At Edge we’ve been long-standing advocates for Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) in the building products sector. We see EPDs, and the underpinning Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) as an invaluable tool for companies wishing to identify and address hotspots in their environmental footprint. However, while there are many companies that have already seen the light and obtained EPDs for their products, others have remained sceptical as to their value in the marketplace. That could be all about to change, with a host of recent Government and industry initiatives providing a significant boost to the business case for certification.
The use of products with EPDs has, for some time now, been rewarded in rating schemes such as Green Star (buildings) and IS (infrastructure), but both schemes have recently announced changes that will strengthen that role. The Green Building Council of Australia has added a new innovation challenge which will reward buildings for demonstrating reductions in their embodied carbon footprint. This will, in turn, favour the use of projects that have verified data on their impacts – for example via an EPD. Similarly, the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia will soon release a new version of its Materials Calculator which will allow users to input the impact information from EPDs – again favouring manufacturers whose products are certified as having impacts that are better than current default values.
Alongside these changes, recent revisions to the Australian National Carbon Offset Standard have outlined a role for EPDs as a fast track route for achieving carbon neutral status amongst products. While the full details of that compliance route have yet to be released, it’s clear that it will remove a significant cost barrier on the road to carbon neutrality for those who have EPDs. And the aforementioned Green Star innovation challenge is also set to offer a further reward for the use of carbon neutral products.
“EPDs provide transparent and clear information to help us identify products that will reduce the environmental impact of our developments across their entire life cycle” – Paolo Bevilacqua, general manager, sustainability – Frasers Property Australia
We’re also seeing a more practical boost for EPDs in our day-to-day work. When assessing different design options for buildings, EPDs are increasingly being used as a means of quick and easy route to choose between different materials and systems, with design teams increasingly conversant in what EPDs are, where to find them, and how to use them. Zoom out and the global case for EPDs has also recently strengthened with the Buy Clean California Act, which will only allow certified products (in certain categories) to be used in public construction projects.
What’s clear from all these developments is that there is, across the construction industry, an increasing focus on the embodied impacts of construction, after years of the issue playing second fiddle to energy efficiency. We may just be witnessing the start of a materials revolution.