By David Shepherd, Director – Sustainable Development, Portland Cement Association
When LEED v4 was launched in 2013, it gave a boost to environmental product declarations (EPDs). Along with other voluntary programs such as the Architecture 2030 Challenge for Products and the International Green Construction Code, LEED is awarding points for the use of products with EPDs in an effort to combat greenwashing.
EPDs offer consistent, credible and transparent reporting of environmental impacts from material manufacturing. They capture a product’s impacts through life cycle assessment (LCA), which standardizes the process for inventorying and examining environmental costs and benefits. Often compared to nutrition labels on food, EPDs provide standardized categories of environmental impact information about the product. However, they do not endorse a given product or make a comparative judgement with other materials.
Does Every Manufacturer Create an EPD?
Recognizing it was unrealistic to expect immediate, universal adoption by every product supplier, USGBC structured a three tier solution to offer increasing levels of credit for greater levels of reporting specificity. Type I, self-declared EPDs are generated by manufacturer themselves; however, these are not third party verified and are awarded the least amount of credit within LEED. Industry average EPDs are often sponsored by associations and represent an intermediate step; they are typically third party verified. Receiving the most credit is a Type III product-specific EPD, which provides information from a single manufacturer, or even single plant, and is third party verified as well.
The availability of EPDs provide the design community a technical foundation to analyze and model the impacts associated with construction of a prospective building. Combined with operational, maintenance and end of life data, it offers a “cradle to grave” perspective, enabling the design team to optimize performance over the entire life of the project.
A major benefit of concrete is that its properties can be modified for optimal performance in different applications by varying its ingredients and corresponding environmental impacts. This can result in concrete, through its various uses across a project, having a reduced environmental impact and potentially contributing heavily to the LEED credits associated with “having 20 products and materials with EPDs and having 50% of the products by cost demonstrating lower impacts than industry baselines through EPDs.”
The National Ready Mixed Concrete Association (NRMCA) provides both a listing of third party verified, plant specific ready mixed concrete EPDs (worth full value in LEED v4) and an industry-wide ready mixed concrete EPD for several common mix designs. View those NRMCA resources here, or use the association’s directory of member companies that have posted EPDs here.
EPDs for the following cement, cementitious and concrete products and components can be found here:
- Precast Concrete Architectural and Insulated Wall Panel EPD
- Slag Cement Association Industry Average EPD for Slag Cement
- Structural Precast Concrete Industry Wide EPD
- Underground Precast Concrete Industry Wide EPD
- Portland Cement Industry Average EPD
- Blended Cement Industry Average EPD
- Masonry Cement Industry Average EPD
- EPD for CMC Concrete Reinforcing Steel
- EPD for CMC Fabricated Concrete Reinforcing Steel