In the early 13th century, the king of England proclaimed the first food regulatory law, the Assize of Bread, which prohibited bakers from mixing ground peas and beans into bread dough. Ever since, it has been a cat and mouse game between the food industry and the public. People believed they had a right to know what was in their food so they could make informed decisions on what to buy and consume. Only since May 8th, 1994 have food labels meeting the strict requirements of the Food and Drug Administration been required on all packaged foods.
There was a need for a standardized label format. Otherwise, food companies would divulge nutritional information in different ways that made it difficult for the consumer to make choices.
That is what is now happening in the construction industry. Owners and specifiers are concerned more and more about using sustainable products. It is extremely difficult for them, as it was for grocery shoppers in the 1980’s, to choose the best product. It’s like comparing apples and oranges.
Along comes the environmental product declaration. EPDs as they are more widely known, report environmental impacts such as carbon footprint and others such as acidification or ozone depletion potential. EPDs list quantified life-cycle product data and are owned by the product or brand producer. In essence they are eco-labels and many believe they will be required for all building products in the future.
EPDs are defined by ISO 14025, an international standard for environmental labels and declarations, and are in wider use in other parts of the world (namely Europe) and for a variety of product categories, including structural steel and laminate flooring.
How do you get an EPD for your product? Well first you need an LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) and a PCR (Product Category Rule)
PCR’s govern how LCA’s and EPD’s are written. The PCR is developed for a broad product type such as vinyl siding, asphalt roof shingles, and precast concrete. The industry is working to create a PCR for precast concrete and from that, we can busy on our LCA’s and EPD’s.
These product ecolabel initiatives are still in their infancy, and the NPCA Sustainability Committee and NPCA staff are committed to help you navigate these unfamiliar waters and keep you ahead of emerging trends and regulations. Click Here to see an article on EPD’s, PCR’s and LCA’s.
Direct any questions to Claude Goguen at [email protected] or (317) 571-9500.
Claude Goguen, P.E., LEED AP, is NPCA’s director of Technical Services.
For more information on topics covered in this article, please visit the following sites:
- Life Cycle Assessment and Environmental Product Declarations Educational Webinars
- Carbon Leadership Forum
- The 2030 Challenge
- ASTM Work Item 23356 – New Practice for Development of Product Category Rules for Use in Development of Environmental Declarations for Building Products and Systems
Doug Ruhlin says
Claude – Great piece, from a strong advocate for the process. This IS the wave of the future! I also appreciate the plug for the Sustainability Committee. We really need to consider a PCR for precast, which is the first step, and as you know, we can possibly work off the efforts made for concrete in general. But, seeing as that is really the first step, we have to nail that down, and soon! From there, LCA, and then EPDs.
Jay Shilstone says
Claude, I just found your blog and really like it. I think your article is a great introduction to PCRs. However, I think that producers need to get more involved in the process of developing those documents. They have the potential of being extremely onerous and expensive, or of being much more producer-friendly. Most concrete people are willing to sit around and wait for these documents to be developed by others, but without sufficient efforts by our industry the PCRs will be written by others who might not be as knowledgeable about concrete. I know the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association has been active, as have some concrete producers, but more people need to get involved.
Keep up the good work on the blog.