Volume 49, Issue 1- January 2014


Life Cycle Assessment Works Moving Forward; Next Step: EPDs

It’s not if, but when. That’s what the chairman of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) working group on whole building Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) said of the glass industry’s officially sanctioning of a specific Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) that would compare and contrast every building’s environmental footprint.

Wayne B. Trusty, who is also a past president of the Athena Sustainable Materials Institute and Athena Institute International and an adjunct associate professor at the University of Calgary Faculty of Environmental Design, led a webinar late last year called “EPD 101: The What, Why and How” to explain how EPDs, which provide quantitative and third-party verifiable environmental data for products, come in two distinctive forms.

One, Business-to-Business (B2B), is a cradle-to-cradle program that covers resource extraction, its arrival at the plant gate and its shipment when ready. It’s the other EPD, Business-to-Consumer (B2C) that, according to Trusty, figures to become more prevalent in the future as environmental awareness increases and there is a greater demand for environmentally-friendly building products. The latter examines every stage of a product’s life cycle and includes all ancillary materials used in both installation and maintenance. This EPD also covers all replacement products used over a building’s service life that is typically 60 years and also includes relevant water and energy use.

“I think it’s just a matter of time,” Trusty said of the glazing industry’s adapting of the B2C EPD. “I think they will go with a full, cradle-to-grave B2C.”

Trusty noted that the complete environmental transparency that comes from that kind of EPD could soon be a prerequisite for government contracts.

“These are verified documents, so they have high standing,” he said.

Trusty discussed critical definitions, distinctions, types of EPDs and the basic steps in creating an EPD, starting with the development of product category rules (PCR) under the direction of a program operator.

Program operators (defined as any company, public body or independent scientific body) will be required to set up and publish all EPD instructions. These instructions will be considered a living document and open to future adjustments.

A number of industry groups currently are developing PCRs. The Glass Association of North America (GANA) has been working with the National Center for Sustainability Standards to develop a PCR for flat and float glass. This will ultimately provide an internationally recognized method of reporting the environmental impact of glass products and materials throughout their entire life cycle. Likewise, the American Architectural Manufacturers Association, GANA, the Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance and the Window and Door Manufacturers Association, are working together to develop a window PCR. This will be the basis for performing LCAs of window systems that can lead to a representative EPD.

Since EPDs are based on LCAs, the presentation also gave an overview of LCA, including the terms involved, basic steps and the environmental performance measures that result.

Trusty concluded by saying that LCA-based EPDs are “emerging as a global leader.”

“This is becoming a very important player in the world,” he said.

“You’re getting a much better sense of the world’s ingredients.”

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