If you’re unfamiliar with the term “EPD,” it may be time to get above grade. Simply, an Environmental Product Declaration is an independently verified measure of a product’s environmental attributes, including a life-cycle assessment (LCA) and embodied energy.

“It’s the most rigorous and scientific method for determining a product’s carbon footprint,” says Architecture 2030’s Francesca Desmarais, who oversees the organization’s 2030 Challenge For Products and, along with Architecture 2030 founder Edward Mazria, chairs the Vision 2020 Energy and Carbon focus area. “It’s really the missing ingredient if we’re serious about meeting our goals [for energy and carbon reductions].”

EPDs are defined by ISO 14025, an international standard for environmental labels and declarations, and are in wider use in other parts of the world (namely Europe) and for a variety of product categories, including structural steel and laminate flooring.

The problem is proliferation: Too few manufacturers in too few building sector-related product categories have released EPDs, in large part because too few building sector professionals are asking for them.

But since all federal agencies now must verify and report the environmental impacts of the products they purchase, among other drivers, there’s been a greater surge of interest and action.

“Since 2009, we’ve had hundreds of companies contact us to start on that path,” says Deborah Dunning, founder and president of The Green Standard in Chapel Hill, N.C., which advocates independent LCAs and EPDs to verify claims of environmental practices and performance.

In addition to building sector professionals demanding EPDs, Dunning also sees a bottom-line benefit for manufacturers. “There’s real potential to reduce the costs and environmental impact of manufacturing, materials sourcing, and transportation, among other aspects,” she says. “It’s a great opportunity for them to build trust.”

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