The North American Precast Concrete industry recently released Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) in three key precast concrete product categories. The EPDs will allow architects, engineers, building owners, and other specifiers to better understand the environmental impacts of precast and prestressed concrete products.
The precast concrete industry wide EPDs are now available for the following products: Architectural and Insulated Wall Panels, Structural Precast Concrete Products and Underground Precast Concrete Products.
Third-party verified EPDs
An EPD is a standardized, internationally recognized, comprehensive tool for providing information on a product’s environmental impact. Information in the EPD documents is based on an ISO-compliant Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and verified by a third-party. The detailed analysis considers all processes in the manufacturing of a product, including raw material and energy extraction, preliminary production and the manufacture of end products.
EPDs and LEED
The industry wide EPDs, jointly released by the Canadian Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute (CPCI), the National Precast Concrete Association (NPCA) and the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute (PCI), are issued within clearly defined product groups based on the precast concrete Product Category Rules (PCR). Using products with EPDs can contribute to LEED credits. LEED v4 has incorporated a new credit for EPDs that have been third-party verified by an approved program operator. For more information on LEED credits, visit www.usgbc.org and www.cagbc.org.
The EPDs were independently prepared by Athena Sustainable Materials Institute in accordance with ISO 14025 and ISO 21930; the Product Category Rules for Preparing an Environmental Product Declaration for Precast Concrete (UN CPC 3755), March 2015; and ASTM international’s EPD program operator rules. They were also independently verified by ASTM International (in accordance with ISO 14025) and by Industrial Ecology Consultants (in accordance with ISO 14025 and the Product Category Rules).
CPCI, NPCA and PCI are the leading technical resources (Body of Knowledge (BOK)) for the precast concrete industry in North America. From this BOK, building codes, design guides, educational programs, certification, sustainability programs, and new research ideas are derived. This joint industry initiative develops, maintains, and disseminates the BOK necessary for designing, fabricating, and constructing sustainable and resilient precast concrete structures.
An EPD provides relevant, verified and comparable information about the environmental impact of a product, based on life-cycle assessment. By providing data in a standardized format, EPDs offer a robust basis for identifying products that have the least environmental impacts through a building's life cycle. This meets the growing demand in the built environment sector, for information to support building life cycle assessments.
PCRs are the underlying rules used to develop an EPD. By providing these common rules, the verification agency ASTM International www.astm.org provides a reference methodology to ensure the accurately of the EPD. PCRs are vital to the concept and practice of EPDs. They establish the assumptions, scope and functional units meaning that manufacturers cannot alter them in order to favor their products. EPDs can be compared only when they are based on the same PCR, ensuring that the methodology, data quality and indicators are consistent, and that all the relevant life cycle stages have been included.
By using the same set of underlying standard across its operations globally, companies demonstrate enhanced credibility on product information. At the same time, the flexibility of the tool allows local adaptation to applicable laws and industry practice in different regions (e.g. treatment for allocation of slag), thus enhancing the applicability of the tool under different context, without jeopardizing the overall consistency of its methodological basis.
The North American Precast Concrete PCR, so far, focuses on the impacts of concrete production up to the point when it is delivered to the client, known as ‘cradle-to-gate', for business-to-business purposes. However, the three participants in the North American Precast Concrete PCR (Canadian Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute (CPCI) National Precast Concrete Association (NPCA) Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute (PCI) are also investigating whether concrete's contribution to the sustainability of a structure during its use and end-of-life can also be captured in a systematic way, allowing for ‘cradle-to-grave' EPDs to be developed.
The PCR for concrete is one of many CPCI guidance frameworks that have been successful in improving sustainability across the industry in North America worldwide. The CPCI is now building on its work with the development of a common calculation tool for its members to produce project EPDs using common data sets.
Product Category Rules (PCR) For Preparing an Environmental Product Declaration for: Precast Concrete (UN CPC 37550)
The product group Precast Concrete includes structural, architectural and specialty precast concrete products used on, above and below ground excluding concrete pavers and concrete masonry.