EPDs: what and why?

By Phil Slinger, CAB chief executive.

An EPD provides a standard methodology of declaring the impact of manufacturing and products in use through Life Cycle Assessment (LCA).

EN 15804 provides the complete set of product category rules (PCR) to ensure consistent reporting of environmental impact information for all construction products.

An EPD supports carbon emission reduction by allowing specifiers to choose between materials and products to maximise sustainability. Manufacturers, on the other hand, can minimise their environmental impact, and market their carbon transparency. EPDs are valid for five years, and while we use the EN 15804 standard in the UK, EPDs can also be compiled using ISO 14040/14044, ISO 14025 or ISO 21930 standards.

EPDs can also offer credits towards certification schemes such as BREEAM and LEED, so expect the request for EPDs to be commonplace very soon.

Currently, EPDs are voluntary. The construction industry, particularly contractors and developers, see these declarations as important to offer their clients a set of green credentials to entice them to a particular building. EPDs may become mandatory in the UK so it is prudent to look into EPDs as part of your promotional package.

In early 2021 the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis) consulted on proposals to introduce mandatory climate-related financial disclosures by publicly quoted companies, large private companies, and LLPs. Back in 2013, the Green Construction Board’s 2013 Low Carbon Routemap for the Built Environment proposed that EPDs should be mandatory by 2022.

There are basically five steps to producing an EPD: first to collect product and material data; second to conduct an LCA, which conforms to the PCR; third, prepare a background report as to how you have undertaken the LCA and any assumptions you may have made; fourth to gain a thirdy party verification for the EPD; and fifth, to be placed in an easily assessable directory.

Many CAB members have already completed EPDs down to each product or system that is being offered. At the beginning of 2021, there were just 360 EPDs listed using EN 15804 for UK-produced products, from more than 60 manufacturers and UK trade associations, covering a wide range of construction products.

CAB discussed with its members that the association could compile a generic EPD for aluminium fenestration products that all members could use. This was turned down in favour of producing specific product EPDs within each member company.

The association continually supports the fenestration, facade and building envelope products supply chain, with staff on hand at the CAB offices to answer any technical or market related questions.