Full EPDs Could Soon Be Headed to the Glass Industry

November 15th, 2013 by DWM Magazine

The chairman of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) working group on whole building Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) says he thinks it’s not if the glass industry officially embraces a specific Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) that would compare and contrast every building’s environmental footprint.

Just when.

Wayne B. Trusty, who is also a past president of the Athena Sustainable Materials Institute and Athena Institute International and an adjunct associate professor at the University of Calgary Faculty of Environmental Design, used Wednesday’s webinar called “EPD 101: The What, Why and How” to explain how EPDs, which provide quantitative and third-party verifiable environmental data for products, come in two distinctive forms.

One, Business-to-Business (B-to-B), is a cradle-to-cradle program that covers resource extraction, its arrival at the plant gate and its shipment when ready. It’s the other EPD, Business-to-Consumer (B-to-C), that figures to become increasingly prevalent in the future as environmental awareness increases and there is a greater demand for environmentally-friendly building products, Trusty says. The latter examines all stages of a product’s life cycle and includes all ancillary materials used in both installation and maintenance. This EPD also covers all replacement products used over a building’s service life that is typically 60 years and also includes relevant water and energy use.

“I think it’s just a matter of time,” Trusty says of the glazing industry’s adapting of the B-to-C EPD. “I think they will go with a full, cradle-to-grave B-to-C.”

Trusty noted that the complete environmental transparency that comes from that kind of EPD could soon be a prerequisite for government contracts.

“These are verified documents, so they have high standing,” he says.

Trusty used the webinar to also put environmental labels into perspective in terms of the standards and highlight the importance of EPDs for industry. His focus then shifted to critical definitions, distinctions, types of EPDs and the basic steps in developing an EPD, starting with the development of product category rules (PCR) under the direction of a program operator.

Program operators, which can be any company, public body or independent scientific body, will be required to set up and publish all EPD instructions. These instructions will be considered a living document and open to adjustments later.

PCRs, which must be verified for three- to five-year periods, are hardly new in Asia or Europe, but are just now starting to gain traction in the U.S., Trusty says. Because of vastly different government regulations here, PCRs in America will hardly resemble many of their overseas counterparts.

A number of industry groups are currently developing PCRs. The Glass Association of North America (GANA) has been working with the National Center for Sustainability Standards to develop a PCR for flat and float glass. This will ultimately provide an internationally recognized method of reporting the environmental impact of glass products and materials throughout their entire life cycle. Likewise, the American Architectural Manufacturers Association, GANA, the Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance and the Window and Door Manufacturers Association, are working together to develop a window PCR. This will be the basis for performing LCAs of window systems that can lead to a representative Environmental Product Declaration

Since EPDs are based on LCAs, the presentation also gave an overview of LCA, including the terms involved, basic steps and the environmental performance measures that result.

Trusty concluded by saying that LCA-based EPDs are “emerging as a global leader.”

“This is becoming a very important player in the world,” he says. “You’re getting a much better sense of the world’s ingredients.”

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