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.

Green-building Consortium Addresses Product Transparency, LCAs, EPDs and Effective PCRs

A first-of-its-kind consortium in the green-building industry convened 15 manufacturers and industry representatives from around the world to hear their needs for enhancing product transparency and stewardship through effective product category rules (PCRs), life cycle assessment reports (LCAs), environmental product declarations (EPDs), and next-generation product transparency solutions, including Sustainable Minds Transparency Reports.

The manufacturer’s roundtable was held in conjunction with an ASTM International conference attended by top technical experts in sustainability, building performance and several other industries.

“What we heard today was that as the demand for environmental stewardship across the green building industry increases, the need for consistent, standardized and scalable solutions grows in tandem,” says Tim Brooke, vice president, ASTM International. “That’s exactly what our four organizations are aiming to address as we communicate and deliver the value of voluntary product stewardship.”

In addition to ASTM, the Program Operator Consortium includes NSF International, ICC Evaluation Service and Sustainable Minds. The group launched in 2015 to serve as an expert resource and advocate for creating PCRs, for reviewing LCAs, and for verifying and publishing environmental declarations.

During the roundtable, the consortium announced that its four members have aligned how they develop PCRs and declarations, giving greater flexibility and visibility for manufacturers and decision-makers who are tasked with finding, comparing, and selecting products for projects.

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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