Certification schemes such as BREEAM and LEED make credits available if the specified construction products have environmental product declarations (EPDs).

The number of credits varies depending on the type of EPD and whether the EPD has been externally verified. The uses of EPDs also extend beyond certification schemes.

EPDs report a variety of environmental impacts, including global warming potential (GWP) and ozone depletion potential (ODP). Anyone who has specified thermal insulation will know these terms and be familiar with seeing them on product literature, and EPDs formalise the declaration of these impacts and allow them to be compared between different manufacturers and products.

How are EPDs treated in BREEAM and LEED?

Since the launch of its updated new construction standard in 2018, BREEAM has shifted focus away from ratings given by the Green Guide to Specification. Instead, credits are awarded for the availability of EPDs. As older versions of the standard fall out of use, the Green Guide ratings will eventually become completely redundant.

BREEAM requires EPDs to be verified by a third-party. For the Mat 02 category, it awards points based on whether EPDs are generic (0.5 points), manufacturer-specific (0.75 points) or product-specific (1.5 points). However, if an EPD is not externally verified to EN 15804 then it cannot contribute to claiming points.

Like BREEAM, the LEED certification scheme recognises the importance of externally verified EPDs, and then places different values on different EPD types. It awards 0.25 points for generic EPDs, up to a full point for product-specific EPDs.

Wider adoption of EPDs beyond certification schemes

The value of externally verified EPDs, and the accuracy and specificity of product-specific EPDs in particular, is increasingly being seen in procurement and specification. Regardless of whether a voluntary certification is being sought, EPDs are being requested to support carbon emissions reductions and net zero carbon targets.

Declarations of GWP are starting to become a requirement of centrally-funded government projects, which is driving further interest in EPDs. Like other mandates that have come before, such as BIM, once these things become the norm on public projects, a trickle-down effect tends to occur as different parties get used to asking for, seeing and sharing the information.

There can be no doubt that EPDs are going to become an ever-present part of construction product specification. Because they report the environmental impact of a product’s life cycle, including the raw material sourcing and manufacture, they also contribute to evidence of responsible sourcing, alongside other certification like BES 6001.

Polyfoam XPS provides externally verified EPDs, produced by BRE Global, that report on the environmental impact of its Standard and Extra range floor and roof insulation products. Download them from our technical support page, along with our BES 6001 responsible sourcing certification.

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