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RCI JULY 2014

SANDTOFT SAYS A focus on Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) and EN 15804 By John Mercer, technical director at Sandtoft, a Wienerberger brand The UK construction industry has been using life cycle assessments (LCA) of building materials for almost 20 years now. An LCA is used to create an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD), which primarily demonstrates the environmental impact of the particular product or material. We are all familiar with the BRE Green Guide ratings which provide guidance and rankings on building elements and BREEAM, the environmental assessment method for buildings and large-scale developments. Similar schemes exist in several other European countries also. However, although these schemes are all broadly based on ISO Standards, the method of assessment varies between the countries, with each country also interpreting the data at building level in different ways, meaning that a manufacturer in one country cannot necessarily use its LCA to produce an EPD that would be valid or accepted in another country. All this, in effect, amounts to barriers to trade, which, of course, is unacceptable within the European Union. Therefore in 2012, the European Standard EN 15804 was published, which provides a European-wide common approach or framework for creating Environmental Product Declarations. This means that regardless of where within Europe a product or material is produced or used, the environmental data will remain comparable. In other words, a manufacturer will be able to create an EPD for its product, which will be valid within all European countries. In addition, European Standard EN 15978, published in 2011, provides a common framework for evaluating the lifetime impact of the building by taking into consideration the product EPDs. EN 15804 uses a series of environmental impact indicators as the basis for a common approach to assessment. These are environmental, resource use, waste and re-use potential. For example, 076 JULY 2014 RCIMAG.COM environmental indicators are global warming potential, ozone depletion, pollution risks such as acidification and excess nutrient run-off (e.g. fertilisers) and depletion of non-replaceable materials and fuels. Examples of resource use are non-renewable energy sources, renewable energy sources and fresh water use. Examples of waste categories are hazardous, non-hazardous and radioactive waste, and examples of re-use potential are products (e.g. clay roof tiles and bricks), materials for recycling (e.g. crushed concrete) and materials for energy recovery or exported energy. Product Category Rules (PCRs) Having explained the situation thus far, I now get to the point of this article – Product Category Rules. These are required to enable the creation of EPDs from the LCAs. Whilst EN 15804 sets the primary rules for developing EPDs, the environmental performance of each product group differs, so it is important to set guidance or rules specific to each product group. This will enable direct comparison with other, similar products. In due course, the European Commission will issue a Mandate to the relevant CEN Technical Committee to enable it to start work on developing Product Category Rules. The UK has representation on the Technical Committee responsible for EN 15804 and it is important that all industry sectors play an active role in ensuring that their sector is not disadvantaged through any unfair weighting of a particular environmental indicator that may benefit one product group over another one. Our current environmental assessment systems have served the UK well over the past years and so it is important that traditional building material sectors are not disadvantaged. The UK has always been very protective of its traditional built environment, so I am sure that we would not John Mercer, Sandtoft want any particular traditional material excluded or disadvantaged to the point of falling out of favour due to a designer’s reluctance to specify it. The use of Building Information Modelling systems (BIM) is increasing throughout Europe. BIM not only manages the design and construction phases of a project, but is also key in reducing the environmental impact of the building both in construction and in use. Therefore, as EPDs develop, they will provide important information not just on the embodied carbon footprint, but also on other equally important key indicators such as resource use, water and toxicity. In summary • A Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) examines the environmental impact of a product or material at all stages, from raw material extraction, through manufacture, distribution, use and disposal or recycling – commonly referred to as ‘cradle to grave’. • An Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) is a declaration or report on a product or material’s environmental impact based on its LCA. • EN 15804 ensures that EPDs will be valid throughout Europe, thus removing a potential barrier to trade. • Product Category Rules (PCRs) are required to harmonise the procedures used to evaluate environmental impacts within groups of products or materials. • It is important to develop PCRs that do not disadvantage any particular construction product sector www.sandtoft.com “It is important that all industry sectors play an active role in ensuring that their sector is not disadvantaged through any unfair weighting of a particular environmental indicator that may benefit one product group over another one”


RCI JULY 2014
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