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Environmental Product Declaration (EPD)

When it comes to sustainable building, the abbreviation ‘EPD’ is used more and more: what does it mean and what can you do with it?

EPD is an extract of LCA

EPD is the abbreviation for Environmental Product Declaration. An EPD document contains a quantitative inventory of the environmental performance of a product during all phases of its life cycle. It contains scientifically sound data derived from a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) with calculations of the product, performed according to ISO 14040/14044. In effect, the EPD is a shortened version of the product’s Life Cycle Analysis (LCA).

EPDs for construction products

EPDs exist for a wide variety of products. Here we will restrict ourselves to construction-related SPDs. An EPD for construction products is drawn up in accordance with the international standard ISO 14025 and the European standard EN 15804. Did you know that with EN 15804, the construction sector has the most advanced EPD system?

Standardisation and harmonisation

EN 15804 contains standardised basic calculation rules (Product Category Rules or PCRs) to classify similar construction products in an unambiguous, i.e. consistent manner. The aim is to harmonise the determination, checking and presentation of construction products. Some countries apply additional requirements to EN 15804, such as toxicity (the Netherlands) or health (France).

Reliable and recognized

An EPD is not mandatory, but it is verified by an independent party. The scientific basis, the European standardized methodology and the independent verification make an EPD a reliable document that is internationally recognized.

Compare products' environmental impact

EPDs provide transparent and neutral information about the environmental impact of prescribed products and make products with the same functions comparable. They show in which areas a product performs well and less well in terms of environmental impact. EPDs help prevent greenwashing and prevent products from being falsely labelled as sustainable.

Scoring points with BREEAM and LEED

EPDs for a range of products help to provide a broader understanding of the overall environmental impact of a building. Although EPDs are not labels or certificates, they are often required for public tenders and BREEAM and LEED building certifications. These systems require information in EPD form and award extra points to buildings containing EPD products. EPDs are usually valid for five years.

Useful for designers and specifiers

With EPDs, manufacturers demonstrate that they take sustainability seriously. At the same time, with their EPDs they contribute indirectly to making buildings more sustainable. They help designers, architects, buyers and other construction parties to prescribe and/or apply environmentally friendly products.

Note the scope of EPDs

If you want to use EPDs as guidance, also pay attention to the scope of the LCAs on which they are based. Manufacturers cannot always estimate how their product will be used after sale. That is why an EPD states the scope of the LCA. For example, there are LCAs that only calculate the phases from raw material to the manufacture of the product (cradle-to-gate) or all phases of the life cycle (cradle-to-grave). Thanks to this statement, you can be sure that you are not comparing apples and oranges.

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