EPDs – Transparency in Sustainability

EPDs, what are they and why are they important?

The construction industry, and more generally the world, is transitioning toward a more sustainable future. As concrete is among the world’s most consumed material, creating a way to focus and quantify sustainability measures has become the focus of governing bodies.  With that in mind, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has compiled guidelines for creating a more environmentally friendly future.

One step towards this greener future has been the creation of an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD).  An EPD is an objective and comprehensive standardized reports about a product’s environmental performance throughout its life. EPDs are created by, or for, product manufactures and can be verified, and potentially certified, by a third-party EPD program operator. These EPDs help producers and consumers compare different products that serve the same function by measuring specific environmental and potential health impacts, from a lifecycle perspective, as opposed to so called “eco labels” that do not cover the full Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of goods and services. 

What information is needed to create an EPD?

To obtain an EPD, a LCA is required. The LCA considers many factors, including, but not limited to energy, water, and fuel usage during the complete life cycle of a product. Each stage in the life cycle of a product is evaluated, from raw material extraction to disposal.  It can also require the calculation of the anticipated product lifetime and required maintenance and/or recycling process depending on the scope of the LCA. Packaging, waste generation, and even supplier location is taken into consideration when a LCA is computed.

Why it is important to have an EPD?

For starters, along with the benefit of knowing the environmental impact, producers can use EPDs to cultivate financial benefits as well.  The data that is collected to certify for an EPD can highlight specific areas of inefficiencies within processes. For instance, inefficiencies with transportation or water usage could make the difference where razor-thin profit margins are concerned. 

Not to mention that having EPDs can help a manufacturer or producer stand out in a crowd to become a preferred supplier amongst designers and engineers specifying for greener buildings.2 Although not currently required, some states have started to implement programs aimed at leading manufacturers toward compliance. Legislation has even been proposed in the United States Congress to develop a national EPD database and embodied carbon thresholds for public construction works.3

Add Your How easy is it to certify?

There are plenty of organizations willing to help producers and manufacturers navigate the EPD and LCA processes that follow the ISO 14044, 14025, and 21930 guidelines. Having recently obtained an EPD for macro synthetic reinforcing fiber, FORTA-FERRO®, Jerry Welch, Director of Engineering for FORTA® states that:

“The process can be laborious and intensive, but thinking to the next generation, we need to do our part. That includes being sustainable. Having an EPD brings awareness and transparency to that front.”

Most concrete producers already have the knowledge and expertise to produce low carbon concrete mixes. But it’s time to be proactive. Obtaining product specific EPDs offer better targeted sustainability and gives the industry a chance to prepare for tighter carbon regulations on the horizon.

  1. Environmental product declarations. The EPD | EPD International. (n.d.). Retrieved December 2, 2022, from https://www.environdec.com/all-about-epds/the-epd
  2. Environmental product declarations. SCS Global Services. (n.d.). Retrieved December 2, 2022, from https://www.scsglobalservices.com/services/environmental-product-declarations
  3. The business case for investing in EPDs. One Click LCA® software. (2022, November 21). Retrieved December 2, 2022, from https://www.oneclicklca.com/article-the-business-case-for-investing-in-epds/