A New Aspect of EPDs and Specifications

Posted on 5/26/2016 6:53:56 AM By Paul Bertram

I just returned from a Bi-Region CSI conference where I sat in on a presentation about EPDs and their relevance to specifications. While this was a familiar topic for me, I always appreciate different perspectives. For the most part the presenter was accurate, however, I did challenge information regarding LCA data output(reporting) based on differences in LCA software data bases such as GaBi and SimaPro. The point being that Product Specific (or Industry Wide) EPDs aren’t intended for direct comparison even when conducted under the same product category rules. How an end point environmental impact is reported could vary because of the differences in data bases, unit measurement, or variances in processes. These differences would be considered “noise” (accepted variance) within the reporting.

It also has to be understood that for product (or assembly/system) comparative analysis, evaluation requires normalization and weighting of the data to be valid. An example would be comparing an Insulated Metal Panel system including required sealants compared to Tilt up Concrete, Pre-Cast Concrete or steel frame construction with insulation, air barrier, and coatings. You can’t lay out EPDs of these differing systems and make an evaluation that is accurate.

What really caught my attention was when the presenter was showing how to put requirements for LEEDv4 and EPDs into a CSI 3 Part specification. This information lives in both CSI Part 1 General requirements and Part 2 under product information. Part 1 General requirements will tell manufacturers and suppliers what information is required. Part 2 is where the manufacturer demonstrates compliance.

The presenter used an example of a specification from an airport project. Part 1 of the CSI General Requirements called out a specific threshold for“Global Warming” potential for steel. I have to admit this was the first time I have seen that level of focus on a single attribute of a material.

The consideration in specifying the Global Warming impacts of steel with a specific limit is targeting imported steel where emission standards are not as robust as they are in the US.

I see all kinds of implications of such a precedent and encourage the ASC and member companies to understand this type of specificity. There are already fairly accepted VOC requirements that industry is responding to meet at deliverable levels. However, I believe this type of specification warrants further scrutiny and guidance as the market matures in the use of EPDs. While I am seeing more emphasis on reducing the carbon footprint of materials, I believe specifying a single attribute such as Global Warming to be misguided. An alternative way to consider materials carbon impact would be participation in the Better Plants program to reduce energy intensity and related Demand Side GHG reductions. This program encourages upstream supplier participation in energy intensity reduction and related GHG reduction. Kingspan also participates in the CDP – Carbon Disclosure Project that is a formal reporting accounting process to reduce Carbon emissions. This is supported with a Global Net Zero Energy requirement for all plants by 2020. Singling out a specific single EPD attribute is a total misrepresentation of the intent of an EPD and the opportunity to consider “Continuous Improvement”.