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What We Can Learn from LEED v4: Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs)

In a previous blog, we discussed the increasing importance of the availability of product lifecycle environmental data. This trend towards an increased need for product lifecycle information is evidenced, in part, by today's demand for Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs). An EPD is a report of quantified environmental impacts of a product, based on its LCA. Similar in concept to a nutrition label, an EPD tells a product's full environmental story in a familiar reporting format so an end user can make an informed decision.

EPDs have been common worldwide for quite some time, but they have just recently began making their way into the North American green building marketplace. It can be expected that EPDs will be in high demand in the years ahead, especially since requirements for them are already written into green building standards and rating systems, including LEED.

In LEED v4, products with EPDs can contribute towards points under MR Credit 2 "Building product disclosure and optimization – EPDs" if at least 20 products are used which have LCA and EPD information readily available. Products for which a third party LCA was performed offer 25% contribution; products whose data are integrated into an industry-wide EPD offer 50% contribution; and products for which a proprietary EPD is readily available offer 100% contribution. These contributions can be used in aggregate (e.g. a single ceramic tile product counts 1.75 towards the 20-product goal if it has an LCA, participated in the creation of an industry-wide EPD for "tile", and has a proprietary EPD). Additionally, a second point can be earned via MR Credit 2 if 50% of a building's products have EPDs with environmental impacts lower than their respective industry-wide EPDs.

This in-depth approach to awarding points for products with EPDs is an indication of USGBCs intent to motivate industries to jump onboard with EPD initiatives.

Currently, TCNA and its members are working on an industry-wide EPD, i.e. a generic EPD for tile. Such an EPD will provide an in-depth report of current industry lifecycle data, summarizing the generic environmental footprint of North American tile. This effort will be helpful in establishing baseline data and a common foundation upon which future EPD and LCA initiatives can grow in a consistent and organized fashion.

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