Environmental Product Declaration: a level playing field for construction products

03 June 2020

Article by NZGBC members: Dr. Ferran de Miguel, Fletcher Building and Dr. Barbara Nebel, thinkstep-anz

Good decisions require good information – this rings true for every industry, including construction and built environment. Product information is available from many sources, but Environmental Product Declarations or EPDs lead the pack when it comes to credible, data-based, and verified information that supports sustainable product choices. EPD Australasia is the body that registers EPDs within New Zealand and Australia. 

“Establishing EPD Australasia was a much-needed step towards making Life Cycle Assessment mainstream in New Zealand and Australia,” says Barbara Nebel, CEO of thinkstep-anz, who set up EPD Australasia during her time as President of LCANZ. “EPDs provide the basis for the Green Building Council to take Life Cycle Assessment into account in their rating scheme, and because they are based on the International EPD® System they provide a globally comparable benchmark.”

What is an Environmental Product Declaration?

EPDs quantify a wide range of indicators including climate change (carbon footprint), energy use, and resource use to provide a comprehensive view of a product’s environmental impact and enabling better decision-making. Each EPD is based on an extensive Life Cycle Assessment for that product or product range, and summarises the key environmental information in a succinct and accessible form.

EPDs allow for consistent and fair comparisons between products from the same category. Each EPD is developed using standard Product Category Rules (following EN15804 and ISO14025) ensuring the products follow the same specification.

One tool, many benefits

As well as providing credible data for better decisions, EPDs can identify process efficiencies, help organisations achieve zero carbon certification, and are a tool to help businesses to tell their sustainability story. Because EPDs are recognised by a wide range of green rating tools including BREEAM, LEED, IS, and NZGBC’s Green Star, they can differentiate products in a highly competitive field. Within Green Star, materials with EPDs contribute towards points in the Sustainable Materials (Credit 21) and can be used to complete a Life Cycle Assessment of the building, contributing to Life Cycle Impacts (Credit 19) not only in New Zealand, but also in Australia. 

Other ways in which EPDs contribute positively to both environmental performance and business are summarised on thinkstep-anz’s thinkEPD site.

Fletcher Building – leading by example

Fletcher Building’s ambition is to be the New Zealand and Australian leaders in sustainable building materials, construction, and distribution. 

“EPDs are a big part of our sustainability strategy and a focus for my role,” says Ferran de Miguel Mercader, Sustainability Manager at Fletcher Building.  “For us, EPDs provide the opportunity to show the environmental impact of our building products in a transparent, comparable, and verified manner. Our customer then has the possibility to make an informed choice.”

Colorcote® metal roofing and cladding

There are multiple examples of the benefits of EPDs in Fletcher’s businesses.

Thinkstep-anz have completed two Life Cycle Assessments for Fletcher’s Tasman Insulation business. “We could clearly see the great environmental improvements we had made in our Pink® Batts® manufacturing processes between the two LCAs,” said Alison Roberts, Marketing Manager.  “As part of the verification process, our EPD was compared with other international glass wool manufacturers and this independent assessment says we’re up there with the very best international manufacturers”.

Pink® Batts® glass wool insulation

Golden Bay Cement has also used EPDs to communicate the environmental performance of their products which has allowed them to stand out among competitors. Simon Harper, National Sales and Marketing Manager said: “With the EPD, we are able to demonstrate that Golden Bay Cement has significantly lower carbon emissions than our competitors when measured against the same criteria. This transparency now allows the industry to be confident that if Golden Bay Cement is utilised on their project that it results in the lowest carbon concrete available”.

While an EPD communicates data across a range of environmental factors, for Fletcher Steel’s customers, carbon emissions are front-of-mind. And yet, not all steel is created equal. Scott Morrison, Marketing and Innovation Manager at Fletcher Steel said: “Having a registered EPD allows us to have richer, more valuable discussions with our customers, and it helps influence their purchasing decisions.”

EPDs are an essential tool for communicating sustainability performance at Winstone Wallboards. John Jamison, Technical and Development Manager said: “An EPD has integrity of data, is transparent, and provides insight into the impacts our products have. Our customers can trust the information provided in the GIB® plasterboard EPD, and this is important as it shows there is an openness in what we do.”

Fletcher Building currently has nine published EPDs and also distribute products with EPDs from other suppliers. Below are links to EPDs for Fletcher Building-made products in the New Zealand market (please contact Fletcher businesses for EPDs of other products they distribute):

Golden Bay Cement

GIB® plasterboard

Pink® Batts® glass wool insulation

ColorCote® metal roofing and cladding

About Fletcher Building

At Fletcher Building, we manufacture building products and operate retail businesses that distribute these and other products. We also build homes, buildings, and infrastructure that create our communities. Fletcher Building is dual listed on the NZX and ASX and operates through six divisions – Building Products, Distribution, Concrete, Residential and Development, Construction, and Australia.

Contact: sustainability@fbu.com

About thinkstep-anz

thinkstep-anz is a certified B Corp organisation that enables organisations to succeed sustainably. With about 15 years of experience in delivering both product and corporate sustainability solutions, and specialised software to a wide range of businesses across New Zealand and Australia, thinkstep-anz’s proven approach is science-based, pragmatic and flexible.