June 19, 2014 -- Chicago, IL – Most modern building designs today include environmental goals and requirements, calling upon architects to play a role in specifying green building materials. But despite a myriad of information available, the task can put a heavy burden on architects. While some products have valid environmental claims (such as energy savings or sustainable materials) these same products could actually have a negative environmental impact overall when the complete product lifecycle is taken into the account. With so many different materials, it is difficult to be knowledgeable about every product’s manufacturing processes, product lifecycles and energy-efficiency in order to compare apples to apples.
Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) come to the rescue. These eco-labels are similar to a nutrition label on a food product, providing architects with an effective framework for making informed product comparisons based on specific design goals.
To assist architects considering metal panels in their building design, the Metal Construction Association (MCA) has developed three EPDs: Metal Composite Panels, Insulated Metal Panels and Roll Formed Steel Panels for Roofs and Walls. The EPDs are available for download here: http://www.metalconstruction.org/EPDs
EPDs include standardized, science-based data that summarize environmental impact categories that were assessed through a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). The LCA covers the environmental impacts from raw material extraction, transportation, manufacturing, and packaging.
The MCA’s EPDs provide a full view of the environmental impact of Metal Composite Panels, Insulated Metal Panels and Roll Formed Steel Panels. The impact categories include Global Warming Potential, Ozone Depletion Potential, Photochemical Ozone Creation Potential, Acidification Potential, Eutrophication Potential, Depletion of Abiotic Resources (Elements) and Depletion of Abiotic Resources (Fossil Fuels). EPDs can be looked at as an executive summary of a LCA report. It also shows product conformity to the ISO 14020 series, (14020, 14021, 14024, and 14025).
In addition, EPDs contain information about product definition, building physics, the basic material and its origin, product manufacture and processing as well as testing standards and verifications.
While individual manufacturers can provide EPDs for their specific products, industry-wide EDPs, like those from MCA, use representative ranges from products assessed and tested from primary producers. Industry EPDs can be used when there is not a manufacturer EPD available.
Whether from a manufacturer or an industry organization such as MCA, the content of all EPD documents must be reviewed by a program operator, such as UL Environment, ICC-ES, ASTM, NSF and others, and independently verified in accordance with relevant ISO standards. An LCA practitioner summarizes the results of the LCA study, and a program operator reviews all the information and arranges for the final third-party verification.
EPDs allow architects to easily choose products to suit each project or owner’s needs with the confidence of using complete and accurate information. In fact, LEED v4 encourages the use of products that supply EPDs by offering LEED points for their use.
About the Metal Construction Association
The Metal Construction Association brings together a diverse industry for the purpose of expanding the use of metal in construction through marketing, research, technology and education. Companies involved in MCA gain tremendous benefit from association activities that focus on research, codes and standards, market development, and technical programs. MCA’s market development efforts increase the use of metal materials in construction through the education of the building and design communities about the benefits of metal.
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