Over 7000 EN 15804 Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) were available at the start of 2020 with numbers continuing to increase

Rather late in the year I am adding my 2020 EPD Infographic to my blog which provides the numbers of EPD at the start of the year. The number of EN 15804 EPD have continued to rise, with French FDES overtaking German IBU EPD in terms of numbers. When you add in the French PEPEcoPassport – the EPD for building services equipment which follow EN 15804 principles then the French Inies database is the largest database for EPD. It also includes many “données par defaut” – default generic data to be used in the absence of EPD.

The full infographic can be found at http://bit.ly/2020EPD.

In addition to these EN 15804 EPD, there are now literally thousands of EPD to ISO 21930 available in North America – mostly from the concrete industry which has so far provided over 32,000 individual EPD for different concrete mixes at different plant. The easiest way to find these is to use the EC3 website which allows you to search by location, compressive strength, curing time, slump, % of Supplementary Cementitious Material, even to find products with an Embodied Carbon (A1-A3) within a certain range.

If you are looking for EPD or generic LCA data for construction products, then my Briefing Paper for the Alliance for Sustainable Building, “Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) – Where to find them” is a great place to start, providing links to all the existing EPD programmes and databases around the world (that I’m aware of – please let me know if you find others).

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Embodied Emissions event at London Climate Week

Event:            Managing embodied emissions to improve global climate governance
Date:             
Time:             5:00pm to 7:30pm
Venue:           University College London, 
Cost:               Free
Register:

 

Sadly  I’m not able to make this event where Simon Sturgis will be talking.  There is a real drive to include embodied impacts in the new London Plan, with the London Assembly Environment Committee recommending action, and 459 architecture practices having signed up to include whole life carbon modelling as part of their basic scope of work, to reduce both embodied and operational resource use as part of Architects Declare.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

30th May 2019 was a Big Day for Embodied Carbon in the UK

As a Board Member of the Alliance for Sustainable Building Products (ASBP), it was great to chair the ASBP event yesterday that marked the launch of the RICS Building Carbon Database, a rebrand of the WRAP Embodied Carbon Database set up with UKGBC in 2014, and alongside it, the launch of an update of Craig Jones’ Inventory of Carbon and Energy (the ICE Database) which will be available to those who didn’t attend the launch from his circularecology website shortly.

RICS are looking to update the Building Carbon Database based on user feedback, and if projects which measure embodied carbon use the data then the benchmarks it provides will be better and more detailed.

craig and ice (2)

Craig shows the data quality information for aggregates

The updated ICE database has used the more than 6000 EPD now available to provide much more information on the embodied carbon of key building materials.  For example, where in the 2011 v2, there was just one figure for aggregate, there are now embodied carbon figures for 10 types of aggregate.  The database will provide data quality indicators, links to the sources and information on the range of values for product types – the data geeks amongst us at the launch can’t wait for the email with the database to arrive this morning!

And yesterday was also the day that 16 architectural practices, winners of the Stirling Prize, declared a Climate and Biodiversity Emergency and committed to act.  For those with a fascination and focus on the embodied impact of materials, they will seek to:

  • Upgrade existing buildings for extended use as a more carbon efficient alternative to demolition and new build whenever there is a viable choice.
  • Include life cycle costing, whole life carbon modelling and post occupancy evaluation as part of our basic scope of work, to reduce both embodied and operational resource use.
  • Collaborate with engineers, contractors and clients to further reduce construction waste.
  • Accelerate the shift to low embodied carbon materials in all our work.
  • Minimise wasteful use of resources in architecture and urban planning, both in quantum and in detail.

At the time of writing (9.30am on 31st May) 225 practices have signed up, which is fantastic news.  You can sign up here – https://www.architectsdeclare.com/.

There are lots of resources out there to help those working on embodied carbon, including the RIBA Whole Life Carbon Guidance, the UKGBC Guide for Clients, the RICS Professional Statement on Whole Life Carbon, UKGBC’s Tackling Embodied Carbon in Buildings, UKGBC and BRE’s How-to Guide  and older publications from WRAP Cutting Embodied Carbon on Procurement, which are still available.

But we know that it is not easy, so the ASBP will be convening a working group in the autumn which I will be leading. The aim of the group is to bring together forward-thinking organisations in the sector (clients, designers, manufacturers, contractors etc) to share learning, fill gaps in knowledge, provide feedback and input to research, standards and policy development, and to increase awareness of embodied carbon and whole life carbon assessment. The group will meet next in the autumn. Please message me if you would be interested in joining.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

More than 6000 EN 15804 EPD now available!

My latest update of EPD numbers at the start of 2019 is now available – bit.ly/2019EPD

 

Posted in EN 15804, Environmental Product Declarations, Environmental Profiles, EPD, LCA, Life cycle assessment, Standards, TC 350 | Tagged | 1 Comment

For every five houses built, does one house worth really go to landfill or incineration?

Duncan Baker-Brown recently claimed this in an article on Construction21, I guess, based on the fact that he also said, “We know that the construction industry in the UK wastes approximately 20% of the material delivered to a building site”, and I’m assuming he thinks all this waste is only going to landfill or incineration; in other words that none of it is being recycled.

So does any of this stand up to scrutiny?

The UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) provide statistics on the recovery of UK construction and demolition waste (see page 7) , and between 2010 and 2014 (the last time the figures were provided), the recovery rate rose from 87.6% to 89.9%, so it is clear that the assumption that 100% of waste from construction is going to landfill or incineration is incorrect, although prior to the Landfill Tax (introduced in 1996) and the Aggregates Levy (introduced in 2002), this might have been closer to the truth. For example a Construction and Waste Resources Platform (CWRP) Report calculated the recovery rate for construction and demolition waste in 2005 to be just over 50%.

Next let us consider whether 20% of the material delivered to a building site is wasted?  The same DEFRA statistics above stated that 55 million tonnes of construction and demolition waste were generated in 2014.

The Construction and Waste Resources Platform (CWRP) published a “An overview of UK demolition waste” in 2009 which estimated that 31.8 million tonnes was due to demolition in 2007.  Assuming this is has reduced by 25% to account for the economic downturn, then 31 million tonnes of waste are caused by construction alone.

So how much material is used in construction?

The UK Mineral Products Association states UK construction used  (in 2015)

  • 225 million tonnes of aggregates (of which 28% were from secondary sources)
  • 13 million tonnes of cementitious materials

In addition, the following were used in construction:

  • 2 billion bricks (BEIS) (4 million tonnes at conservative 2 kg a brick)
  • 5 million tonnes of stone (source)
  • 3.3 million tonnes steel (29% of 11 million tonnes (steelconstruction.infoISSB))
  • 1.33 million tonnes bitumen (EAPA)
  • 0.75 million tonnes of plastics (23% of 3.3 million tonnes (BPF)
  • 3.7 million m3 UK produced and 6.6 million m3 of imported sawn timber (Forestry Commission) (3.8 million tonnes sawn timber at 375 kg/m3)
  • 3 million m3 UK wood based panels and 3.4 million m3 of imported wood based panels (Forestry Commission)  (4.5 million tonnes wood based panels at 700 kg/m3)
  • 0.7 million tonnes of plaster and 200 million m2 of plasterboard (DTI) (2.45 million tonnes assuming 12.5mm plasterboard at 700 kg/m2)
  • 0.5 million tonnes flat glass (estimate)
  • 0.25 million tonnes aluminium (25% of 1 million tonnes)

In total, this gives a minimum consumption of 263 million tonnes of construction materials.

If we compare 31 million tonnes of waste to 263 million tonnes this would give a maximum wastage rate of 12%, much lower than 20%.  And as 89.9% of this is recovered, then only 1.2%, or 3.1 million tonnes of construction materials are going to landfill or incineration.

So in reality, you would need to build 83 houses before one house worth’s of construction materials were sent to landfill or incineration.  Quite a difference from 5 houses!

Image courtesy of WRAP.

Posted in Embodied Impacts, Recovery, resources, Waste | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Update to 2018 EPD numbers

With the revival of the Finnish RTS EPD programme, and the latest numbers from Inies for Verified French ‘Fiche de Declaration Environmental et Sanitaire’ (EPD in French), the numbers for Verified EN 15804 EPD in January 2018 which I have been collecting over several years have now exceeded 5400!  For more information, see my earlier posts on 2018: EPD numbers continue to increase… and EPD numbers for 2017: Updated EPD Infographic for 2017

2018 EPD graph update

Posted in EN 15804, Environmental Product Declarations, Environmental Profiles, EPD, LCA, Life cycle assessment, TC 350 | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Policies on embodied impacts of buildings increase interest in EPD

As one of thinkstep‘s lead consultants in construction, I recently wrote an article for the Newsletter of Eco Platform, the European association of construction product EPD Programmes detailing how national and regional policies relating to embodied impacts are increasing interest in EPD. You can view the Newsletter here.

Posted in policy, regulation | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

EPD numbers continue to increase…

epd rise 2012-2018Following on from my 2017 EPD Infographic,  I have again tracked the numbers of verified EPD for construction products aligning to EN 15804. Growth in numbers has continued, and there are now over 5000 EPD available globally.  In 2017, new EPD programmes were launched in Ireland, India and Belgium, and the well established programmes, IBU in Germany, International EPD®, and EPD Norge in Norway all showed significant increases in numbers of EPD. The PEPecopassport EPD programme, which covers HVAC and electrical equipment used in buildings, has also shown strong growth.  As this scheme is for electrical products rather than construction products, it is covered by CEN ELEC rather than CEN and does not use EN 15804 as an normative standard, however it aligns very closely with EN 15804 in terms of methodology and has been considered as compliant here.  In the Netherlands, the MRPI scheme has now made some of its recent EPD available publicly, accounting for the rapid increase here.  EPD which have not been published (as per ISO 14025) and made available to download (for example some MRPI and the Tata Steel EPD) have not been included in this study.

Drivers for the growth in EPD continue to be diverse, including:

  • Credits within Sustainable Building Assessment schemes such as BREEAM and LEED
  • Legislation in France and Belgium, requiring EPD to support environmental claims about construction products
  • The need for EPD to support building level life cycle assessment (LCA), which is increasing required by legislation, for example in the Netherlands for new housing and offices and Germany for public buildings, or credited within voluntary schemes such HQE, DGNB, LEED v4, HPI in Ireland or GreenStar in Australia. The EU Level(s) scheme also aims to increase the focus on building LCA.
Posted in Embodied Impacts, EN 15804, Environmental Product Declarations, EPD, LCA, Life cycle assessment, Standards, TC 350 | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Importance of Reducing Embodied Impacts

operational_embodied

I’ve just come across this 2014 image from the Construction2030 website, which considers the energy footprint of all the office space globally expected to be built between 2015 and 2030 – 83 billion m², both embodied (from the materials used in their construction in each year from 2015 to 2030, and operational, from their heating, cooling and lighting from construction through to 2030.

Construction 2030 estimate that a building will “break even”, with operational energy matching embodied energy, after 15 years.  As you can see, this assumption means that for the offices built in the 15 years to 2030, the embodied energy consumed until 2030 is almost 3 times the operational energy consumption.

As Climate Change, one the most significant impacts associated with energy consumption needs to be tackled sooner rather than later, it is clear why a focus on embodied impacts could be beneficial.

Firstly, we have already focussed on reducing operational impacts and many of the big gains are already forced on buildings through regulation, whereas many design teams focussing on embodied impacts are able to obtain significant savings (greater than 20%) with little or no additional cost (for example, see my earlier blog, https://constructionlca.wordpress.com/2014/05/02/reducing-embodied-carbon-how-easy-can-it-be/).

Looking at the graph above, it seems clear that a 20% saving in embodied energy across all office buildings globally would generate 3 times the energy savings and resulting impacts than a 20% reduction in operational energy across all new global office buildings could achieve in the next 15 years.

I am therefore really pleased that with thinkstep, we are helping support EDGE, the World Bank IFC’s sustainable building assessment tool aiming to reduce not just  operational and water impacts but also embodied impacts of new buildings in emerging economies, by over 20%.

I compare this with Bloomberg’s new Headquarters in London, which they claim is the most sustainable office building, with a BREEAM score of 98.5.  This is whilst it appears to have a much higher materials consumption per employee in comparison to a normal office building: (15m3 concrete, 400kg aluminium, 3.8 t steel, 150kg bronze, 250m fibre optics, 0.75m3 sandstone and 125 LED lights per employee (source 1, source 2 )), which Dr Qian Li estimates will result in 18 tonnes of embodied CO2 per employee, higher than normal, and which Simon Sturgis claims is  “a huge /m2 construction carbon footprint which puts it way down the league“.

Until BREEAM and LEED really start to focus on sustainable building certification meaning in significant reductions in embodied impact, it seems unlikely that we will achieve much in the new build construction sector to reduce global impacts.

Posted in EDGE, Embodied Impacts, Global Warming | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Who should benefit from recycling in construction product EPD?

EN 15804, the construction product EPD standard, attributes the impact of treating waste to the waste producer, according to the polluter pays principle.  After treatment, when waste has been recovered and reaches the “end of waste”, the resulting secondary material enters its next product system with no impact. Those using secondary materials therefore get a benefit as their input material has no impact, whilst primary input materials will have impacts from extraction and processing.

Anyone using secondary material needs to take account of any manufacturing impacts after the “end of waste” to make their products – these are the impacts reported in Modules A1-A3 of an EPD.  At the end of life of the construction product, the impact of waste processing until the end of waste state is reached is reported in C1-C3, the impacts of disposal (landfill or incineration) if the waste cannot be recovered are reported in C4.

This approach used in EN 15804 is sometimes known as the recycled content, cut-off or 100:0 approach in life cycle assessment.

Where end of life waste is recovered and used in the next product system, EPD to EN 15804 are able to show the benefits of this recovery as additional information in Module D, but Module D is outside the system boundary of the product system.  The approach in Module D shows the “avoided burdens” from recycling, and derives from the recyclability, avoided burdens or 0:100 approach sometimes used in LCA, which the metals industry often recommends.

Perhaps the most important question is why does EN 15804 use the 100:0 recycled content approach that attributes the benefit of recycling to the user of recycled content, whilst only providing additional information on the benefits of end of life recycling in Module D, rather than within the product system LCA.  The answer, in my view, lies in looking at the construction sector as a whole.

In the UK, a mass balance for the construction industry conducted in 2000 calculated the total mass of materials added to the built environment in 1998 to be 275 million tonnes, which required an input of 420 million tonnes of material resources, of which 43 million tonnes were recycled material, giving a recycled content of around 10% (Viridis, 2003) with an overall resource efficiency of only 65%. At this point in time, just over 50% of construction and demolition waste was estimated to be recycled.

In contrast, DEFRA estimate the most recent recovery rate in 2014 from non-hazardous construction and demolition waste in the UK was 89.9 per cent, with over 49 million tonnes of waste recovered. (DEFRA, 2016).  The total amount of waste recovered or recycled in the UK in 2014 was only 91 million tonnes, accounting for less than 50% of all UK waste generated, and if ALL of this recovered waste was used in construction, it would still give a recycled content of less than 50%.

Within UK construction, we are therefore already achieving very high levels of end of life recycling, but are still using lower percentages of recycled content with low overall resource efficiency.

With an 89% recycling rate, most UK construction products would already be able to show considerable benefits from end of life recycling if EN 15804 was changed to give end of life recycling the benefit using the 0:100 approach. This approach would also give those using recycled content higher impacts, and over the full life cycle taking account of the avoided burdens, primary and recycled products would have similar impacts, meaning there would be less reason to recycle.

Instead, the incentive to recycle is, in my view, correctly placed with the user of recycled content in EN 15804, following the polluter pays principle.   The use of the 100:0 recycled content approach in EN 15804 recognises the need to incentivise construction products to use secondary materials and to look not just to construction but to other sectors with much lower waste recovery rates to source secondary material.

Viridis, 2003 https://trl.co.uk/reports/VR4%20%28REVISED%29

DEFRA, 2016: https://www.mrw.co.uk/download?ac=3050506

Posted in Embodied Impacts, EN 15804, Environmental Product Declarations, EPD, LCA, Life cycle assessment | Tagged , , | 4 Comments