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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