August 7, 2022

Real-world strategies for earning EPD and MIR Option 2’s in LEED v4.1

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Tommy Linstroth Founder and CEO at Green Badger LEED Fellow

by Tommy Linstroth
Founder and CEO at Green Badger
LEED Fellow

At Green Badger, we work with hundreds of LEED project teams to review their LEED scorecards, provide quarterly project reviews, or even provide LEED consulting services. This allows us to keep tabs on which products actually comply with the EPD and MIR Option 2 credits so that teams can earn these points.

This post will give a quick overview of MRc2 Option 2 Multi-Attribute Optimization and MRc4 Option 2 Material Ingredient Optimization and how to earn them under LEED v4.1 credit requirements. We’ll also show you what type of documentation is required, what type of documentation is available, and most importantly – what products actually have the documentation to earn these credits.

We’re only talking about LEED v4.1 here because under LEED v4 these credits were not achievable. Shout out to USGBC for taking LEED user feedback into account when writing up the criteria for LEED v4.1 and giving project teams a fighting chance to earn these Option 2 credits while the market races to catch up. Thresholds have been reduced significantly under v4.1 requirements as you can see below:

leed v4

Use at least 20 permanently installed products that comply with one of the criteria from 5 different manufacturers.

leed v4.1

Use at least 5 permanently installed products that comply with one of the criteria from 3 different manufacturers.

Clearly, you really need to opt in to LEED v4.1 for this credit. You still need to plan ahead to achieve this credit, and if you specify products early on in your project then you can guarantee success.

MRc2 Option 2 Multi-Attribute Optimization

1 point

Use at least 5 permanently installed products that comply with one of the criteria from 3 different manufacturers.

Lets start off with EPD Option 2 (credit name MRc2 Option 2 Multi-Attribute Optimization). The requirements here are the same for MIR Option 2. You must use at least 5 permanently installed products in your building that comply with one of the criteria from 3 different manufacturers. All products MUST have an EPD (Environmental Product Declaration). We have yet to see a product that has a Lifecycle Analysis that does not also have an EPD. On top of that, here are the criteria that the product must comply with showing the value that the product will count for (the more green the product, the more the product will be valued at):

impact reduction categories
  • Life Cycle Impact Reduction Action Plan (value at ½ product)
    • The product doesn’t need to have anything implemented or show any actual reductions – it just needs to have a PLAN in place with a few specific requirements – then it counts as ½ a product.
  • Life Cycle Impact Reductions in Embodied Carbon (value at 1 product)
    • Global Warming Potential is the key indicator here. If the documentation shows any positive reduction in Global Warming Potential >0, the product will count as 1 product.
  • Life Cycle Impact Reductions in Embodied Carbon – 10% reduction global warming potential (value at 1.5 products)
    • Global Warming Potential is the key indicator here. If the documentation shows a 10% reduction in Global Warming Potential, the product will count as 1.5 products.
  • Life Cycle Impact Reductions in Embodied Carbon – 20% reduction in global warming potential and 5% reduction 2 other impact categories (value at 2 products)
    • Multiple impact categories are now under consideration here. If the documentation shows a 10% reduction in Global Warming Potential AND shows reductions in 2 other categories the product will count as 2 products.

Here are all of the impact categories you’ll see listed on EPD/LCIA documentation:

  • Global warming potential (greenhouse gases), in CO2e;
  • Depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer, in kg CFC-11e;
  • Acidification of land and water sources, in moles H+ or kg SO2e;
  • Eutrophication, in kg nitrogen equivalent or kg phosphate equivalent;
  • Formation of tropospheric ozone, in kg NOx, kg O3 eq, or kg ethene; and
  • Depletion of nonrenewable energy resources, in MJ using CML / depletion of fossil fuels in TRACI.

The good news is, you don’t need to know what any of these scientific words mean to be able to achieve this credit. The EPD/LCIA documentation will show you exactly how much reduction in these categories the product has, if any. Here’s a quick example of this below:

impact reduction categories
QUIZ: Can you guess how much this product would be worth based on the number of categories showing reductions?

What qualifies as a Lifecycle Impact Reduction Plan?

When LEED v4.1 first arrived, there were bullet points clearly detailing every requirement. If you go to the version 4.1 credit language now, it doesn’t outline all of those bullet points anymore, but they are still required and relevant for project teams. So we are going to cover them here!

In order for a product to comply with LEED v4.1 BPDO Credit Option 2 requirements, the manufacturer needs to have:

  • a product-specific LCA using EN 15804 or ISO 21930 for the product it is claiming.
  • provide a publicly available action plan to mitigate or reduce life cycle impacts

First of all, the product needs to have a Lifecycle Analysis. If the product have an EPD, the Lifecycle Analysis will already be done because it’s a requirement of obtaining an EPD. If this is the case, you product will comply with EPD Option 1 and Option 2 requirements, and you’ll already be in good shape without even having a baseline plan for earning Option 2 in place yet.

In addition to that, the Lifecycle Analysis Plan NEEDS to be publicly available as a resource where everyone can find it and see what it actually contains. The plan can’t be secretly hidden somewhere that no one can find it.

green building exterior

Breaking Down the Documentation

Whether the product is valued at .5 products or 2 products, the examples shown below are the types of documentation you will need to submit to USGBC as a part of your submission if you are going after this credit!

Lifecycle Impact Reduction Action Plan = .5 products

Example: Sherwin Williams ProMar 200 ZERO VOC EPD Action Plan

This is an example of Lifecycle Impact Reduction Action Plan for the good folks at Sherwin Williams. They have Lifecycle Impact Reduction Action Plans for a number of their paint products, which you’ll see come into play later when we talk about our strategy for earning these credits. These are short documents – only 3 pages – but they include everything that’s required by USGBC to be a fully functional reduction plan.

Lifecycle Impact Reduction Action Plan
On the first page, it shows you which products are elligible. This document is for ProMar 200 ZERO VOC and applies to all of the base types / product series listed in Table 1.
Lifecycle Impact Reduction Action Plan
It must include an overview of the LCA, what software was used, how it was created, when it was conducted, and the timeframe of it.
Lifecycle Impact Reduction Action Plan
It must also identify what the results of the study were, and show the largest lifecycle impact categories. Here you see the performance characteristics that we listed as the impact categories above.
Lifecycle Impact Reduction Action Plan
And it must outline a strategy for reducing the value of the impact categories shown on the left hand side. How are the going to begin to reduce those values? What is the baseline, and what steps are they going to take?
Lifecycle Impact Reduction Action Plan
Finally, the documentation must show a clear timeline with specific dates of when the are going to put each step of the plan into action. As this timeline show, Sherwin Williams started this process back in 2019, went through their assessment and feasibility, talked to their supply chain, and now in 2022 they plan to have an optimized product.

Lifecycle Impact Reduction in Embodied Carbon – 0-9% = 1 product

Example: 3form Varia Panels

For a product to be valued at 1 product under LEED v4.1 requirements, it will need to have the following documentation for a Lifecycle Impact Reduction in Embodied Carbon. This example was performed by SCS Global Services for the manufacturer 3form for their Varia Panels product and will start to show actual reductions in embodied carbon.

Lifecycle Impact Reduction in Embodied Carbon
Showing who the document was prepared for: 3form Varia Panels
Lifecycle Impact Reduction in Embodied Carbon
Lifecycle Impact Reduction in Embodied Carbon
Lifecycle Impact Reduction in Embodied Carbon
If the value is in RED, the results got worse. As you can see, this product has a 6% decrease in global warming potential (GWP). Regardless of any of the other categories, this will count for 1 product under LEED v4.1 requirements because it shows a positive reduction <10% of GWP. The fact that it makes ozone depletion a lot worse is irrelevant here because it shows a positive reduction in GWP.

Lifecycle Impact Reduction in Embodied Carbon – 10-19% = 1.5 products

Example: Owens Corning Eco Touch Fiberglass Insulation (17% GWP reduction)

This is an example of UL‘s documentation that they’re doing for some manufacturers, like Owens Corning. Their documents show the same information as the EPD does, but their table showing the impact categories with reductions is structured a little different from SCS Global Services.

Lifecycle Impact Reduction in Embodied Carbon
This document was prepared for Owens Corning Eco Touch Fiberglass Insulation. As you can see, the product is showing a 17% GWP reduction with other reductions in ozone, acidification, eutrophication, and resource depletion. Since the GWP reduction is <20%, the other categories showing reductions are irrelevant right now. This product can only be valuable at 1.5 products under the LEED v4.1 requirements.

Lifecycle Impact Reduction in Embodied Carbon – +20% = 2 products

Example: Interface Carpet

Now from the good folks at Interface, who have also used UL to create their documentation, you can see that they have an astounding 39% reduction in GWP!

Lifecycle Impact Reduction in Embodied Carbon
This product has exceeded the 20% threshold and is showing at least 5% reductions in at least 2 other impact categories which means it is valued at 2 products under the LEED v4.1 requirements.
impact reduction categories

Product Categories to Focus on to Earn Multi-Attribute Optimization

The big question on everyone’s mind is… where do we find these products? Again, you can plan for any combination of products values between .5 products, 1 product, 1.5 products, and 2 products to get you to the requirement of 5 products from at least 3 different manufactures. You can’t just use 10 different paint from Sherwin Williams that have Lifecycle Impact Reduction Action Plans to earn this credit.

Product Categories to Focus on to Earn Multi-Attribute Optimization

You will find these products in the door, flooring, insulation, gypsum board, toilet (yes, there is one), wall panels and paint categories. These are the some product categories we recommend focusing on the for EPD credits anyway, so odds are you will have these products on your project anyway. The question is, can you be as specific as possible to ensure the products you’re using have the appropriate documentation to earn the credit?

Specify these Products to Earn Multi-Attribute Optimization

The good news is, there are products that comply. The bad news is, they aren’t a ton of them. And because there are so few compliant products right now, you really have to be intentional in specifying these products at the outset of your project.

Specify these Products to Earn Multi-Attribute Optimization

Doors:

  • Von Duprin 98-99 = Counts for .5 products
  • Ives Architectural Hinges = Counts for .5 products
  • Glynn Johnson Overhead Closer = Counts for .5 products

Flooring:

Interface Modular Carpet Tiles on Glasbac, Nylon 6,6 styles (39% GWP reduction) = Counts for 2 products

Insulation:

  • Owens Corning Eco Touch Fiberglass Insulation (17% GWP reduction) = 1.5 products
  • Owens Corning Formular NGX (17% GWP reduction) = 1.5 products

Gypsum Board:

  • USG Sheetrock Ecosmart Firecode X Panels (15% GWP reduction) = 1.5 products

Toilets:

  • Kohler Highcliff Toilet (13% GWP reduction) = 1.5 products

Wall Panels:

  • 3form Pressed Glass Panels (21% GWP reduction) = 2 products
  • 3form Chroma Panels (35% GWP reduction) = 2 products
  • 3form Varia Panels (6% GWP reduction) = 1 product

Paints:

  • Loxon = 0.5 product
  • Harmony = 0.5 product
  • Pro Mar 200 (all sheens) = 0.5 product
  • Pro Mar 200 HP = 0.5 product
  • Pro Mar 400 (all sheens) = 0.5 product
  • Preprite Block Filler = 0.5 product
  • Preprite Primer/Sealer = 0.5 product
  • Multi Purpose Interior/Exterior Latex Primer = 0.5 product
  • Pre-Catalyzed Waterbased Epoxy = 0.5 product

Any combination of those products used, as long as you’re choosing 5 products from 3 different manufacturers, will get you the points you need to earn this credit.

summary
Introducing the LEED v4.1 Update

MRc4 Option 2 Material Ingredient Optimization

1 point

Use products that comply with one of the criteria for at least 5 permanently installed products sourced from at least 3 different manufacturers.

  • Material Ingredient Screening and Optimization Action Plan
    • (value at ½ product)
  • Advanced Inventory & Assessment
    • (value at 1 product)
  • Material Ingredient Optimization
    • (value at 1.5 products)

These products need to either have a plan in place to reduce ingredient impacts OR show some actual reductions.

What qualifies as a Material Ingredient Screening and Optimization Action Plan?

  • Screen to at least 1,000 ppm AND publicly available inventory
  • Create a detailed action plan to mitigate or reduce known hazards
  • 0.5 product contribution

What qualifies as an Advanced Inventory & Assessment?

  • Third-Party Verified Red List Free Declare Labels
  • Living Product Challenge certified products that include a Red List Free Declare label.
  • Cradle to Cradle certified or Material Health Certificate with Bronze or higher in Material Health

What qualifies as Material Ingredient Optimization?

  • The product needs a third-party verified HPD that was inventoried to 100 ppm with no Benchmark 1 or LT-1 hazards AND 95% by weight assessed using the GreenScreen Benchmark.

OR

  • Cradle to Cradle Certification: Product has Material Health Certificate or is Cradle to Cradle Certified™ under standard version 3 or later with a Material Health achievement level at the Silver level or higher.
  • Living Product Challenge Certification: Products certified to the Living Product Challenge which includes achievement of Imperative 09: Transparent Material Health.
declare-logo

only 51 products meet the Declare requirements

living product challenge

only 24 products that meet Living Product Challenge requirements

cradle to cradle logo

239 compliant products with C2C certification

C2C Certified Products:

  • Flooring from Tarkett, Shaw, Milliken, Nora, and Bentley Mills,
  • Ceiling grid and tile from Armstrong
  • Curtainwall from Kawneer
  • Construction Specialty Louvers and Entrance mat systems
  • + Almost all of these are Silver or higher, so you’ll get credit for 1.5 products.

Strategies for Achieving MRc4 Option 2 Material Ingredient Optimization

Here are the products that will get you this credit:

  • 2 different Shaw Ecoworx tiles (or Mohawk or Milliken), with Shaw adhesive, and Tarkett Baseworks wall base, and another rubber flooring from either Tarkett or Nora.
  • Sherwin Williams paint (7 sheens at 1/2 product each)
  • Armstrong Prelude system for suspension, and 2 different Armstrong ceiling products including the popular Ultima+ and Perla acoustical ceiling tiles
  • Kawneer curtainwall, some louvers and entrance systems from Construction Specialties, OR rebar from Nucor.

Recap for Material Ingredient Optimization:

  • Focus on flooring + ceiling products – most count as 1.5
  • You really only need 4 individual products
  • Sherwin Williams Paints contribute here and EPD Opt 2
sustainability consultants professionals green badger

Recap for earning EPD and MIR Option 2’s in LEED v4.1

Fill in the blanks with MIR with these products:

  • Armstrong Prelude system for suspension
  • Armstrong ceiling products, Ultima+ and Perla acoustical ceiling tiles
  • Kawneer curtainwall, Louvers and entrance systems from Construction Specialties, OR rebar from Nucor.
  • 2 different Shaw Ecoworx tiles (or Mohawk or Milliken), with Shaw adhesive
  • Tarkett Baseworks wall base
  • Rubber flooring from either Tarkett or Nora

Fill in the blanks with EPD with these products:

  • Interface carpet tiles (2 products)
  • USG Sheetrock Ecosmart Firecode X drywall (1.5 products)
  • Owens Corning Eco Touch Insulation (1.5 products)
  • Kohler Highcliff toilet (1.5 products)
  • 3form wall panels
  • PrepRite Block filler + PrepRite Primer/Sealer
  • Von Duprin 98-99
  • Ives Architectural Hinges
  • Glynn Johnson Overhead Closer

Best of luck on your project and let us know if you have any questions in the comments section! For more help on LEED products, try using a required LEED cover sheet for all subcontractorsBy having a coversheet, where you require the subcontractor to provide cost and any relevant LEED data (recycled content percentages, distance from extraction and manufacture, VOC content, etc), you get all this information up front. Or reject the submittal and send it back. Pretty straightforward. You can download your free coversheet here.

Download your free LEED v4 materials coversheet
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Comments

  1. Pam Mandeville says

    This info is a great summary and helps when trying to explain it to other team members who aren’t involved with the project’s LEED process! Is there a way to print it in a pdf? Thanks!

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