XPSA Supports Montreal Protocol Amendment Accelerating HFC Phase-Out

The Extruded Polystyrene Foam Association (XPSA) , whose members include the major extruded polystyrene foam (XPS) insulation manufacturers in North America, has announced its support for the Montreal Protocol amendment hastening the global phase-down of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) to protect the stratospheric ozone and mitigate the effects of climate change.
XPSA has expressed support for both the Montreal Protocol and the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) Program, under which XPS manufacturers are transitioning out of using HFC-134a. XPS manufacturers have met or exceeded the timelines set forth and will continue to do so based on science and environmental stewardship. XPSA’s members are committed to eliminating HFCs from their products by the EPA SNAP deadline of January 1, 2021.
“The phase-out of HFCs will be a milestone within the XPS industry’s stewardship and sustainability objectives and a progression of our ongoing search for technology improvements to better serve our customers and protect our environment,” said John Ferraro, executive director of XPSA.
Replacing HFC-134a requires a reconsideration of the entire chemical makeup of XPS insulation products. The EPA understands that XPS manufacturers need time to identify alternatives to HFC-134a; assess and address risks of alternative components; analyze capabilities and make modifications to equipment, facilities, manufacturing processes, and worker safety and training programs; work with suppliers on equipment and component needs; build and engage in pilot- and plant-scale trials; obtain permits, approvals, and financing; and address commercialization issues such as ensuring production capacity to meet global market demand.
XPS’s properties heighten a structure’s energy efficiency, which both the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and EPA acknowledge to be one of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction strategies. In fact, ASHREA and XPS industry estimates indicate that homes using XPS insulation sheathing save enough energy in the first year to heat over 500,000 homes in the U.S. XPS reduces GHG emissions by lowering the energy consumption of a structure, which diminishes the amount of energy spent in the distribution of energy, the delivery of which requires 3.34 units of energy to send 1 unit to a building for user consumption. Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) data shows that the reduced energy consumption due to XPS foam pays back the embedded CO2 multiple times over the life of a building.

EPDs Provide a New Level of Environmental Transparency to Building Products

The sustainability movement has impacted the building industry in many ways. Today’s architects, owners and occupants have much greater expectations for the environmental performance of the buildings they design, operate and dwell in. Part of this expectation is focused on the components that make up the building. For example, did the wood come from responsibly harvested forests? Is the metal made of recycled material? Do the paint and interior finishes contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs)?

An Environmental Product Declaration, or EPD, is developed by applying a Product Category Rule, or PCR. PCRs are developed, maintained and warehoused by program operators. Examples of program operators include ASTM, CSA, ICC-ES, Environdec and UL Environment. Program operators also verify that an EPD and its associated life-cycle assessment conform with ISO 14025 and the ISO 14040 series. PCR development is commonly a collaborative effort between industry associations, manufacturers, and/or others.

An EPD is developed by applying a Product Category Rule. PCRs are developed, maintained and warehoused by program operators. Examples of program operators include ASTM, CSA, ICC-ES, Environdec and UL Environment. Program operators also verify that an EPD and its associated life-cycle assessment conform with ISO 14025 and the ISO 14040 series. PCR development is commonly a collaborative effort between industry associations, manufacturers, and/or others. IMAGE: Quantis US

Information technology has encouraged and facilitated this increased demand for in-depth data about building components and systems. People have become accustomed to being able to gather exhaustive information about the products they buy through extensive labeling or online research.

In response to the growing demand for environmental product information, building component manufacturers have begun rolling out environmental product declarations, or EPDs.

It’s a term now commonly heard, but what are they? EPDs are often spoken in the same breath as things like LCA (life-cycle assessment), PCRs (product category rules) and many other TLAs (three-letter acronyms). The fact is they are all related and are part of an ongoing effort to provide as much transparency as possible about what goes into the products that go in and on a building.

“An EPD is a specific document that informs the reader about the environmental performance of a product,” explains Sarah Mandlebaum, life-cycle analyst with Quantis US, the Boston-based branch of the global sustainability consulting firm Quantis. “It balances the need for credible and thorough information with the need to make such information reasonably understandable. The information provided in the document is based on a life-cycle assessment, or LCA, of the product, which documents the environmental impacts of that product from ‘cradle to grave.’ This includes impacts from material production, manufacturing, transportation, use and disposal of the product. An EPD is simply a standardized way of communicating the outcomes of such an assessment.”

The concept of product LCAs has been around for some time and has often been looked at as a way of determining the sustainability of a particular product by establishing the full scope of its environmental footprint. The basic idea is to closely catalog everything that goes into a product throughout its entire life. That means the energy, raw materials, and emissions associated with sourcing its materials, manufacturing it, transporting it, installing it and, ultimately, removing and disposing of it. In the end, an LCA results in a dizzying amount of data that can be difficult to translate or put in any context. EPDs are one way to help provide context and help put LCA data to use.

“The summary of environmental impact data in the form of an EPD can be analogous to a nutrition label on food,” says Scott Kriner, LEED AP, technical director of the Metal Construction Association (MCA), Chicago. “There is plenty of information on the label, but the information itself is meaningless unless one is focused on one area. An LCA determines the water, energy and waste involved in the extraction of raw materials, the manufacturing process, the transportation to a job site and the reclamation of waste at the end of the useful life of a product. With that data in hand, the various environmental impact categories can be determined and an EPD can be developed to summarize the environmental impact information.”

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Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance Completes ISO-compliant Life Cycle Assessments

The Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance (SPFA), the educational and technical resource to the spray polyurethane foam industry, has announced the completion of an ISO-compliant Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) for three generic formulations that include open-cell, closed-cell and roofing foams. The Life Cycle Assessment is published and available as a free download from the SPFA website. Using the results of the LCA, the SPFA has collaborated with UL Environments to develop an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD), which allows spray polyurethane foam contractors to assist sustainable building designers in obtaining proper credit among leading sustainable building programs for spray foam insulation and roofing materials use.

An EPD is a third-party reviewed document that summarizes the results of the more detailed LCA. EPDs are required by design professionals to satisfy requirements of many sustainable building programs, such as the US Green Building Council’s LEED v4 program, the International Green Construction Code and GreenGlobes, to name a few. For example, the current LEED v4 program enables a building design to earn 1/4 point for using products that have an LCA; 1/2 point for products with a generic EPD (such as the one from SPFA), and 1 point for products using a product-specific EPD from a material supplier.

SPF contractors may now provide copies of the generic SPFA EPD to sustainable building designers to assure proper credit for SPF insulation and roofing materials. The EPD can also be used as general supporting information for customers wanting to use ‘green’ products. The SPFA EPD and related Transparency Briefs for each foam class are now available at no charge from the UL Environments website.