How the New PCR Program May Affect Your LEED v4 EPD

Posted On: 
Sep 14, 2017
How the New PCR Program May Affect Your LEED v4 EPD

Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) play an important role in LEED v4. EPDs are created according to internationally harmonized standards and are 3rd party verified, ensuring that the results for products are valid. The intent for the MR LEED Credit Building Product Disclosure and Optimization: Environmental Product Declaration is “to encourage the use of products and materials for which life-cycle information is available and that have environmentally, economically, and socially preferable life-cycle impacts. To reward project teams for selecting products from manufacturers who have verified improved environmental life-cycle impacts.” The process to develop EPDs is straightforward for building product manufacturers.

Product Category Rule (PCR)

Product Category Rules (PCRs) guide the development process for declarations for products that are comparable to others within a product category. PCRs are mandatory to develop an EPD. Building product manufacturers work with a Program Operator to identify an existing PCR or to create a new PCR.

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)

Product Manufacturers define the appropriate internal and external user groups, and develop a relevant goal and scope for the project. Conduct an LCA on your building product based on collected data. If your company has already completed an LCA for your product, update the study as needed to ensure that it meets the PCR requirements.

Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs)

Create, verify, & publish the EPD. Utilize the LCA findings to develop an EPD for your building product, according to ISO 14025 standard for Type III Environmental Declarations. This document will be verified and registered by a Program Operator, and will be made publicly available via the Program Operator's website.

In early 2017, the USGBC released the PCR Committee Process & Resources: Part B. The USGBC and UL launched an initiative to create a core PCR framework to provide more consistent and tailored PCR framework for building product manufacturers. The initiative also aims to establish PCRs to produce EPDs that are more aligned with the USGBC’s goals.

Problems with EPDs and Solutions

Since the launch of LEED v4, there has been confusion about the EPD development process and the standards used. International standards governing PCRs leave considerable room for interpretation. The USGBC hopes to create a more efficient process through the new PCR framework. The program is intended to:

• Incorporate industry wide benchmarking guidance into PCRs
• Improve data and methodology transparency in EPDs to enable project teams to compare the environmental impacts between products. This has been a significant issue in LEED v4.
• Increase the volume of product-specific EPDs for building products
• Launch tools for designers and manufacturers based on info in EPDs
• Improve consistency in LCAs used to inform EPDs

Standard EN 15804

The USGBC Technical Advisory Panel has identified standard EN 15804 as the most robust and progressive standard to produce PCRs. However, the USGBC has stated that the new framework does not supersede or invalidate EPDs using PCRs generated outside of this structure, provided the EPDs comply with LEED requirements.

The EN 15804 European standard provides core product category rules (PCR) for Type III environmental declarations for any construction product and construction service. The PCR defines the parameters to be declared and the way in which they are collated and reported. In addition, the PCR describes which stages of a product’s life cycle are considered in the EPD and which processes are to be included in the life cycle stages. It is important to note that the PCR defines rules for the development of scenarios, includes the rules for calculating the Life Cycle Inventory and the Life Cycle Impact Assessment underlying the EPD, including the specification of the data quality to be applied.

Conclusion

Manufacturers have commented in the past that developing EPDs is like the Wild West. By providing guidance and free templates, the USGBC can offer building product manufacturers the resources they need to develop a LEED v4 compliant EPD. Many manufacturers have opted to develop HPDs instead of EPDs since it is a cheaper and less complicated process. Both disclosures can contribute points under LEED v4 although they convey different information. Hopefully, the new framework developed by the USGBC will provide more clarity in the marketplace. Has your company developed EPDs for your products? What are your experiences, good or bad, with the EPD development process?

For more information or to discuss the topic of this blog, please call Brad Blank at 360-727-3528.