By: Petra Postolache & Krishnanunni Ravindran
The world population is expected to increase by two billion from the current 7.7 billion to 9.7 billion by 2050 (Source: UN.org). This would result in new cities, possibly doubling in numbers by 2060. More cities mean more infrastructures to meet the growing demands of the population. The global building stock is therefore predicted to double in 40 years with Africa, India, Southeast Asia, Latin America, and North America seeing a tremendous rise in building areas (Source: https://globalabc.org/).
New buildings mean new materials to be extracted, manufactured, transported, and installed. Not to mention the many material replacements and their disposals in the life span of these buildings. All these activities generate a lot of carbon emissions (embodied carbon), estimating around 100-200 gigatons.
As a wood company, Global Timber promotes the use of wood in construction as it is a green and carbon neutral material. However, to claim wood as completely carbon neutral, the environmental impacts of timber from its extraction until its end life needs to be known. One way to know this is through life cycle assessments (LCA) of wood in the constructions. Life cycle assessments are done at the product level to develop an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD); a standardised document informing customers about the product’s potential environmental and human health impacts.
Introducing the Environmental Product Declaration
EPDs are trustful, third-party verified environmental impact information about products and services. They are prepared based on internationally accepted product category rules (PCR) and help customers make informed decisions in choosing products with lower environmental impacts.
LCA is already a requirement in many countries like the UK, Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, France, and other EU member nations. Over 100 certification schemes and regulations exist to oversee the life cycle impacts of construction materials globally. You might have come across the names of some of the building assessment schemes like the BREEAM, LEED, Green Star, Zero Carbon Standard, Living Building Challenge, etc.
EPDs are now increasingly used in green public procurements for inviting tenders and building assessment schemes. In Southeast Asian countries, the Southeast Asia EPD Program, along with its partner program operator The International EPD System, are the platforms where all EPDs related to construction materials are publicly available.
The opportunities presented by EPDs
Markets in all major countries have started requiring carbon transparency and product life cycle information. EPDs could therefore be used as a marketing tool for your products as they increase the transparency of your products’ footprints and shows your commitment to fight climate change. Also, EPDs could be used for future product development as well.
There is a dire need to cut down on emissions from buildings as these account for 40% of the total greenhouse emissions (Source: World Green Building Council). Given the climate change, induced damages are estimated to be above $50 trillion, it is important to limit emissions to save mankind from further catastrophes in the future.
Because of this, businesses have a responsibility to switch to more environmentally friendly construction materials and document while transparently communicating about the impact of their materials. By making informed product comparisons and incorporating materials with lower carbon footprints in constructions, we could help realise a sustainable future through sustainable infrastructures.