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Concrete Footprints

As director of the Carbon Leadership Forum I have been working over the last year with a diverse group of industry stakeholders (concrete suppliers, structural engineers, architects, industrial ecologists) to develop a standards to track and report the environmental footprint of concrete in a standardized manner (otherwise known as an ‘Environmental Product Declaration’ or EPD.   Akin to a nutrition label for food, an EPD reports environmental impacts such as Carbon Footprint (expressed as global warming potential or GWP in kg of carbon dioxide equivalents or C02e) as well as other impacts such as smog formation potential or ozone depletion potential. Rules specific to the building industry (Product Category Rules/PCRs) are required to refine global EPD and LCA standards to address unique manufacturing, use and end-of-life conditions. In order to compare the environmental footprint of a material or product, one must be sure that consistent assumptions are made when the footprint is evaluated­.  Without ‘category’ specific PCR’s it is not possible to create comparable EPDs; PCRs are in effect environmental accounting standards. If developed appropriately, EPDs can be appropriately used to compare products.

On February 14th we were pleased to issue a draft version of a US specific Concrete PCR for public comment.  The standard is expected to help people in the building industry meet the 2030 Challenge for Products. Launched a year ago today as a ‘Valentine to the planet’, the challenge calls for dramatically reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions related to manufacture and transportation of construction materials.  See link to 2030 Challenge for Products update.  Building industry specific PCRs, like the concrete standard released today, as well as industry benchmarks are key to advancing the goals of the 2030 Challenge for Products.

Kate Simonen is an architect and structural engineer and Assistant Professor of Architecture at the University of Washington and director of the Carbon Leadership Forum, www.carbonleadershipforum.org and a member of the SEI Sustainability Committee, www.seisustainability.org.




BuildingGreen (2011). 2030 Challenge for Products Information Hub. BuildingGreen Inc. Retrieved November 11, 2011 from, http://www2.buildinggreen.com/topic/2030-challenge

CLF (2011). Concrete PCR Development.  Retrieved November 11, 2011 from, http://www.carbonleadershipforum.org/PCR_Concrete_Info

European Committee for Standardization, (CEN). (2011). FprEN 15804:2011 Sustainability of construction works – Environmental product declarations – Core rules for the product category of construction product. European Committee for Standardization, Brussels.

FP Innovations (2011). Product Category Rules for preparing an Environmental Product Declaration for Product Category North American Structural and Architectural Wood Products. Retrieved November 11, 20111 from, http://www.forintek.ca/public/Eng/E5-Pub_Software/5a.fact_sheets.html

ISO (2006). ISO 14025 Environmental labels and declarations — Type III environmental declarations — Principles and procedures. International Organization for Standardization, Geneva, Switzerland.

Maclise, L. Nudel, A. (2011). Establishing Third-Party Certification for Sustainable Building Materials. Structural Engineers Association of California 2011 Conference Proceedings.  Retrieved November 11, 2011 from, http://www.seaonc.org/pdfs/2011-SEAOC-Convention-SEAONC-SDC-Submission.pdf.

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