Product Environmental Performance Requirements

Paul Betram, JR FCSI, DCT, LEED AP

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“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- www.masterformat.com)
  • 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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