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The phase out of the Green Guide to Specification, use of EPD in BREEAM, EN 15804 EPD, and online LCA tools.

The Materials section in ‎BREEAM is designed to raise awareness of and encourage sustainable procurement and use of construction products.  For many years BREEAM has used the outputs of the BRE Environmental Profiles scheme (manufacturer-specific certificates) and The Green Guide to Specification A+ to E Ratings to calculate the credits within the materials section.  The output from the Environmental Profiles scheme is calculated to the BRE 2008 Methodology for LCA (Life Cycle Assessment).  The numerical value from this LCA, the Ecopoint, is then used to compare against similar elements within a category; and this relationship produces the A+ to E result, based on where this Ecopoint value sits within an existing range of values – the Generic Ratings at www.thegreenguide.org.uk.

‎BREEAM and other environmental assessment schemes must evolve to ensure they are based on robust data and comply with updated standards.  The Code for Sustainable Homes is winding down, and the Home Quality Mark will begin to fill this void.  BREEAM Schemes development for non-domestic building types is ongoing.  The newer Standards, ‎EN 15978 for buildings and EN 15804 for products, are now widely used across Europe and set the basis for all EPD (Environmental Product Declaration) schemes.  BRE have created an EN 15804 EPD Verification Scheme and written an updated Product Category Rules – PCR (Methodology document) to align with these Standards.  Consequently, the older results and rating systems such as the Green Guide will have less relevance and value to the marketplace.  Even after the result of the EU Referendum (See a previous post), European Standard EPD will still be the required documents for environmental labelling of construction products.

When the next version of the BREEAM UK New Construction scheme is launched in early 2018, it is intended that the scheme will no longer be focused on the recognition of Green Guide Ratings in its assessment criteria but will be based on a whole building evaluation of life cycle embodied impacts.  The current set of Generic Green Guide Ratings will remain valid and published, for people to reference as they need.  BREEAM are also planning to increase the recognition of international schemes for EPD.

The EN 15804 Standard makes the process of LCA more transparent, the results must be reported using the same formats and categories, and there is an open process for those submitting data for analysis. By streamlining the LCA process through online data submission, this gives greater control and security of data (e.g. the new BRE LINA tool).  We begin to break down that “mystical black box” of LCA methodology!  The ultimate goals of EN 15804 is to have one EPD for all, harmonisation for multiple end uses, robust methodologies, inventory data, and greater experience of LCA in the construction industry. These factors are important for credibility and trust in the scheme operators and the output EPD.

This harmonisation of methodologies and presentation of results provides greater opportunities for the use of the output data contained within the EPD.  For example, inclusion of manufacturer or product-specific EPD in digital tools for whole building LCA (such as IMPACT® compliant tools and BIM software).

For those companies who are currently relying on Green Guide Ratings and Environmental Profile Certification of their products to keep their position in the marketplace in terms of sustainability criteria, it would be advisable to consider updating all EPD to EN 15804 before 2018.  For more information, or to make any enquiries please contact EnvProfiles15804@bre.co.uk.

Julia Barnard
About the Author
LCA Practitioner, Sustainability Consultant, Carbon Footprinting, EPD, Environmental Assessment, Reporting. Construction Industry. Green Building.

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