The promise of transparent and rigorous supply chain specific Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) is compelling: enabling designers and specifiers to differentiate between seemingly similar products; motivating industry to improve manufacturing processes and efficiencies; and advancing a more comprehensive understanding of total life cycle environmental impacts. Conversely, implementing standards to enable equitable, practical and meaningful EPDs is challenging: competing (and sometimes conflicting) methods and standards are in development; leadership by government, non-profit and private sectors is varied and disconnected; and the reliability and uncertainty in background data is not well understood. The simplicity of the concept (e.g. an environmental 'nutrition label' for products) spurs demand by policy makers and practitioners yet the complexity of the execution makes academics wary of definitive results. The accepted international standards (ISO 14040) were designed explicitly as a tool to improve specific processes and not to compare between products. Industry/product specific 'rules' (Product Category Rules, PCRs) must be created to address the unique characteristics, scope and performance of individual products and materials to enable accurate comparisons between products. The author(s) will present an overview of the current state of U.S. practice including current PCRs/EPDs in the industry and analysis of industry drivers such as state and national government policy as well as non-profit leadership (e.g. USGBC, Living Building Challenge, IGCC and Architecture 2030). This will be followed by an analysis of opportunities and challenges for the concrete industry.
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