Building products’ environmental impact now on show

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New Zealanders will be able to find out more about the environmental impact of various building products following the launch of a new programme that provides Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs).

The Australasian Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) Programme has been set up so that construction product manufacturers in New Zealand and Australia can develop EPDs, providing credible, science-based information about the environmental performance of their products.

Its launch in New Zealand has been supported by the BRANZ Building Research Levy.

BRANZ building sustainability manager Lynda Amitrano says the construction sector has led the development of EPDs internationally.

“We are very pleased EPDs have been introduced to Australasia. EPDs supply information about the environmental impact of a product. This international, scientific, unbiased analysis will help businesses, designers and consumers fully understand the environmental impact of their products,” Ms Amitrano says.

“The process of developing an EPD can help companies identify opportunities for cost savings and improved environmental performance, whilst publication of an EPD provides transparency and a commitment to continuous improvement to their customers.

“EPDs present facts about a product’s environmental performance based on scientific principles and independent verification.”

In 2011, BRANZ research identified EPDs as a useful tool to help manufacturers communicate with their customers about the environmental aspects of their products, Ms Amitrano says.

The Building Research Levy has co-funded the development of the Australasian EPD Programme which is accepted in Australia and New Zealand.

The programme is a not-for-profit strategic joint venture between the Life Cycle Association of New Zealand and the Australian Life Cycle Assessment Society.

Construction products with EPDs are now gaining credits in green building rating systems around the world, including LEED, BREEAM and, most recently, Green Star in Australia.

Allied Concrete is the first New Zealand company to publish an EPD. National technical manager Chris Munn says the EPD format was a transparent and smart way to present the environmental profile of the company’s products.

“As a result of developing our EPD, we can encourage our customers to select different concretes based on environmental considerations as well as structural performance. We also have a much better understanding of how our business operates,” Mr Munn says.

“We can now drive efficiency improvements across the business and assess the environmental impact of business decisions. Publishing an EPD has been a great initiative for us. Our expectation is that the New Zealand Green Building Council will recognise EPDs here in the near future.”

The Australasian EPD Programme is aligned with the International EPD System, one of the world’s longest established and largest EPD programme operators.

Australasian EPD Programme director Bryan King says this alignment provides greater global recognition and compatibility, as well as being a cost-effective way for Australasian EPD producers to leverage existing information and experience.