An environmental product declaration, or EPD, is a document that communicates environmental impact.

EPDs are internationally recognised and should be independently verified to ensure they meet the applicable standards. While EPDs can be created for products and services of all types, in all areas of life, there are specific standards and rules covering the creation of EPDs for construction products.

Life cycle analysis’s (LCA) are carried out for construction products, and assumptions are made about the environmental impact at different stages of that life cycle, a EPD is created to describe and report that environmental impact. Designers, specifiers and other construction professionals can then make informed decisions about their product and material choices.

What is the relevant standard for a construction product EPD?

Environmental declarations for construction products are carried out in accordance with EN 15804:2012 Sustainability of construction works. Environmental product declarations. Core rules for the product category of construction products, this standard has been amended twice, most recently in 2019.

Among other things, EN 15804 defines what parameters should be declared and how they should be reported; describes the stages of life cycle assessment; and specifies the quality of data required for reporting.

The six environmental impacts that an EPD reports on are:

  • global warming potential
  • depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer
  • acidification potential of soil and water
  • eutrophication potential
  • formation potential of tropospheric ozone; and
  • abiotic depletion potential.

The full name for an EPD is a ‘Type III environmental product declaration’, where ‘Type III’ refers to the EPD’s environmental data having been quantified according to predetermined parameters based on the ISO 14040 series of standards.

Does having an EPD make a product sustainable?

There is increasing demand for construction products to have EPDs, however, sometimes, there can be a misconception that simply specifying a product that has an environmental product declaration means a ‘sustainable’ choice is being made for the project.

You may have seen or heard people say that the most sustainable building is the one that does not need to be built. The fundamental truth is that processing raw materials and manufacturing construction products has an environmental impact, the first step to minimising the impact of construction projects is therefore to use resources as efficiently as possible.

This means questioning if new construction is necessary, or whether a client’s needs can be met by reusing an existing building. Once that answer is arrived at, design and specification decisions can be made to support longevity and adaptability in the built environment. Ideally, product choices prioritise the efficient use of resources over the long term.

It is key to remember, therefore, that an EPD does not describe whether a product is ‘sustainable’ or not. There is no such thing as a ‘most sustainable’ product. An EPD is a tool that allows materials to be compared, in order that product choices are made to support a construction project’s sustainability goals.

Polyfoam XPS and EPDs

Polyfoam XPS has environmental product declarations for its flooring and roofing insulation products. We partnered with the BRE Global, who produced our Type III EPDs under their programme operatorship. BRE Global’s product category rules were developed in accordance with EN 15804. Our EPDs have been externally verified by an independent third party.

This is the first in a series of blog posts about EPDs. You can keep up to date with all of Polyfoam XPS’s latest blog content by subscribing to the  Polyfoam XPS newsletter, The Build-Up. For copies of our EPDs, visit our technical support page, or contact us to discuss the requirements of your current project.