The ABC of EPDs

Andrew Speakman
Andrew Speakman

EPDs are becoming an increasingly important tool across an enormous range of sectors – and the windows and doors industry is no exception. But what exactly are they? Why are they needed? And what benefits do they deliver? Andrew Speakman, commercial director at Endurance Doors, explains more.

The need for increased sustainability has never been higher on the political, social, or economic agenda.

With greater awareness of the current and urgent issues facing our planet has come a need for greater transparency as to a product’s environmental impact.

Stakeholders at every stage of an item’s lifecycle increasingly want the reassurance of knowing that the goods they are purchasing or specifying aren’t just fit for purpose – they are also environmentally responsible.

This is where EPDs come in.

Compare like-for-like

An EPD, which stands for Environmental Product Declaration, offers comprehensive information on a product’s environmental performance and, importantly, it does so in a standardised way.

This makes it easier to draw like-for-like comparisons as well as more difficult to overstate the green credentials of a product through carefully skewed marketing.

Any opportunity for greenwashing is further eliminated by the fact that an EPD looks at all the life stages a product goes through.

For example, a product might be produced from renewable materials making it appear sustainable initially but if its production is energy intensive, its raw materials require shipping halfway around the globe, or it will only last for a short time, then its levels of sustainability aren’t that great overall.

For this reason, an EPD looks at a number of distinct areas including:

  • Production, which evaluates the impact of securing raw materials, their transport to the relevant production facility and the manufacturing process.
  • Usage. This starts when the product leaves the production facility and covers the environmental impact during the time it is in use. This can include any emissions it produces or consumption of resources, such as water or energy, that are required for its operation and maintenance.
  • End-of-life, which focuses on the environmental impact of de-constructing or demolition, transport to waste processing and / or any subsequent recovery or disposal processes.

Benefit after benefit

An EPD might sound similar to a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and there is a reason for that. An LCA is required to produce an EPD, but an EPD entails disclosing less potentially sensitive, company-specific information.

For the manufacturer, this offers significant benefits as they can demonstrate the environmental performance of their product but without revealing trade secrets.

There are different types of EPD. Some can be generic and look at multiple supply chains that might be used for the same product. Others are much more focused and product / individual supply chain specific.

This latter type is usually more valued by stakeholders due to their increased accuracy and specificity. Thanks to their more finely honed information, they are also able to make a greater contribution towards securing the points required by architects, building owners and developers to achieve certification under schemes for sustainable built environments – like BREEAM and LEED.

A final powerful feature of EPDs is the need for them to be independently verified by a third-party assessor prior to publication. This impartiality only adds to the credibility and value of an EPD.

Given the benefits of EPDs, such as their use of equitable, standardised, and comparable information, it is perhaps unsurprising that major players in the construction and fenestration industry are now offering them as a matter of course.

Endurance Doors is in the process of following suit, and we welcome the concept of EPDs.

We already have a strong commitment to sustainability as evidenced by initiatives and activities such as our use of timber from responsibly managed and fully certified Scandinavian forests, our support of international conservation charity, the World Land Trust (WLT), and the carbon balanced nature of our business.

EPDs build on that and will enable us to demonstrate the strength and benefits of our environmentally responsible approach in a much more robust and effective way.