LEED Critics ‘Missing the Point’ of EPDs
Critics who fear that LEED has opened the door to alternative wood certifications have missed the point of pilot credit 43 for certified products, according to Deborah Dunning, founder and president of non-profit product development consultants The Green Standard.
Dunning said the credit’s value is in its recognition of environmental product declarations (EPDs).
“EPDs focus on core environmental impacts,” said Dunning. “It can serve as an uber-label that will encompass and reference a number of single-attribute labels like FSC. [But] EPD is not going to displace any existing labels.”
Dunning spoke to Environmental Leader as the Greenbuild conference and expo, which had seen several EPD-related announcements, drew to a close in Toronto.
Perhaps most controversially, on Thursday Greenpeace, ForestEthics, the National Wildlife Federation, and Rainforest Action Network took out a full-page ad in the Toronto Star, accusing the USGBC of greenwash. The ad alters the USGBC logo to read “U.S. Greenwash Building Council,” and says proposed changes to the LEED program “would reward the use of materials sourced from recklessly clearcut forests and rainforest destruction.”
In June, Jason Grant of the Sierra Club Forest Certification Team said pilot credit 43 will reward products verified by any of the five major forest certification systems – even though last December, U.S. Green Building Council members voted to give points only to wood carrying the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) seal.
Dunning said these types of criticisms miss the mark. She said that single-attribute or “type one” eco-labels often set benchmarks that need to be set, but don’t show the data or calculations behind those benchmarks. EPD, on the other hand, “does require that all relevant performance info be given and be based on life-cycle assessment methodology defined by ISO, so it’s showing you all the data, allowing you to take data on each impact and compare it.”
She said recognition of the pilot credit is growing. Greenbuild appeared to demonstrate heightened interest in EPD declarations, with a number of related company announcements. Interface said it is on track to complete environmental product declarations (EPDs) for 90 percent of its products, measured by production volume, by the end of 2011. The company committed last November to obtain EPDs on all products globally in 2012.
McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry announced that products using its Cradle to Cradle design framework are now eligible for a point through pilot credit 43.
And Scientific Certification Systems (SCS), a global third-party certifier of environmental and sustainability claims, announced that it is certifying Type III EPDs to the new LEED Pilot Credit 43 as well as to the EPD requirements of the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturer’s Association.
SCS also announced it is offering a new generation of EPDs, called “comparative EPDs,” based on advanced life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) protocols and product category rules being standardized under the American National Standards Institute process. These advances augment international life cycle assessment standards (ISO 14044), SCS said.
The Green Standard last week released its own white paper on how EPDs can contribute to LEED certification.
“U.S. manufacturers have begun to understand the value of using an EPD based on ISO standards, because it can be used globally and it will help them access foreign markets and help them be competitive in a much broader sense,” Dunning said.
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