The purpose of an environmental product declaration for construction products
Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) for construction products provide important information about products and their use. They help to choose materials for building and provide a basis for the documentation of the building materials used in a construction work (e.g. by means of the building certificate). They can be used for life cycle assessments of buildings to aid in ecological planning and construction of buildings. EPD for construction products are therefore part of the Federal Government’s sustainable building concept. In addition to the Assessment System for Sustainable Building for Federal Buildings (BNB), a great number of other public and private activities refer to EPD.
Elements of an EPD
An EPD consists of a product description, life cycle assessment data and relevant documentation and test certificates:
- Product description (identification by name and characterisation of product, declaration of material contents, environmental and health-related information throughout the product life cycle, in particular the impact of its use on indoor air, soil and groundwater, the outdoor environment, and drinking water if applicable)
- Life cycle assessment data (selected parameters of inventory analysis and impact assessment, e.g. consumption of natural resources, based on coordinated functional units of measurement, energy and transport models, other limits of system)
- Required documentation, test certificates.
The professional and technical foundations of the EPD must be verifiable and must meet the requirements of ISO 14025 for ecolabels, the ISO 21930 for EPD for building products, and the more specific EN 15804 for Product Category Rules (PCR) for construction products EPD.
The latter – in addition other standards in sustainability of construction works – is managed and further developed by CEN/TC 350 in cooperation with UBA.
Development and quality assurance of EPD
The process of development and quality assurance of an EPD is organized under private law in three separate stages:
- Stage I: A product group panel discusses and takes decisions on general matters, in particular as concerns product names and distinction from other products or product groups; it issues clarifications on required product statements as necessary and on life cycle assessments. It also determines what tests must be submitted. The product group panel is open to all interested parties.
- Stage II: Producers or producer groups make information available according to general requirements for the actual products or product groups.
- Stage III: Independent third parties review the environmental declaration, in addition to possible certification of the environmental declaration by a certification body.
All providers of EPD must also meet the following requirements:
- Review of life cycle assessment data by independent third parties,
- Ensure regular reporting and publication of the programme and results,
- Determination of a deadline to meet programme requirements.
The objectives above represent an effort to serve the public interest to achieve the transparency, neutrality and reliability of Environment Product Declarations. The UBA is active on the Advisory Board of the Institute Construction and Environment e.V. (IBU), the main provider of EPD in Germany, in Stages I and III above. In addition, the UBA is commissioning research on the further development of EPD.
Developments in Europe
Other established EPD programmes exist in France and Sweden, and new EPD systems are currently being installed in nearly every country in Europe. Europe’s major EPD programmes launched the “ECO Platform” to ensure a degree of uniformity within the framework of the EN 15804 standard. The aim is to come to an agreement on a core EPD for building products for all of Europe.