The growing interest in reducing the embodied carbon footprint of infrastructure and new building projects is encouraging the production of data and tools to facilitate the process. Among the most widely used and credible sources of carbon footprint data are Environmental Products Declarations (EPDs).

EPDs are defined by International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO 14025 as Type III declarations that “quantify environmental information on the life cycle of a product to enable comparisons between products fulfilling the same function”.

Framework for creating an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) (source: https://epd-australasia.com/creating-epds/)

They are usually prepared or commissioned by the building product manufacturer or supplier, and they must be verified by an independent expert as compliant with ISO 14025 and the best practice European Standard EN1 15804. An EPD must be reviewed annually and is valid for 5 years, after which time it must be reverified.

EPDs are informed by a comprehensive Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) which contains proprietary or confidential information about systems or processes. While an LCA may contain hundreds of pages, an EPD is typically very brief and summarises the results and key parameters – such as the declared unit, carbon footprint data as well as a comprehensive range of data for other environmental impacts.

The global scope of EPDs is huge, with tens of thousands of EPDs now in circulation around the world, ranging from food products and electrical goods to building materials and products.

The usefulness of EPDs in the built environment is illustrated by the fact that the six timber products EPDs on the WoodSolutions website have each been downloaded thousands of times and most are now in their second 5-year cycle.

Eric Tweedale Stadium, winner of 2021 Australian Timber Design Awards.
Photo: Brett Boardman
Architect, Lead Consultant: dwp Australia
Structural Engineer: Northrop Consulting Engineers
Builder: Belmadar
Timber Supplier and Fabricator: Rubner Holzbau

WoodSolutions EPD titles include Australian manufactured Softwood Timber, Hardwood Timber, Particleboard, Medium Density Fibreboard (MDF), Plywood, Glue Laminated Timber (Glulam), and soon to be released, White Cypress.

WoodSolutions EPDs includes data on the embodied carbon footprint of Australian wood products, with and without sequestered carbon, as well as data on embodied energy, water and renewable resources, and emissions to air, water and soil.

WoodSolutions EPDs are all available for free download from the WoodSolutions website.

“The level of interest from developers, designers and builders in comprehensive and independently verified environmental information about the materials they use is extremely encouraging,” said Stephen Mitchell, Chair of EPD Australasia, “EPDs are becoming an increasingly common requirement for materials to be used in bids for work in major project developments.”

Users of EPDs include people involved in the building design and construction industry wishing to gain Green Star Points from the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) or recognition from the Infrastructure Sustainability Council. EPDs are also an important resource for manufacturers who can use them to identify opportunities to reduce the environmental impact of their products and processes.

“Providing EPDs is an important part of our role in supporting the use of wood and wood products,” said Eileen Newbury, Head of WoodSolutions Program, “wood products have a great environmental story and EPDs are helping us both tell and support that story with independently verified data.”