Materials under scrutiny

Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) are becoming increasingly important for construction and property management companies, such as Norway’s Statsbygg.

Statsbygg manages about 2.7 million square meters of floor space and owns 2,350 buildings in Norway and abroad on behalf of the Norwegian government. In 2006, Statsbygg started requiring EPDs, beginning with a new government building project.

An EPD, or Environmental Product Declaration, is a certified environmental declaration developed in accordance with the ISO 14025 standard. It is designed to provide relevant, verified and comparable information about the environmental impact from goods and services.

Prior to getting started with EPDs, Statsbygg informed potential suppliers about the most important materials in the building project, and that EPDs would be necessary in order to be considered as a supplier. Suppliers were given a year to work on their declarations.

“There’s a cost involved in doing EPDs, Zdena Cervenka, a senior advisor at Statsbygg,  acknowledges, “but companies are gaining very important knowledge about their own production and how they can improve the environmental impact from the production of products. We have seen that many suppliers are making improvements.”

Statsbygg began requiring EPDs in order to strengthen its environmental strategy further. “We are legally responsible for what we put into our buildings and need to know what materials we are dealing with and what the consequences will be from both using them in the building and from handling building site waste,” says Cervenka. “We want to use the most environmentally friendly products possible and the best way to start is through EPDs, a trusted third-party verified documentation of what is in the products.”

In accordance with Statsbygg’s environmental strategy, all new building and renovation projects will require documentation in the form of EPDs for a least 10 of the most utilized products in different product groups. These products are used in everything from the façade of a building to its insulation and interiors. Cervenka says Statsbygg hopes to stimulate producers to supply EPDs with Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) information for more products.

Statsbygg’s goal is for all new buildings to be emission-free by 2030. Achieving this requires a holistic approach to reducing CO2 from both energy use in the operational phase and transport connected to the building, to materials used in the building, says Cervenka. “We analyze both the life cycle cost (LCC) of products and solutions, and how to reduce CO2 emissions. Avoiding products containing hazardous substances in materials is an extremely important criterion in our projects,” she says, adding, “In a tender, building companies used to base their decision strictly on price, but today, environmental considerations are becoming just as important.”