ASC Supplement 2013: The label says it all

26 April 2013 12:49  [Source: ICB]

ASC is working to ensure its members understand and are fully up to speed with Environmental Product Declarations that are being backed by ISO and ASTM


 Copyright: Getty

As consumers of adhesives and sealants become more focused on the green agenda, manufacturers have realised that there is a need for an effective and fair way to measure the environmental impact of their products.

ASC is working with standards specialist ASTM International and other groups to ensure members are aware of how Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) are expected to impact the industry, and will be developing a response effort as the endeavour evolves.

Under the International Organization for Standardization's ISO 21930 rules, a framework is in place for creating EPDs for products throughout the construction sector, including adhesives and sealants. EPDs follow strict rules, are administered independently, and the results are verified externally so that customers can have confidence in the claims they make.

The ISO framework ensures EPDs are obtained following a logical sequence of events (see box for details). The information they contain concerns impact measures such as a product's global warming and ozone-depletion potential, and other environmental effects such as the use of non-renewable/renewable energy resources, and how much hazardous/non-hazardous waste is produced. That information is generated from a Lifecycle Assessment (LCA). To perform this rigorously, a set of Product Category Rules (PCR) has to be developed. There also has to be a programme operator to administer and organise the entire process.

ASTM International (formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials) has been the organisation focusing on the sealants sector since 2012. ASTM's logo stands behind the entire process and it is responsible for publishing the EPDs.

According to Steve Duren, senior director of membership at the ASC, LCA will become increasingly important for both manufacturers and customers. "The progressively green architectural design community, manufacturers and raw material suppliers will likely recognise the value of LCA efforts with Type III [detailed and independently verified] EPDs.

"Current and future versions of high-performance building codes like the International Green Construction Code (IGCC), and voluntary programmes like the US Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) programme, are the market drivers for EPD development and have high potential for inclusion into contract documents in the built environment for high performance buildings."

However, he points out that LCA is not the only product dimension that should be evaluated when selecting, specifying or endorsing the use of an adhesive or sealant product for an end-use application.

"With all of the hype directed towards LCA, EPDs and PCRs, downstream users need to remember to focus on key attributes that enable the product to work safely in its end-use application, or in the assembly in which it resides," advises Duren. He says that durability and service life play key roles in the equation, as well as many other key physical properties that may or may not be included in the EPD.

"LCA is important and provides additional metrics to measure the full environmental impact across its life span, from gathering of materials to transportation, and through its use phase and eventually to its end of life and disposal phase."

The EPD process for sealants has accelerated during 2013 when, in January at the ASTM C24 meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, ASTM shared its announcement of recently becoming a programme operator for PCRs and certification of Type III EPDs.

With the programme operator in place, the sealant industry is now moving ahead with planning and an approach for the PCR process. ASTM, in cooperation with ASC, is forming a committee at ASTM to evaluate the approach to PCR development for the sealant industry.

According to Duren: "The effort to pursue a PCR for sealants received endorsement from ASTM C24 committee members and is moving forward, with meetings being held by ASTM with a retained LCA practitioner [Wayne Trusty - see box]." ASC will support those of its members looking actively to support the PCR effort by serving on the ASC Technical Committee, which will serve as a voice to the PCR development process.

ASC will help facilitate the education arm of the PCR development effort by providing to its members webinars, modified short courses, and conference speakers who are subject-matter experts on PCR and EPD development. Information for end-users will eventually be published on

Duren adds: "We want to ensure that industry professionals are a part of the dialogue, as PCRs are developed in order to ensure that the EPDs are based on sound science while meeting the aspirational direction that some of the NGOs [non-governmental organisations] are discussing."

With any new undertaking, especially one as complex as developing EPDs, there will obviously be a burden in terms of any participating organisation's time and money. During 2013, ASC and its members will have to assess the costs and benefits of going through this process.

Duren says: "The primary challenge in positioning LCA in the marketplace is to know that end users and design engineers will have a process to better understand more about the products they are using within the building and construction marketplace. Our opportunity as an industry is to work together to ensure science-based information is being shared in a reasonable manner to support this important supply chain issue without infringing on confidential business information."

By Wayne Trusty, president, Wayne B. Trusty and Associates

What is an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD)? You can draw a comparison with a food label. You're setting out the environmental effects of a product or service. It contains various impact measures and other environmental information such as the use of non-renewable resources, water use and waste generation.

That information comes from a Lifecycle Assessment (LCA). To do this properly you need some rules and these are called Product Category Rules (PCR).

EPDs follow the International Organization for Standardization's ISO standards and there are three types of labels: Type I is a verified label that lists a certain attribute or limited number of attributes such as the amount of recycled content. Type II is a self-declaration, unverified. Type III - such as the EPD - is more detailed and verified.

What is a programme operator? Their logo stands behind the EPD and they publish it. Since 2012 ASTM Inter-national is the organisation that has been dealing with the sealants sector.

Under ISO any organisation can set themselves up as a programme operator. They are required to publish their programme instructions. There should be consultation with stakeholders in developing these instructions.

Under ISO there are two kinds of EPDs - business to business (B2B) or business to consumer (B2C). Consumers are defined as members of the public purchasing a product for personal use.

It is very rare for EPDs to be developed at the B2C level because they have to cover the entire lifecycle from extraction of resources to the ultimate disposal of the product, including its use cycle.

B2B is "from cradle to gate" which covers from resource extraction to the plant gate, ready for shipment. ISO rules say you should not compare one B2B with another but no one is policing that aspect. The reason for the rule is that one product with a low impact might have to be replaced every 10 years, compared to 20 years for the one with a higher environmental impact.

How are Product Category Rules generated? After a programme operator such as ASTM publishes its programme instructions, it can proceed to develop PCRs for relevant products like sealants. The rules specify which sealants they are dealing with including related standards, and what has to be taken into account in the Lifecycle Assessment and reported.

When developing PCRs there is a responsibility to involve stakeholders and to respond to them. But it is not a full consensus system - no vote is required. Stakeholders tend to be people from within that industry. Sometimes a programme operator wants to ask for environmental group input. For the sealants sector stakeholders are producers or producer representatives. They may decide to reach out to a broader population.

What happens next? After PCRs are completed the LCA has to be done and the results embedded in an EPD. The EPD has to be independently verified and published. It would be perfectly acceptable for ASTM International to have someone internal to verify or they can employ a third party independent verifier.

Anyone who reads an EPD can learn about a product's global warming and ozone-depletion potential, use of non-renewable/renewable energy resources, and how much hazardous/non-hazardous waste it produces, among other effects and considerations.

The whole process is voluntary and producers could choose to use them for certain products from their range.

What are the benefits to my business of carrying out EPDs? EPDs could be used for products being used by "green building" architects who care about environmental burden. It's also good for transparency: you're using a fully-verified approach using an independent agency. It is very important to be able to say: "Look we're telling you, we're not hiding things."

There are at least 500 labels out there, most of them unverified and self-declared. There has been a concerted effort in the EU, Japan and North America to tighten this up, and that's where EPDs have come in.

I think federal-level action is likely. It will be a very easy policy step to say: "You want to be on our bid list? You'll need an EPD."

Wayne Trusty is an independent advisor, assisting ASTM and ASC in developing their EPD programme.

By: Will Beacham
+44 20 8652 3214

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