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 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 loads and 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 loads and benefits of end-of-life recycling
By calculating the loads and benefits of end-of-life recycling (module D) the LCA becomes more complete, but also more complex. The approach for end-of-life calculations in the revised EN 15804 standard is still based on the ‘end of waste’ criterium and therefore not 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 amount of CO2 taken up in biomass equals the amount of CO2 emissions from the biomass at the end of life. Over all life-cycle stages, this results in a zero score on Global Warming Potential – biogenic, apart from conversion into methane, etc. The mass of biogenic carbon in the product and packaging now needs to be declared separately. 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 (which are different from the former EN 15804) 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
EPDs were never intended for product comparison. However, one of the goals of the PEF is to allow 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 member states have their own national schemes for the construction sector, usually based on EN 15804. Most of the countries that voted in favor 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 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.