One of the most important aspects generally overlooked while calculating the operational efficiencies of equipment used in the buildings is the environmental impact they can cause. How the equipment was manufactured, what materials were used, how far the materials had to be transported for manufacturing them, how safely the wastes were disposed from the factories, what is the life span of the equipment, how safely it can be disposed at the end of its life, can it be recycled after use are some of the pertinent issues which cant be further ignored in the wake of ecological imbalances and the ill-effects on human health they can cause.
Green Building design philosophy emphasise use of material with low embodied energy and other aspects associated with the extraction, processing, transportation, maintenance and disposal of building materials, thereby encouraging and promoting life cycle approach in the design and construction of buildings. EPD (Environmental Product Declarations) are the standardized formats available in this regard to help map the various aspects of material and energy used for manufacturing the specific product: material content, amount of raw material used for manufacturing, energy used for manufacturing, and how it ends up in waste streams (a cradle to Grave scene).
Performing a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) in accordance with the relevant Product Category Rules (PCR) is one of the largest tasks in the process to create an EPD. The output format of an EPD is a PDF document containing the information as mandated by the General Programme Instructions and the relevant Product Category Rules. This information not only consists of indicator results from the LCA study, but also other verified quantitative and qualitative information about the product, the company and the environmental impact.
An EPD is created and registered in the framework of a programme, such as the International EPD® System.
The reference standards for Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) are:
- ISO 14025Environmental labels and declarations — Type III environmental declarations — Principles and procedures, and
- ISO21930 Sustainability in building construction — Environmental declaration of building products
In India EPDIndia Program Operator takes the role of “to supervise the full EPD development process and to confirm that fundamental steps in creating an EPD are followed in accordance with ISO 14025 Requirements“.
EPDs can provide vital data to help forge Green Procurement Policy for a buyer and can help with project compliances needed for environment clearances / requirements. Also Information in EPDs within the same product group and based on the same PCR can also be used to compare and reward the environmentally best product. They can also directly help in achieving Green Building Ratings.
LEED by the US Green Building Council (USGBC) is one of the schemes that have come the furthest in giving benefits for projects where EPDs are available to encourage the use of products with life-cycle information. It rewards projects using at least 20 EPD certified products sourced by at least 5 different manufacturers (1 point) and/or third party certified products that demonstrate impact reduction below industry average in at least three of the LCA impacts (valued at 100% of their cost for credit achievement calculations – 1 point)
GRIHA V (TERI) has also introduced appraisals (criterion 21) for projects that have at least a relevant % of EPD certified according to ISO 14025 among all materials used for building interiors (from 1 to 4 points). In India the demand for LCAs and EPDs is primarily driven by National Building Code – Section 11 “Sustainability in construction”; State Government Authorities; National Green Building Rating Schemes (e.g. LEED, GRIHA)
EPDs are till now more common in structural building material e.g. cement, concrete, glass, wood with recent entrants of HVAC equipment manufacturer (IngerSoll Rand Trane®, Daikin), Lifts manufacturer (KONE Corporation, OTIS Elevator Company, Thyssenkrupp Elevator Corporation).
As Green buildings take more centre stage in the wake of climate change and as the construction industry is appreciating the relevance of environmentally conducive green materials, products and technology, EPDs are becoming more relevant by their ability to quantify environmental information on the life cycle of products in a credible, comparable, and understandable way.