Program Operator Consortium Welcomes Two New Affiliate Members

The green building industry’s consortium of program operators has announced the addition of two new affiliate members: NRMCA (National Ready Mixed Concrete Association), a concrete advocate organization, and Sustainable Solutions Corp., an environmental consulting firm.
 
The Program Operator Consortium launched last year to provide standardized, and more useful environmental-product transparency solutions and to reduce complexity in the marketplace. The consortium serves as a resource and advocate for creating product category rules (PCRs), reviewing life cycle assessment reports (LCA), and verifying and publishing environmental product declarations (EPDs).
 
“As one of the leading EPD operators in the construction materials industry, we must consider opportunities to deliver value to our membership,” states James Bogdan, senior director of sustainability initiatives with NRMCA. “Joining the POC allows our industry access to a network of practitioners and experts, and insight to evolving environmental disclosure reporting.”
 
“Sustainable Solutions Corp. is excited to join the Program Operator Consortium as an affiliate member because of our commitment to product transparency and to help ensure the production of transparency documents,” says Tad Radzinski, president of Sustainable Solutions Corp. “We bring to the consortium our years of experience completing LCAs and EPDs, a team of certified LCA practitioners, and our objective of using LCA data to drive sustainability, product innovation and continuous improvement.”
 
These two affiliate members join thinkstep, a software, data and environmental consulting services company, which was the consortium’s first affiliate member. Regular members of the Consortium include: ASTM International, CSA Group, ICC-Evaluation Service, NSF Sustainability, SCS Global Services, and Sustainable Minds.
 
The Affiliate Member Program was created for industry associations, government agencies, standards developers, consultants, and data providers to have access to expertise from a like-minded community. The free program also provides education, discounted rates, and a seat at the table to contribute to creating uniformity across environmental reporting formats, data requirements, and communication.
 
Each consortium member is represented in the group’s Technical Advisory Board. These LCA experts oversee the implementation of the consortium’s North American two-part PCR framework, which consortium members have aligned to use and maintain over the past year. Today, PCRs created by any member will produce standardized environmental declarations, helping both manufacturers as well as decision-makers who specify green building materials and products. The first catalog of North American PCRs and an aggregated catalog of EPDs from members’ programs are available at here.
 
The consortium holds both in-person meetings and webinars with global manufacturers, LCA providers, and industry trade associations. Those interested in joining or learning more about the consortium are encouraged to contact info@programoperators.org.

Certain Metal Roof Systems Have a Service Life of at Least 60 Years

The Athena Sustainable Materials Institute (ASMI) has accepted a recent report published by the Metal Construction Association (MCA) that verifies certain metal roof systems can have a service life of at least 60 years. The service life report served as the technical substantiation required for Athena to change the useful service life of this type of roofing product to 60 years, which can be longer than the buildings they cover.

“We are honored that our service life study for metal roofing met Athena’s high standards and will now be used in whole building life cycle assessments for buildings throughout the country,” says Scott Kriner, MCA’s technical director

Athena’s software allows for whole building LCA assessment, taking into account all materials, systems, assemblies and components used in a given type of building. The Metal Roof Service Life report, which was sponsored by MCA and the ZAC Association, studied the service life of unpainted 55 percent Al-Zn low-slope standing-seam metal roofing in a wide range of different environments across the U.S.

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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Redefining Sustainability

My company is currently in the process of restoring more than 1,600 window sashes for a large historic project in Buffalo, N.Y. As I recently walked through our plant and saw the thousands of windows in various stages of repair, I reflected upon how we were repairing windows that are more than 135-years old. This made me think about the current state of the construction industry and what our expectations are for the life of a building structure and the components that make up that structure. During the past 10 years, there has been a great deal of talk about green buildings and sustainability, but how many of these “green” commercial or residential buildings are designed or constructed to last for centuries? When will the life cycle of the structure and the construction materials themselves become factors in the sustainability criteria? It seems to me that more effort is placed on whether a material is recyclable than whether it can perform over the long haul. It is time that the design community, manufacturers and construction processes begin to consider the life of the building if we are truly going to incorporate sustainability in our industry.

Back in 1993, the U.S. Green Building Council developed the LEED green building rating system as a way to guide building owners to be environmentally accountable and to use resources responsibly. The LEED system has had a profound effect upon the design community by motivating advancements in energy efficiency, use of recyclable materials, incorporation of natural daylight and reuse of water. The LEED program made the word “sustainability” a household term over the past ten years, but has it truly redefined sustainable design? I would submit that LEED has been most successful in motivating changes in how structures consume natural resources and how the structure can be recycled at the end of its useful life. Very little emphasis has been put on designing a structure and using component materials that will last for many generations.

I like the definition of sustainability from author and professor Geir B. Asheim. “Sustainability is defined as a requirement of our generation to manage the resource base such that the average quality of life that we ensure ourselves can potentially be shared by all future generations.” I would submit that true sustainability in the construction industry implies that we construct edifices that can be used for many generations. It does not mean that we build a structure that has to have its major components replaced every 20 years.

Take windows for example. The major window manufacturers have developed designs that require the replacement of the entire window once the insulated glass seal has failed. Although the window is made of materials that can be recycled, it isn’t designed for multi-generational, long-term use. Changes in the glazing details that would facilitate glass replacement could dramatically extend the lifespan of these products. Other manufacturers use inexpensive materials such as vinyl for major structural members that have spurious life expectancy. Ask any window manufacturer for the life expectancy of their products and they will refer to their 10 year product and 20 year glass warranties. Is it unreasonable to expect a window to last for more than 20 years? I don’t think so.

Other products such as appliances, finishes, roofing, HVAC, lighting, siding, etc. also have very limited life expectancies. Some promote lifetime warranties that are so burdened with legalese they are rendered useless. By limiting the warranty to the original purchaser, prorating the warranty every year, and limiting exposure, the warranty actually protects the manufacturer more than the purchaser. American manufacturers have become more concerned with cutting costs than building better products. If manufacturers made changes in designs and the base materials used in fabrication, they could dramatically improve the expected years of service. Although many of the changes in materials will increase prices, there is a market for more durable products.

It’s time that the construction industry begins to take the life cycle of our new structures more seriously. We need to make advances in the quality of our construction designs and materials for the industry to truly become driven by sustainability. We should view our work as a testament for future generations rather than a disposable structure that will eventually be long forgotten.

This blog post first appeared on Re-View’s Window Review Blog.

CertainTeed Accepts Entries for Living Spaces Home Makeover Contest

Transform your family home from drab to dazzling by entering to win an expansive remodel from CertainTeed Corp., a North American brand of building products. Now accepting video entries, the annual Living Spaces Home Makeover Contest encourages homeowners to creatively showcase their wish lists for a dream house exterior redesign.

This summer, one lucky winner will receive an incredible $100,000 grand prize, which includes $75,000 worth of building products, including professional installation and a $25,000 tax gross-up payment. In prior years, winners received $75,000 worth of building products and installation; however, this year CertainTeed has pulled out all the stops by not only increasing the value to assist with ancillary costs, but also awarding energy-efficient attic insulation for complete home comfort behind the scenes.

To enter the contest, homeowners simply need to grab their cell phone or video camera and show off their family’s acting talents and unique personalities by uploading their most entertaining 30- to 90-second video to the CertainTeed Living Spaces Facebook page. Videos should be creative and fun, such as using an original story idea or theme to explain why their home needs a makeover using CertainTeed’s extensive selection of polymer, insulated and vinyl siding, designer roofing, housewrap, insulation, decking, railing, fence and trim.

CertainTeed will be accepting entries through 11 p.m. EST on May 31 and will announce the winner on or about June 15.

Video entries will appear on the CertainTeed Living Spaces Facebook contest page where visitors can vote for their favorite until 11 p.m. EST on June 7. The top 10 videos that have received the greatest number of “like” votes will be finalists for best overall pick by CertainTeed judges. The winning family will also star in a series of Facebook and YouTube video webisodes featuring their home’s remarkable transformation, with the freedom to choose the latest mix and match of products, colors, styles and textures for exceptional curb appeal; combined with energy-saving insulation. Nine runners-up will each receive $500 outdoor living prize packages. For more information and complete contest rules and details, visit the CertainTeed Living Spaces Facebook page.

CertainTeed offers unsurpassed Freedom of Choice through its portfolio of roofing, long-lasting polymer, insulated and vinyl siding as well as fence, railing, decking, exterior trim and the energy-saving benefits of new attic insulation. CertainTeed offers the advantage of using exterior products from a single source that are designed to mix-and-match with each other and feature authentic textures, versatile styles and rich color combinations for a beautifully coordinated look. As the result of a strong commitment to environmental responsibility, CertainTeed is the first manufacturer to issue and publish third-party validated life cycle assessments (LCA) for its vinyl and trim product lines. For more information, visit CertainTeed’s Freedom of Choice Web page.

PIMA Announces Environmental Product Declarations for Polyiso Roof and Wall Insulations

Consistent with its delivery of energy-efficient and sustainable building insulation solutions, the Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association (PIMA) announced the receipt of third party-verified ISO-compliant Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) for polyisocyanurate (polyiso) roof and wall insulations as manufactured by PIMA members across North America. An EPD is an internationally recognized and standardized tool that reports the environmental impacts of products.

These EPDs document that the energy-savings potential of polyiso roof and wall insulation during a typical 60-year building life span is equal to up to 47 times the initial energy required to produce, transport, install, maintain, and eventually remove and dispose of the insulation. In addition to a high return on embodied energy, the EPDs document that polyiso roof and wall insulation offer high unit R-value per inch, zero ozone depletion potential, recycled content, opportunity for reuse and outstanding fire performance.

Beyond providing consistent and comparable environmental impact data, the PIMA polyiso EPDs also present information about additional environmental and energy characteristics, including the high net return on energy provided by polyiso roof and wall insulation.

Specifically, the polyiso EPDs describe the environmental impacts of the combined weighted average production for PIMA member manufacturing locations located across the United States and Canada, based on an established set of product category rules applicable to all types of building thermal insulation. The environmental impacts reported in the PIMA polyiso EPDs are derived from independently verified cradle-to-grave life cycle assessment (LCA) process, including all critical elements related to the resourcing, production, transport, installation, maintenance, and eventual removal and replacement of polyiso roof and wall insulation.

Using the LCA process, the PIMA polyiso roof and wall insulation products are evaluated on a number of impact categories including global warming potential, ozone depletion potential, eutrophication potential, acidification potential, and smog creation potential, as well as other environmental indicators including primary energy demand, resource depletion, waste to disposal, waste to energy, and water use.

PIMA polyiso roof and wall insulation EPDs also meet the requirements of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) LEED v4 Green Building Rating System under Credit MRC-2 Building Product Disclosure and Optimization: Environmental Product Declarations as industry-wide or generic declarations that may be valued as one-half of an eligible product for the purposes of credit calculation.

“These third party-verified EPDs for polyiso roof and wall insulation products produced by PIMA manufacturers reflect our industry’s commitment to sustainability and transparency in reporting environmental performance,” says Jared Blum, president of PIMA. “These EPDs will be a valuable tool to provide environmental information to all building and design professionals, and they should be especially helpful in meeting emerging criteria for green building design.”

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.