By Claude Goguen, P.E., LEED AP
Environmental Product Declarations are now available for underground, structural and architectural precast concrete products.
If you’re a Star Wars fan and a precaster, it’s been an incredible few months. First the release of “The Force Awakens,” and now the release of precast concrete Environmental Product Declarations. The former may have satisfied your inner geek, but the latter will benefit you and your business for years to come.
So what is an EPD?
An EPD is an independently verified and registered document that communicates transparent and comparable information about the life cycle environmental impact of building products. Put simply, it verifies the sustainable attributes of your product. For example, say you’re a designer tasked with selecting materials for a project based on economic, structural and environmental criteria. It’s easy to compare pricing and you can find information on how how materials perform in service. But how do you compare them in terms of environmental impact? Until recently, you had to rely on inconsistent, incomplete or even inaccurate data from suppliers. This created a demand to develop EPDs in the green building and infrastructure industry. Through the International Organization for Standardization 14025, EPDs are third-party verified and now give designers the ability to compare apples to apples.
EPDs are created based on a Product Category Rule and a Life Cycle Analysis. Creating an EPD alone would be complicated and time consuming. The good news is NPCA worked with the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute and the Canadian Precast Prestressed Concrete Institute to create the PCR, LCA and EPDs for the North American precast concrete industry.
The industry-wide EPDs are now available for architectural and insulated wall panels, structural precast concrete products and underground precast concrete products. The structural EPD covers bridge products, building products, retaining walls and sound walls. Structural precast products can be conventionally reinforced or prestressed. The underground products EPD covers pipe, culvert products, manholes, wastewater and stormwater tanks, chambers and related products such as electrical utility products. The wall panel EPD addresses conventional and sandwich wall panels and architectural trim products.
The EPDs contain information on potential production impacts such as:
- Global warming
- Smog creation
- Ozone depletion
- Primary energy consumption
- Material resources consumption
- Waste generated
Many NPCA Producer Members contributed data for the development of these EPDs. They are listed in Appendix A of each EPD.
The EPDs were independently prepared by Athena Sustainable Materials Institute in accordance with ISOs 14025 and 21930, PCRs and ASTM International’s EPD program operator rules. They were also independently verified in accordance with ISO 14025 by ASTM International and Industrial Ecology Consultants. The EPDs are valid until 2020.
What does this mean to me?
There’s absolutely no doubt the green building industry is growing. If you think you are immune due to your geographical location and products, think again. For example, a customer asked a member in Georgia for an EPD on a grease interceptor. You don’t want to be left out when that moment comes.
Materials that compete with precast concrete, such as ready-mixed concrete, masonry block, plastic, fiberglass, wood and steel have already developed or are in the process of developing their own EPDs, which are being requested with bid documents in ever-increasing numbers. If you do not have an EPD available when asked, it will be too late.
LEED v4, Architecture 2030 Challenge for Products and the International Green Construction Code request or reward building product manufacturers for submitting EPDs. LEED v4, which replaces the older version of LEED this October, provides two points for a project with 20 products with EPDs and 50% demonstrating lower impacts than industry baselines through EPDs. LEED v4 values different types of EPDs as follows:
- Self-declared EPDs are worth 1/4 value (not third-party verified)
- Industry-average EPDs are worth 1/2 value (third-party verified)
- Product-specific EPDs are worth full value (third-party verified)
Ready to help
The NPCA Sustainability Committee and staff are ready to help you whether you’re just starting your sustainability journey or are already well on your way. These EPDs are another tool in your toolbox to use when requested. View and download the EPDs on our website at precast.org/epds.
For any additional questions or comments, please contact Claude Goguen, director of sustainability and technical education, at [email protected] or at (317) 571-9500.
Claude Goguen, P.E., LEED AP, is NPCA’s director of sustainability and technical education.