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LCAs, EPDs, and Increased Product Transparency The next step to greener buildings by Julie Rapoport, PhD, PE, LEED AP Images courtesy CalStar Products WHEN SELECTING PRODUCTS FOR A NEW PROJECT, ARCHITECTS, ENGINEERS, SPECIFIERS, AND BUILDING OWNERS CONSIDER MANY CRITERIA, FROM AESTHETICS TO STRENGTH TO COST. GREEN BUILDINGS REQUIRE AN ADDITIONAL LEVEL OF SCRUTINY TO DETERMINE PRODUCTS’ ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS IN SEVERAL CATEGORIES, INCLUDING OPERATIONAL AND EMBODIED ENERGY, CARBON FOOTPRINT, AND EMISSIONS. Historically, evaluation of environmental impact relied on supplier claims, with some stakeholders researching specific aspects of a product’s composition and manufacture. Now, independently conducted lifecycle assessments (LCAs) and third-party-verified environmental product declarations (EPDs) are emerging as important tools for comparing some of the environmental attributes of similar products. 1 With growing calls for increasing product transparency and the role it will likely play in U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC’s) newest version of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) due this summer, these resources are beginning to become mainstream for specification materials. LCAs and EPDs provide standardized methods for verifying manufacturers’ environmental claims and allow for accurate side-by-side product comparisons. As such, LCAs and EPDs are an excellent way to prevent ‘greenwashing’— defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “disinformation disseminated by an organization so as to present an environmentally responsible public image.” ‘Product benchmarking’ is a baseline assessment of environmental impacts across all relevant categories—from extraction of the product’s raw materials to its end-of-life disposition. Benchmarking and quantification of environmental impacts are necessary elements of green building because they 72 the construction specifier | march 2013 CS_Mar2013.indd 72 2/14/13 10:05:43 AM