Authored by Josée Lupien, LEED Fellow, President Vertima: Due to recognition granted to the LEED® v4 certification for the environmental product declarations used in a construction project (EPD), the construction industry’s interest in EPDs is constantly increasing. This raises questions about whether EPDs will become accepted standard in the near future, what is their role, how will it affect the construction industry, and how the environmental declaration should evolve in the construction field.
First, it is important to understand that an EPD, which is an internationally standardized document, is a transparent way of presenting impacts throughout the product cycle according to standards and is third party verified. The EPD’s process is based on the product’s life cycle analysis (LCA) (often “from cradle to gate”) and helps manufacturers to become aware of the potential environmental impacts of their products. Furthermore, the EPD results guide manufacturers on how to reduce their impacts, by detecting “hot spots” such as those related to climate change, the fossil energy resources reduction and the water usage, to cite but a few examples. In fact, EPDs go hand-in-hand with corporate social responsibility by disclosing of their products impacts in a transparent and credible way.
Additionally, we must take into account major contractors in the construction industry such as governments with their policy of integrating environmental or eco-responsible specifications into contracts in terms of goods and services sourcing. The California State’s case is a good example, Major contractors will demand, according to Bill AB-262 Public Contracts: bid specifications: Buy Clean California Act, that successful bidders would be required to submit an EPD in accordance with the specified standards, as of July 1st, 2019. Not only will an EPD be required for each product, but it will also be compared according to impact results in relation to the maximum acceptable global warming potential by industry’s average. Therefore, this will not only force manufacturers to be transparent, but also to be more efficient in reducing environmental impacts and the best way to achieve this is to integrate eco-design through LCA.
In North America, the State of California has always been a model for sustainable development, and it is important to understand that other States are likely to move forward by requiring suppliers to submit an EPD for every product used in a construction or infrastructure improvement project. The California initiative can easily predict that EPDs will not only become standard, but also a competitive catalyst in reducing environmental impacts, especially regarding climate change. In presenting the results as transparently, credibly and concisely as possible, as well as using the results of the LCA in decision-making, one can easily predict that the environmental building declaration (EBD) will gain importance. EBD is the equivalent of EPD, but is based on a LCA that covers the whole building cycle instead of individual products. This type of environmental statement will become the next step in the evolution of strategic management in the reduction of environmental impacts in the construction field.
In brief, the EPD has a significant impact on the construction industry: the major contractors, as is the State of California case, want to use it to learn about the most efficient products from an environmental point of view. Moreover, the environmental declaration should evolve in the construction world whether in the form of EPD or EBD. We can anticipate a bright future for EPDs, because the rising importance of the transparency and credibility principles is not only a new reality, but also the evidence of an advanced and responsible society.
After more than 30 years in the manufacturing industry and numerous collaborations with architects, engineers and general contractors, Ms. Lupien, LEED Fellow, BD + C & ID + C, and Mr. DesRosiers, LEED AP BD + C , decided to invest in the green-building sector by setting up the company Vertima in 2008, bringing together a team of experts with incomparable expertise in environmental analysis of building materials and implementation of sustainable building projects. Today, Vertima actively supports manufacturers and all those involved in a green and sustainable construction projects, in most current certifications, valued by its customers. The greatest strength of the company remains the quality of its services, the integrity, the transparency and the professionalism of its team as well as its network of partners and trusted collaborators. The influence of Vertima is through the involvement and contribution of its leaders and seniors in the evolution of sustainable building in Quebec and elsewhere in America over the last 12 years.