaches to assuring that the entire economy is being covered without redundancy.

What’s a Company to Do?
Even in the absence of full consensus on EPDs, companies still have a lot of options to get ahead of the curve on EPDs. First of all, start getting a handle on your life cycle inventory data. The stuff your buy and sell, and information on emissions to air and water and your waste figures should be at your fingertips. This data is the basis of all life cycle assessments, and no matter which EPD program you follow the basic inventory information will be the same. Second, start having conversations with your vendors and customers on LCA and EPDs. These will be your partners in developing EPDs. Finally, consider your stance on EPDs. Consider your market, and how you want to present the environmental performance of your products. Sooner or later you will have to do EPDs. Starting now can give you a first to market advantage.

Rita Schenck is the Executive Director of the Institute for Environmental Research and Education, and the Secretary of the American Center for Life Cycle Assessment. She sits on the PCR Roundtable.

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Pilot Credit 43: A push for Transparency

Heather Gandonniex

Perspectives on EPDsOn June 15th the USGBC released the Certified Products and Materials Pilot Credit (Pilot Credit 43), encouraging the use of environmentally preferable products and promoting product transparency. The pilot credit provides an opportunity for the construction and design community to understand more about the products we use in our buildings, and for manufacturers to gain much deserved recognition for improving and documenting their products’ environmental impacts.

Pilot Credit 43 outlines two pathways for contribution; the certification pathway and the EPD (Environmental Product Declaration) pathway. The certification pathway rewards manufacturers for validating environmental claims with a third party certification, and for obtaining single and multi-attribute product certifications such as Greenguard and Eco-Logo. The EPD pathway promotes product transparency by allocating credit to products with accompanying life cycle assessment (LCA) data or third party certified EPDs.

*©2001 USGBC. To view full pilot credit, including this chart visit

The chart above shows the greatest reward is given to products that have Type 1 (multi-attribute) Certification based on an EPD, and a product specific Third Party Certified Type III EPD.

This credit also rewards products that have both certifications and EPDs by allowing design teams to combine multipliers in each credit pathway. This is important because product certifications often don’t say anything about a product’s specific life cycle based environmental impacts. EPDs are not a performance based eco-label; they report on a product’s environmental impacts. Combine the two and voila! You now understand if the product is environmentally preferable AND you have a detailed disclosure of the product’s life cycle based environmental impacts, like its carbon footprint, for example.

There is a lot of buzz around life cycle assessment and Environmental Product Declarations. Th

ere is also a lot of confusion. Let’s try to clear that up!

An EPD is a third party verified, internally recognized, single comprehensive disclosure of a product’s environmental impact – throughout its life cycle. Properly implemented EPDs have the potential to transform how products are manufactured and specified.

The information derived via the EPD generation process provides manufacturers with scientifically based insights into the life cycle impacts of their products. With this information, manufacturers can act strategically to improve product performance.

For the design and construction community, EPDs help move the dialogue beyond single attributes to more holistic measures of environmental performance. Used appropriately, this can result in the increased selection and use of environmentally preferable products.

So, how do we create an EPD? And, how are we able to use the information contained in an EPD to compare environmental impacts?

To create an EPD, we follow the process detailed in ISO 14025.

*Image: © 2011 UL Environment Inc.

As you can see in the image, EPDs are based on Product Category Rules (PCRs). PCRs determine what information is contained in an EPD and how the life cycle assessment is conducted by the manufacturer.

PCRs enable us to compare product environmental impacts within a specific product category by setting common guidelines for life cycle based environmental information (and the additional environmental and product specific information reported in EPDs).

Thought leaders in the building community are supportive of the USGBC’s effort to increase product transparency. Last week I had the opportunity to spend time with Kirsten Ritchie, Gensler’s Director of Sustainable Design. We discussed the pilot credit and are encouraged by the USGBC’s development of mechanisms to reward greater product transparency. Kirsten summed it up best by saying, “I’m strongly supportive of project teams pursuing innovation (pilot) credits tied to the use and disclosure of life cycle data through EPDs. We need to get life cycle based environmental information out to the marketplace to support smarter product selection decisions, particularly carbon footprint.”  I couldn’t agree more.

Heather Gadonniex is the EPD Program Manager at UL Environment, and has been an active member of the green building community for over a decade. Opinions represented in this post are solely those of the author.

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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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