Environmental product declarations entering the building sector: critical reflections based on 5 to 10 years experience in different European countries


Purpose Growing awareness of the environmental performanceof construction products and buildings brings aboutthe need for a suitable method to assess their environmentalperformance. Life cycle assessment (LCA) has become awidely recognised and accepted method to assess the burdensand impacts throughout the life cycle. This LCA-based information may be in the form of environmental product declarations (EPD) or product environmental footprints (PEF), based on reliable and verifiable information. All of these use LCA to quantify and report several environmental impact categorie and may also provide additional information. To better understand on the one hand existing EPD programmes (EN 15804) for each country and on the other the recent developments in terms of EU reference document (e.g. PEF), the authors decided to write this review paper based on the outcomes of the EPD workshop that was held prior to SB13 Graz conference.Methods This paper presents the state of the art in LCA and an overview of the EPD programmes in five European countries(Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland) based on the workshop in the first part and a comprehensive description and comparison of the PEF method and EN 15804 in the second part. In the last part, a general conclusion will wrap up the findings and results will provide a further outlook on future activities.Results and discussion The high number of EPD programmesunderlines the fact that there is obviously a demand for assessments of the environmental performance of construction materials.In the comparison between and experiences of thedifferent countries, it can be seen that more similarities than differences exist. A comparison between PEF and EPD shows differences, e.g. LCIA impact categories and recyclingmethodology. Conclusions Independent of raising awareness of the construction material environmental performance, the existence of somany environmental claims calls for clarification andharmonisation. Additionally, construction materials beingassessed in the voluntary approaches have to follow theharmonised approach following the principles of the EuropeanConstruction Products Regulation (regulated) not to foster barriers of trade. The authors therefore highly appreciate the most recent activities of the sustainability of construction works (CEN/TC 350 committee http://portailgroupe.afnor.fr/public_espacenormalisation/CENTC350/index.html) currently workingon these issues at the EU level. Finally, the LCA community is further encouraged to increase the background life cycleinventory data and life cycle inventory modelling as well as the meaningfulness of certain environmental impact categories, such as toxicity, land use, biodiversity and resource usage.

International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment
Holger Wallbaum
Holger Wallbaum
Full Professor, Vice-Head of Department and Vice-Dean for Research

Holger is a Full Professor in sustainable building at the Division of Building Technology, research group Sustainable Building, and in the Area of advance Building Futures. Holger works within sustainable building on concepts, tools and strategies to enhance the sustainability performance of construction materials, building products, buildings as well as entire cities.