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Sustainability | Certification | Green Concrete | Sustainability Committee | Building Codes


What is an Environmental Product Declaration?


Think of an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) as a nutrition label for a product; but instead of providing information such as calories, fat content and carbohydrates, an EPD provides information about environmental impacts such as global warming potential, smog formation and water use. EPDs are third party verified (certified) reports published by product manufacturers that provide quality assured and comparable information regarding environmental performance of their product.


Generally, industry trade groups help develop a Product Category Rule (PCR) that provides instructions on how to conduct the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) in order to produce EPDs that are consistent across a product category (such as concrete, carpeting, ceiling tile, etc.). Generally, plant or site specific data are more desirable for conducting an LCA for the product, however, industry average data are sometimes used if site specific data are not available. Figure 3 is a schematic representation of the EPD development process.


Figure 3 EPD Flow Chart.jpg


Figure 3. EPDs are developed by conducting a LCA on a product using a PCR and LCI data.


There are three types of EPDs defined by International Standards Organization (ISO) standards, type I, II and III as shown in Table 1. The type depends on the degree of third party verification and endorsement. The concept of developing EPDs for products is relatively new in the building products industry. Not many industries have developed the requisite PCRs or published reliable LCI data. Perhaps a reason for this is that not many project specifications or standards have required EPDs until recently.


New standards such as LEED v4, Architecture 2030 Challenge for Products and the IgCC will require a combination of EPDs for products and LCAs for whole buildings as a way to demonstrate transparency and ultimately superior environmental performance. These standards will require Type III EPDs which amounts to “nutrition labels” for products. In the case of LEED v4, product manufacturers will simply have to develop EPDs to demonstrate transparency and in other cases such as the Architecture 2030 Challenge for Products, they will have to demonstrate that their products perform better than the industry average or baseline to comply with the standards.


Table 1. Types of Environmental Product Declarations




3rd party

3rd party endorsement



ISO 14024





ISO 14021





ISO 14025



“Nutrition” label


Ideally, LCAs for products are conducted for the entire life cycle or from “cradle-to-cradle.” However, for many products, their impacts during the use phase are minimal or life cycle inventory data for the use phase is difficult or nearly impossible to obtain. In some cases, it may be preferable to conduct partial LCAs such as “cradle-to-gate” type analyses where only the first two life cycle stages, raw material acquisition and manufacturing, are included since this data is needed to conduct the more comprehensive whole building or full life cycle LCA for a building or other structure.


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