Interest in Environmental Product Declarations on the rise as numbers increase
The International EPD system reported a 22% rise in visits to their website over 2014, with over 100,000 visits during the year. The UK, USA, Italy, Sweden and Spain were the top five countries using the website. This growing interest in Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) ties in with a rapid increase in the number of verified construction product EPDs that have been registered recently, with the global number doubling over the past 12 months.
There are now over 2000 Verified EPDs registered in EPD programmes which are aligned with EN 15804, as shown in the pie chart above.
There are a number of drivers for this increase:
- LEED v4 has material credits for projects which use 20 or more products with EPDs
- In Germany, building level LCA is mandatory within DGNB building assessments and EPDs are provided in Ökobau.dat, the German construction LCA database which is used for the LCA
- In France and Belgium, legislation has been enacted that will require an EPD to be filed with the respective government if you make any environmental claim about your product. In France this is already in place although EPDs do not have to be verified until 2017. In Belgium, it will start with verified EPDs in 2017.
- In the Netherlands, all new residential projects and office projects over 100 square meters need to undertake a Cradle-to-Grave Building LCA as part of the Building Act, and report the Global Warming Potential (GWP) and Abiotic Depletion Potential (Elements)  results to the government. The LCA must use the Dutch National Database which includes verified EPD.
- In Sweden, infrastructure projects now have to provide an LCA alongside their environmental impact assessment, and in the Netherlands, Green Public Procurement requires an LCA for infrastructure projects and favours those with low embodied impacts.
- In the UK, BREEAM has uplift credits for products with an EPD and credits for undertaking Building LCA.
The biggest growth in numbers has been seen with the EPD programmes UL Environment, IBU and EPD Norge, although the new schemes, GlobalEPD in Spain and BRE’s Verified EN 15804 EPD scheme have seen big growth though still with small numbers of EPDs.
So far more than 20 countries have national or regional construction product EPD programmes (shown in green on the map above), and some countries such as the United States have more than one programme operating.
Even where countries don’t have EPD programmes, manufacturers are starting to produce EPD (shown in red on the map above). In my opinion, there are probably even more countries that should be shown in red as many programmes do not provide a mechanism for searching by the country where the product was manufactured.
EPD programmes are also starting to link up. All the European EPD programmes are members of the Eco Platform which states as its mission:
“Manufacturers providing ECO Platform EPDs to their customers will be able to optimise their investments avoiding additional fees, work repetition and reducing communication efforts. ECO Platform EPDs are supported by the most important program operators in Europe and their quality and international acceptance is guaranteed.”
However in many countries, manufacturers are finding that the brand recognition, specific format and relevant national data associated with individual national EPD programmes means that cross listing between programmes is required. This allows EPDs from one programme to be republished with another programme’s branding, format and any additional data, so it can be registered in more than one programme. For example UL Environment has signed Memorandum of Understanding with IBU and BRE allowing cross listing of their EPDs, but as shown in the diagram below, the links between EPD programmes are growing rapidly and globally to the benefit of manufacturers.
Another trend is for countries to “piggyback” with existing EPD schemes to reduce the costs of developing and operating a national EPD programme. As shown in the diagram, both the Czech and Australasian EPD schemes have made use of the International EPD® programme, using their PCR, website and verification process, and it has just been announced that the Latin America EPD Hub will use the same International EPD model.
With the number of Construction Product EPDs doubling more or less year on year, and the drivers continuing to apply pull and push to the market, we see continued growth in the number of EPDs as a given for 2016.
 ADP Elements – a measure of the rate of use of chemical elements relative to their estimated total reserve within the earth’s crust