Western Red Cedar Lumber Assn. embraces standardized measurement systems that identify real ecological impacts of building materials, responding to demand for greater transparency from manufacturers
October 6, 2011
– An evolving building industry focus on sustainability is creating a call for environmental transparency as a means of validating the steady stream of unfettered green claims made by materials manufacturers and eliminating confusion created by assumed environmental benefit.
Questions about the environmental costs of building materials have users demanding performance transparency. Terms like Environmental Product Declarations (EPD), life cycle analysis (LCA), green building strategies, biophilic design (materials strategies to enliven buildings) and biomimetic design (nature-inspired) are becoming common vernacular.
Environmental transparency is a popular topic among industry leaders gathered this week at Greenbuild in Toronto. The discussion focuses on establishing an integrated information source to minimize confusion about technical data and remove doubt about materials sustainability. EPDs, a universal system based on third-party comparison of data across pre-established categories, are one such possibility.
“A lot of data points to interest in Environmental Product Declarations as an early trend,” said Dr. Jim Bowyer of Dovetail Partners and a leading expert on EPDs. “They establish a universal basis for independent comparison of environmental product attributes.”
Several drivers are influencing the conversation. The U.S. Green Building Council has developed a pilot credit program that includes a transparency incentive. The U.S. Forest Service recently advocated for green building standards with adequate provisions to recognize the benefits of life cycle environmental analysis to guide materials selection, and new code requirements have required third-party environmental scrutiny of materials.
“EPDs are at the core of our approach to Materials and Resources in the next version of LEED and they are essential to move to the next level of environmental decision making about materials and products,” said Scot Horst, Senior Vice President of LEED, U.S. Green Building Council.
Many European nations are also closing in on requiring EPDs as a holistic approach that creates a reliable resource for both manufacturers and purchasers. That movement is also gaining support in the U.S. among architects and influencer groups.
“Architecture 2030 has issued the 2030 Challenge for Products which challenges architects, designers, and specifiers to ask product manufactures for LCAs and EPDs in order to choose low-carbon products for their building projects,” said Ed Mazria, founder of the carbon emissions reduction initiative.
Western Red Cedar Lumber Association, an environmental transparency leader, is embracing standardized measurement systems that clarify confusion and identify the real ecological impacts of building materials. The association has produced peer-reviewed EPDs for decking and siding by its members, accounting for two of the small handful of EPDs completed in North America.
WRCLA’s EPDs are based on a third-party life cycle analysis that evaluated cedar against competitor decking and siding materials, allowing for full environmental disclosure of environmental claims as part of the materials selection process.
“Determining the true cost of materials requires evaluating the overall costs of a product lifecycle,” said Jack Draper, WRCLA’s executive director. “Our EPDs provide buyers of Western Red Cedar from member companies with accurate, verifiable environmental performance information. It's a logical, responsible thing to do and begs the question of other product suppliers who do not offer EPDs, what do they have to hide?”
About Western Red Cedar Lumber Association:
Western Red Cedar Lumber Association is a Vancouver, B.C.-based non-profit association known as "the voice of the cedar industry.” Founded in 1954, the association operates architect advisory and technical service programs throughout the U.S. and Canada. It seeks to inspire, inform and instruct architects and consumers about Western Red Cedar, its uses and benefits. For more information please visit, www.wrcla.org.
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