EPDs Provide a New Level of Environmental Transparency to Building Products

“Unfortunately, EPDs rarely allow end users to compare the environmental performance of different products, though it is possible,” Mandlebaum says. “Also, EPDs put the focus on individual building products and materials rather than on the final product, which is a whole building. It is important for end users to consider the context in which the building products will be used and also consider how these products will affect the environmental performance of the whole building.”

Still, knowledge is power and EPDs do deliver that. “EPDs provide the design and construction community with a framework for communicating with each other in an accurate and consistent manner about the environmental performance of various building products,” Mandlebaum continues. “It helps prevent greenwashing and encourages manufacturers to use life-cycle thinking and hopefully reduce the environmental impact of their products.”

EPDs Up on the Roof

The roofing product industry has gotten in on the act with life-cycle assessments (LCAs), product category rules (PCRs) and environmental product declarations (EPDs). Following are a few examples of EPDs and PCRs that have been compiled and published by different segments of the roofing industry:

The Metal Construction Association, Chicago, has developed EPDs for insulated metal panels, metal composite materials, and rollformed steel roofing and wall systems. These are based on a gate-to-gate and cradle-to-gate industry-wide LCA assessment on the products and their manufacturing processes from 2011.

The Vinyl Roofing Division of the Chemical Fabrics and Film Association, Cleveland, completed an EPD detailing the vinyl roofing industry’s environmental footprint based on an LCA verified by ASTM International. The vinyl roofing EPD covers 40-, 48- and 60-mil finished thicknesses of white, single-ply reinforced roofing membranes by member manufacturers. View the EPD.

The Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association, Washington, D.C., recently announced a third-party-verified ISO-compliant EPD for polyiso roof and wall insulations manufactured by PIMA members across North America. The EPD documents that the energy-savings potential of polyiso insulation over a typical 60-year building life span is equal to up to 47 times the initial energy needed to produce, transport, install, maintain and remove the material.

The Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association, Washington, partnered with ASTM International to develop a PCR for asphalt roofing in North America. It will provide consistent methodologies for asphalt roofing manufacturers to measure and report the expected environmental impact of their products. View the PCR.

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About Allen Barry

Allen Barry writes about architecture and sustainability from Chicago.

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