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In June, we shared an Asphalt Magazine introduction to Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs).  They have been called a nutrition label for construction materials by some and simplistically, the statements seek to capture cradle to grave assessments of environmental impact as a comparison tool for design and purchasing decisions.  The International Organization for Standardization (ISO 14025) says an EPD “quantifies environmental information on the life cycle of a product to enable comparisons between products fulfilling the same function.”  Simply put, they are an Every Day Counts initiative and are going to be part of our professional lives.

But what exactly are they?  What do they look like?

The Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Innovator magazine offers some insight into what these are, how they may be used, and what they may look like.  As part of the United States’ pledge to lower greenhouse gas emissions, FHWA is looking to reduce, “embodied carbon associated with manufacturing, transporting, and producing construction materials such as aggregate, asphalt, cement, asphalt mixtures, concrete mixtures, and steel reinforcement.”  They provide a couple examples to show what a typical EPD will include.  The EPD is a “third-party verified report used to document embodied carbon and communicate the GHG emissions of construction materials in a transparent and standardized manner.”

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The Inflation Reduction Act authorized $2 billion for a Low-Carbon Transportation Materials program, and FHWA can use EPDs to reimburse or incentivize eligible recipients to use construction materials with substantially lower levels of embodied GHG emissions. Reportedly, California, Colorado, Minnesota, and Oregon are at the forefront of buy clean policies that require EPDs in the procurement of construction materials.

Other EPD examples can be found for asphalt production here in Delaware at the Emerald Eco-Label website.  These examples show much greater detail than the summary tables in the Innovator article and give greater insight into the depth of results reported.  They have tons of examples from other states as well.

We are going to learn a great deal more about EPDs in months to come, but they are surely going to be part of our design and contracting toolkit, so take some time to browse these and others to start your familiarization.

Link to PDF