Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs): Type III labels to ISO 14025
• EPDs are labels that disclose the life cycle environmental performance of products using pre-determined parameters.
• They are not 'green' certificates or claims of environmental superiority (unlike Type I labels).
• The quality of the information is verified by a third party.
• EPDs of building products are further refined by ISO 21930
• The content and format of EPDs for groups of products that fulfil equivalent functions (eg 'floor coverings' or 'bricks') are determined by Product Category Rules (PCR)
EPDs solve the problems associated with manufacturers of products publishing undifferentiated, selective, unverified, misleading, un-comparable and often-incomprehensible environmental data derived through non-standardised methodologies.
The important foundation that an EPD is built upon is the Life Cycle Assessment. An LCA compiles and evaluates, according to ISO 14040, the inputs, outputs and the potential environmental impacts of a product system throughout its life cycle. Information generated from the process will be relevant, verified and comparable.
Currently EPDs are someway from being universal. The ISO standards and the infrastructure surrounding their development have taken time to evolve (work on ISO 14025 actually commenced in 1993). Likewise most product manufacturers have yet to realise their benefits whilst some continue to mount objections.
A number of construction product EPD schemes have existed throughout Europe prior to the ISO 14040- including the BRE's 'Environmental Profiling' scheme. There are significant disparities (eg third party verification and transparency of data sources) between the various schemes - leading to a degree of confusion and unnecessary duplication of resources for companies trading throughout Europe. Harmonisation of construction materials is anticipated through the deployment of ISO 21930:2007 which provides a framework and basic requirements for product category rules (PCRs) for building product EPDs.
The EPD process
The content of an EPD
1 Description of the manufacturer
2 Description of the product / material
3 Components / materials of the product
4 Additional information (optional) eg:-
- on production / assembly
- recycled content
- how the product is applied / incorporated in a building
- modeling of how the product might be used (eg indoor air quality)
- durability / whole life costing
- end of life: re-use, recycling and waste management
5 Life Cycle Assessment:
- Use of non-renewable primary energy
- Use of renewable primary energy
- Depletion of fossil energy resources
- Depletion of mineral resources.
- Use of renewable resources
- Use of fresh water
- Use of land resources
- Global warming potential (GWP)
- Ozone depletion potential (ODP)
- Acidification potential (AP)
- Eutrophication potential (EP)
- Photochemical oxidant formation potential (POCP)
6 Statement of EPD review
EPDs are verified by independent third parties. They confirm:
• Conformance with the PCR or PCR programme
• Conformance with the ISO 14040 series of standards
• That data evaluation is comprehensive and complete
• The completeness and accuracy of:
- the LCA data
- additional environmental information
- supporting information