The sustainability case for timber in building will now be easier to quantify, with the Australian timber industry this week registering the first industry-wide Environmental Product Declaration as part of the new Australasian EPD Programme.

The EPD, which covers softwood sawn timber products of Australian origin, provides data including lifecycle footprint, emissions such as formaldehyde, carbon impact and what to look for in terms of chain of custody certification. The data is benchmarked against European standards.

It is the first of five industry-wide EPDs for timber products developed by the Timber Development Association and sustainability consultancy thinkstep [formerly PE International] for the Forest and Wood Products Association.

Within the next few weeks EPDs are also going to be registered for hardwood, particleboard, medium density fibreboard and plywood.

Stephen Mitchell

TDA researcher and sustainability programme manager Stephen Mitchell said the EPDs were a source of robust data that had been rigorously verified not only by thinkstep in Australia, New Zealand and Germany, but also by independent third party verifier Catalyst. And there was a further step of Catalyst’s own verification being checked by two further verifiers.

Mr Mitchell said the data could be used by specifiers and others to make precise comparisons between timber and other products in terms of the environmental impact of materials, including carbon footprint, volatile organic compound emissions and lifecycle.

It also gives guidance on how to communicate and report this information for the purposes of Green Star, LEED, BREEAM or other environmental assessment tools.

The TDA said the EPDs would benefit timber product buyers as it would make it easier to get credits for using Australian softwood timber in building and fitout projects seeking a Green Star rating.

The EPD confirms sawn Australian softwood as a “better than carbon neutral” building material considering cradle-to-gate and a typical landfill scenario.

“This project demonstrates the ongoing commitment of the Australian timber industry to sustainability”, acting chief executive of FWPA Chris Lafferty said.

“I am pleased to see benefits flow to our members and levy payers from these credible environmental profiles.”

The EPD programme is a strategic joint venture of the Life Cycle Association of New Zealand and the Australian Life Cycle Assessment Society.

“We are excited to be involved with these EPDs as they disclose technical environmental information based on robust international standards rather than greenwash,” managing director of thinkstep in Australia Barbara Nebel said.

The EPD is available at the WoodSolutions website and at the Australasian EPD programme website.

To date, there have been three Australasian EPDs registered since the programme launched in 2014. The first was an EPD for kitset lighting by New Zealand designer and manufacturer David Trubridge, which was registered in May this year. Last week [June 19] Bluescope registered an EPD for its hot rolled coil steel product.

In a media statement launching the David Trubrdge EPD, Ms Nebel said, “EPDs are often perceived as an expensive tool only for larger manufacturers. thinkstep’s efficient tools and processes now enable SMEs like David Trubridge to succeed in the rapidly growing green building market worldwide.”

thinkstep also noted in the release that according to BCI Australia’s Green Building Market Report 2014, over 50 per cent of Australian and New Zealand architects attribute sales growth to their involvement in green building.

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