Decoding Environmental Product Declarations

Anna Lasso

An Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) is an internationally accepted, verified and published report focusing on the ways in which a product affects the environment throughout its life cycle.

An EPD discloses the life cycle story of a product’s environmental impacts—from material extraction through production, shipping, consumption and disposal. EPDs do not act as product ratings; rather, they are informational resources that help architects, designers, specifiers and other purchasers better understand a product’s sustainable qualities and environmental impacts.

EPDs are developed according to Product Category Rules (PCRs)—product-specific calculation requirements and methodologies for the background Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) reports that ensure consistent data collection, analysis and reporting in an EPD. Conformance to PCRs results in LCAs and EPDs with structured and systematic reporting of the various environmental impacts over a product’s life cycle.

The use of Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) is incentivized under the LEED v4Building product disclosure and optimization—environmental product declarations” Material and Resources credit. Contributing toward a maximum possible two points, the credit was designed to encourage manufacturers to understand the life cycle impacts of their products and to improve those impacts. Projects can achieve up to two points through either or both of the following options, worth one point each.

Option 1

The first option requires the use of at least 20 different, permanently installed products from at least five different manufacturers that have:

  • A publicly available, third-party-reviewed life cycle assessment (counts toward one-quarter of a product for credit calculations)
  • An industrywide (generic) EPD (counts as one-half of a product for credit calculations)
  • A product-specific EPD (counts as one whole product for purposes of credit calculations)

Option 2

For the second option, referred to as the optimization credit, at least 50 percent of permanently installed products (by cost) should have a third-party certification that demonstrates life-cycle optimization, compared with the industry average.

Optimization has to be demonstrated in at least three impact categories, which include global warming potential, smog formation potential, acidification potential, eutrophication potential, ozone formation potential and depletion of nonrenewable fuels.

EPD process

See more details on the EPD credit

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