While exploring the expo floor at the AIA Convention on Thursday and Friday, I checked in with several exhibitors involved in making data on the environmental and health impacts of building products more readily available to the architecture community.
I stopped by UL Environment, a division of Underwriters Laboratories that offers services such as environmental claims validation, product certification, and consulting. It has just released what it is calling an “EPD Transparency brief.” (An EPD, or environmental product declaration, is a comprehensive—and rather daunting—multi-page document that outlines product life-cycle impacts, including those associated with raw material extraction, manufacturing, and disposal.) The new brief is intended to function a bit like CliffsNotes, summarizing the EPD in a single page. The goal is to make this data “accessible and actionable,” says Heather Gadonniex, a member of UL’s strategy and innovation team.
The format for the brief was developed with creative and technical input from architecture firm Perkins+Will, carpet-tile manufacturer Interface, and a consortium of EPD users, including design firms Gensler, HOK, and SERA and contractors DPR Construction and Webcor Builders. The briefs are available for several products manufactured by Bentley Prince Street, CertainTeed, and Interface. Since UL is offering the transparency briefs only for products with EPDs created under its supervision, the summaries are unlikely to be available for a wide array or materials anytime soon. “We are not pushing compatibility,” says Gadonniex. “We are now focusing on buy-in from the architectural community,” she says.
I also stopped by Construction Specialties (C/S). Like UL, C/S has consulted Perkins+Will, and has developed a disclosure tool it likens to a nutrition label for building products. Last fall C/S debuted the first of these labels for one of its recessed entrance mats, PediTred G4. The approximately one-by-twelve-inch tag is intended to stay on the mat as long as the product remains in place in the building and contains basic information about material makeup. It directs people online, to transparency.c-sgroup.com, for general information regarding product attributes, such as water and energy use during manufacturing, the makeup of packaging, and recyclability. Just before the AIA Convention, C/S expanded the label to its largest product line, Acrovyn 4000, a collection of Cradle to Cradle-certified interior wall-protection components such as handrails, crash rails, and corner guards.
Curt Fessler, C/S marketing manager, seems genuinely enthused about the growing trend for manufacturers to disclose detailed product information. However, he says that the company does not have plans to commission UL to create EPDs and accompanying briefs for C/S products—at least not for now. “We are watching to see how the [push for transparency] shakes out.”
RECORD and GreenSource will be watching as well.