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Doc, I’ve got a bad case of EPD…

On May 29, 2016 by Tommy Linstroth

You’re head my start to spin with all the new, great acronyms borne of LEED v4. If people here you talking about how EPDs make your head hurt, HPDs are driving you bonkers, and C2C makes your skin crawl, they might drag you to the ER for an MRI ASAP! Today we’re going to talk about Environmental Product Declarations, or EPDs.

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To earn the LEED v4 credit for MRc2 – Building product disclosure and optimization – environmental product declarations, your project needs to use 20 different products spanning at least 5 different manufacturers of products that have EPDs. To add confusion, there are 3 types of EPDs, all of which weigh differently. The best, and counting full weight are Product-specific Type III EPD — Products with third-party certification (Type III), including external verification in which the manufacturer is explicitly recognized as the participant by the program operator are valued as one whole product for purposes of credit achievement calculation. A great example of this would be the Armstrong Cirrus Ceiling tile. Its EPD is very specific to that product – it is only applicable for the Cirrus Ceiling Tile.

Coming in second is Industry-wide (generic) EPD — Products with third-party certification (Type III), including external verification, in which the manufacturer is explicitly recognized as a participant by the program operator are valued as one half (1/2) of a product for purposes of credit achievement calculation. An example of this would be a generic concrete EPD prepared by the National Ready Mix Concrete Association. This EPD would work for a project’s concrete regardless of the manufacturer, specific plant or mix design – but it is only give 1/2 credit, so you’d need many more of them.

The lowest rung on the totem pole is the Product-specific declaration, where products with a publicly available, critically reviewed life-cycle assessment conforming to ISO 14044 that have at least a cradle to gate scope are valued as one quarter (1/4) of a product for the purposes of credit achievement calculation. As stated, the projects have LCAs compliant with ISO 14044, but do not have to have any third-party certification. I don’t even have a good example of what that would entail!

The fact of the matter is it is still a bit of the wild west – new organizations are coming out with EPDs and it will be interesting to see what passes muster with the USGBC and GBCI. It also brings two questions to mind for the Badger – I’d love to hear your thoughts!

1 – Product selection – chicken or egg? Are designers specifying products that have EPDs? Do they have that library to do so? Or is it just passed to the contractor – go find 20 products w/EPDs that meet our performance spec? I get mixed answers when talking to both professions. With such a limited amount of EPDs available, it is not the easiest thing to track down.

2 – Strategy approach – Is it going to truly be, we want the best products out there? Or will it be (my guess), hey, here’s 20 different products we know work, we’re going to use these 5 carpet tiles, these 5 ceiling tiles/grids, these two drywalls and these doorknobs – boom we’re at 20! Does that really make your building better? Debatable, but it will sure earn you that LEED point.

The Badger would love to hear your thoughts!