What the revised EN 15804 EPD standard means for you

In the European construction sector, the EN 15804 standard defines how companies should go about creating Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs). On 21 June 2019, a substantial revision of this standard has been accepted after a formal vote by the European Committee for Standardization (CEN). Under the revised EN 15804 standard, EPDs are more aligned with the European Commission’s Product Environmental Footprint (PEF). In this article, we will take you through what this revision means for you.

Five main changes in the revised EN 15804

The European Commission was intensively involved in the revision and the alignment with the PEF. Because PRé was involved in the revision through the NEN mirror committee, which represents the Netherlands in the revision of standards, we can share what the most significant changes are for construction companies.

1. Covering all life-cycle stages

All construction products and materials now need to declare modules A1-A3, C1-C4 and D. Only under very specific conditions it still possible to do a cradle-to-gate (A1-A3) EPD assessment. In all other cases, the end of life (EOL) and more specifically the benefits to end-of-life recycling need to be included. Since many EPDs do not currently take all modules into account, the revision will mean additional work for many people.

2. Accounting for the benefits of end-of-life recycling

Calculating the benefits of end-of-life recycling (module D) become more complete, but also more complex. The approach for end-of-life calculations in the revised EN 15804 standard is based on the PEF EOL formula. We are working on creating some examples on how to do the EOL calculation in SimaPro.

3. Reporting on biogenic carbon

The mass of biogenic carbon in the product and packaging now needs to be declared. This may require collecting additional data. Alternatively, the PEF Category Rules (PEFCR) may specify the biogenic carbon content of their product category. This is the case for some of the PEFCRs. In the coming years, the product category rules (PCR) will be updated and the approach taken by the different sectors will become clear. 

4. Reporting a broader set of environmental indicators

A broader set of environmental indicators will need to be reported. In line with the PEF’s International Reference Life Cycle Data (ILCD) method, reports need to include 13 core environmental indicators and 6 additional environmental indicators. We will make this method available in SimaPro, so you can report on all the required indicators.

5. All data needs to be converted to ILCD format

All background data needs to be converted to the ILCD format. Although this might seem a small change, it will have a significant impact on national building databases and larger inventory databases such as ecoinvent. Although conversion to ILCD has become simpler, the ILCD format is very complex and conversion is still not easy. We are joining forces with ecoinvent to work on these conversions.

Opening the door for product comparisons

EPD were never intended for product comparison. However, one of the goals of the PEF is allowing product comparability.  CEN has received the mandate from the European Commission to develop a new standard to allow product benchmarking, making use of EPDs drawn up in accordance with the revised EN 15804. This new standard is currently being developed and will contain the horizontal rules for business-to-consumer construction EPD benchmark systems. In the future, this will help consumers select construction products on the basis of their environmental performance.

What does this mean for your current EPDs and PCRs?

Most NEN members states have their own national schemes for the construction sector, usually based on EN 15804. Most of the countries that voted in favour of the revised standard will probably accept the revised EN 15804. However, four member states either voted against the revised standard or abstained from voting. Either way, there will be a transition period allowing the sector to make the required adaptations.

All in all, the revised standard comes with many improvements but also some significant changes to your ways of working around EPDs and PCRs. Would you like to learn more about what the revision means for you, specifically? Please do not hesitate to contact us.

Anne Gaasbeek

Anne worked for PRé from 2012 to 2021. As a Senior Consultant and excellent program manager with a hands-on background in sustainability metrics, she helped a wide range of organizations, including SMEs, multinationals and policy-makers. By focusing on the user perspective, Anne helped develop better tools for both technical and non-technical users. Her areas of expertise include product social footprinting, impact measurement and valuation, measuring supply chain sustainability and sustainable business performance.

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