The construction sector holds huge potential for savings!
While we are looking for ways to reduce our environmental impact on this planet, we realise that the building sector is responsible for roughly one third of all energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. A big part of that impact is linked to construction products. The use of resources and the related emissions from production, transportation, construction, quality, costs, as well as the potential of recycling, needs to be considered along with their effects during the stages of use over the building’s lifetime. Sounds complex? It is. But there is no other way to learn about the real and full impact of various types of construction and choosing the best materials for the environment.
What is the most sustainable building product?
There is no easy answer to this. Sustainability describes the holistic view of environmental, economic and social impacts. Holistic means that the entire lifespan and all side effects are considered. A sustainability assessment only makes sense at the building level because construction products are not final products but intermediates and in order to answer the question of what material is the most sustainable, the building context needs to be defined
Assessments should be made at the building level – product-to-product comparisons are always incomplete!
The evaluation of the sustainable performance of buildings is described in the rating schemes for buildings like LEED, BREEAM, HQE or DGNB, which have rapidly gained international relevance in sustainability reporting. To evaluate environmental performance, it is important to do a life cycle assessment (LCA). The impacts of the building and the building elements become transparent throughout the different life cycle stages.
As the building consists of building materials, the life cycle data from the construction products is required for any building stage. This is the modular approach. The format to provide product-specific life cycle data is called an environmental product declaration (EPD).
The ECO EPD - a truly European solution
The established building rating schemes reward the provision of EPD. Due to the lack of a common European EPD solution, various rating schemes initially concentrated on national solutions. The provision of various EPD to be recognized in all rating schemes in Europe and abroad resulted in an unacceptably large effort on behalf of the product manufacturers.
The ECO Platform was conceived to solve this problem. All established EPD programme operators in Europe formed an alliance with the objective of developing a common European solution: the ECO EPD – recognized by all programmes throughout Europe.
The European ECO EPD has existed since 2014 and is starting to replace the former national solutions.
Public European Initiatives
The European Commission intends to support customers in their purchasing decisions with simple environmental information on products. The idea of a “Product Environmental Footprint” (PEF) is currently being tested. While a simple solution based on a product-to-product comparison is useful for many consumer products, it can be misleading for construction products, as described above.
While modular product-specific data are needed for the assessment of the sustainable building performance (B2B), it is necessary to have simplified information for consumers (B2C). EPD are the solution for B2B communication. PEF may introduce some benchmarks that are able to provide simpler solutions for B2C communication. However, both EPD and PEF should be based on the same data from the industry to avoid double efforts for the manufacturers and confusion in the market.
The Platform ECO
The members of ECO Platform from all relevant stakeholder groups offer their experience and know-how to find quick suitable solutions for construction products. On the basis of the existing EPD principle, it is possible to find appropriate solutions for the comprehensive PEF approach.
Get more information on the ECO EPD and the Platform’s activities on the “ECO EPD Day” in Brussels on 6 October 2016. Please find detailed information in the ECO Platform PEF Position paper and register for the event on the ECO Platform homepage www.eco-platform.org.
EPD - Environmental Product Declarations are
- LCA-based product information for the entire life cycle with a core set of indicators
- based on international and European standards: the ISO 14040 series, ISO 14025 and EN 15804 for construction products
- independently verified
- a comprehensive data basis for the assessment of the environmental performance of buildings
- an accepted industry standard for construction products in Europe
Infobox ECO Platform
The AISBL ECO Platform
A common European solution to communicate the environmental impacts of construction products.
- EPD Programme Operators
- European Trade Associations
- LCA Practitioners
- Green Building Councils / Rating Scheme Operators
Number of EPDs in the market: >2,000