Strategy #1: Environmental Product Declarations (EPD)

EPDs are standardized ways of reporting the life-cycle environmental impacts of products.  EPDs are like a “nutrition label” for products that report a selection of environmental impacts.  This is similar to the nutrition labels on food, which report the measured nutrition facts for the food product.   EPDs are third party verified and need to follow ISO 14025 guidance and procedures.  Visit the National Ready Mix Concrete Association’s (NRMCA) EPD website to view existing concrete EPDs (http://www.nrmca.org/sustainability/EPDProgram/Index.asp).    

Recommended Actions

Reward Companies/Vendors that have EPDs during the bidding process with extra points

Ready mix concrete EPDs all follow the same product category rules (PCR) so they can be comparable to one another.  Product category rules are the accounting and reporting rules for EPDs.    There are many efforts underway, especially in the building products realm, to ensure increased comparability of EPDs in the future.  Nevertheless, governments should be cautioned about selecting a concrete producer solely on the basis of comparing their EPD to another company.  Instead, a good interim step would be to reward companies that have EPDs during the bidding process with extra points.  That said, once a specific concrete producer is selected, the EPDs produced for mixes from an individual plant are very comparable to one another.  This is because EPDs from the same concrete plant are all using the same background data to produce their EPDs.  Thus, it’s very reasonable to compare a standard mix design to a low carbon mix design from the same plant and have high confidence in the carbon reductions documented in the EPDs.  

As government purchasers, asking for EPDs will not only signal the market that the impacts of producing building materials is important but will also allow purchasers to make measurable and substantial reductions in the carbon impacts of their purchases.

The green building market is starting to demand EPDs across the spectrum of building products.  The US Green Building Council’s LEED building rating system is the most widely used green building rating system for commercial buildings in North America.  Version 4 of the LEED standard, which becomes mandatory for projects registering for certification after October 2016, is now rewarding points to products with EPDs and even more points to products that can show how their EPD has lower impacts compared to the industry average EPD for that product category.  The result of this dramatic change in the LEED rating system is that many building product manufacturers are aggressively pursuing EPDs for their products.  Besides the quantified disclosure benefits for the purchaser, the EPD will also serve as a baseline for improvement for the producer of that product.