Construction professionals are asking increasingly for transparent and reliable information on the responsible sourcing of building materials. This development is driven primarily by green building rating schemes, but increasingly builders are looking for information on materials whether they plan to certify a building or not.
In many aspects, sustainability has to be defined at the local level. On the other hand, most sustainability issues are relevant in any location around the world. Based on its work to set performance metrics for the cement industry, the CSI is developing the following work:
The CSI developed Product Category Rules (PCR)** for unreinforced concrete, the common methodology underlying the issuance of an EPD. The CSI PCR is registered under the International EPD System® for use by companies worldwide. An EPD is a voluntary declaration that provides quantitative information about the environmental impact of a product, using life-cycle assessment (LCA) methodology and verified by an independent third party.
The CSI PCR is based on the ISO standard for EPD (ISO 14025:2006) and complies with the European standard for construction products, EN 15804:2012 that sets the core rules for EPDs for construction products. It also takes into account standard developments in other regions, particularly the US.
By using the same set of underlying standard across its operations globally, companies demonstrate enhanced credibility on product information. At the same time, the flexibility of the tool allows local adaptation to applicable laws and industry practice in different regions (e.g. treatment for allocation of slag), thus enhancing the applicability of the tool under different context, without jeopardizing the overall consistency of its methodological basis.
A responsible sourcing scheme provides qualitative information that identifies and promotes responsible practices throughout the concrete supply chain addressing both social and environmental impacts of the business. It is based on a set of agreed principles of sustainability, the precise scope of which is determined by stakeholder engagement. The CSI is currently identifying the main environmental and social criteria that should be included in the scope of such a system at global level.
Together, EPDs and RSS provide a complete look at the material and the company, providing reliable and transparent information to the construction market.
The first comprehensive label on the sourcing of a material was the Forest Stewardship Council’s FSC-label for the timber sector. Since then, more initiatives have started to certify materials on a range of sustainability criteria. In the UK, BRE pioneered the development of a certification system for construction products, BES 6001 Responsible Sourcing of Construction Products. Producers can get third-party verification against the requirements of BES 6001 to substantiate their claims for responsible practices. The US National Ready Mixed Concrete Association (NRMCA) has developed a Sustainable Concrete Plant Certification scheme. It provides a quantitative metric to assess production practices; it is also subject to third-party verification.
For further information on the CSI’s work in this area, or to share with us your experience, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Environmental Product Declaration (EPD): An Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) is a particular type of LCA that has been developed to communicate environmental information from LCA studies in a common format. EPD have been used for construction products since the first environmental assessment schemes were developed in the 1990s, and an ISO standard for EPD (ISO 14025:2006) sets out the standards they should meet.
** Product Category Rules (PCR): EPDs have to meet and comply with specific and strict methodological prerequisites, such as comparisons for different products, and the ability to aggregate these declarations for multiple materials in the supply chain. To achieve this goal, common calculation rules, known as PCRs, are established to ensure that standard procedures are used when creating EPDs for similar products.
PCRs are vital to the concept and practice of EPDs. They establish the assumptions, scope and functional units (e.g. kg or m2), meaning that manufacturers cannot alter them in order to favor their products. EPD can only be compared when the same PCR have been used, ensuring the methodology, data quality and indicators are consistent, and that all the relevant life cycle stages have been included.