The Importance of Transparency with Environmental and Health Product Declarations

The age of transparency is here, and it’s a major focus of green building standards and codes, says Aaron Smith, director of sustainable building solutions for ASSA ABLOY Door Security Solutions. Smith, LEED AP BD+C, gave a presentation called “Opening the Door to Transparency — LEED v4, EPDs and HPDs” at the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) 2015 Fall Conference.

Product transparency has become the new standard for green building rating systems, according to Smith. Customers want to know how a product is made, where it is made and what is in it. LEED is promoting this in the marketplace through Environmental and Health Product Declarations.

“Environmental Product Declarations, or EPDs, are being codified in many places, like California, Europe and more,” says Smith.

He compared an EPD to any label one might find on a food product at the grocery store. Not only can EPDs contribute to a positive environmental impact, but there is incentive for manufacturers to participate. New credits reward openness about a product’s ingredients and environmental footprint, Smith states.

Smith broke down the life cycle assessment (LCA) of a product, which “identifies the environmental impacts of a product, process or activity over its lifespan.”

The life cycle of a product from cradle to grave includes five stages:

  • Extraction and processing of raw materials
  • Manufacturing
  • Transportation and distribution
  • Use, reuse and maintenance
  • Recycling and final disposal

Alternately, a Health Product Declaration (HPD) is a specific format for a manufacturer inventory, Smith explains. To count toward LEED, an HPD must include “full disclosure of known hazards” including any residuals down to 0.1 percent or 1,000 parts per million (ppm). HPDs present building product ingredients in a format that is consistent, transparent and in a standard format, says Smith.

“Not long ago, there was little expectation that we’d know what products are made of,” says Smith. “That information was for the manufacturer alone, and any risks were addressed by government regulations. Not anymore. Now, we can ask to see what’s inside, and we’re all safer for it.”

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