Advancements in product category rule development | U.S. Green Building Council
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Published on
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Posted in LEED
Published on
Written by
Posted in LEED

Access guidance for creating PCRs and EPDs in alignment with USGBC's market transformation goals.

In 2013, USGBC and UL Environment began working to bring more consistency, credibility, and transparency to building and construction environmental product declarations (EPDs).

Since then, a group of experts—the Technical Advisory Panel (TAP), along with UL Environment and USGBC staff—have developed guidance for creating product category rules (PCR) that address industry-wide EPD creation to better enable a pathway to comparative benchmarking against company-specific EPDs.

There are two parts to the guidance, the Part A and B framework, and associated documents can be used by any EPD program operator to develop PCRs and EPDs in alignment with the USGBC’s market transformation goals.

Part A, Life Cycle Assessment Calculation Rules and Report Requirements (available for free download), outlines the core methodology that must be used when conducting and reporting an LCA and certain core information in an EPD.

Part B, PCR Committee Process and Resources, was developed to be used in tandem with Part A. It provides a template outlining the process for the PCR committee and key questions/topics that must be addressed throughout the product-specific PCR creation process. The Part A and B approach provides the core consistency in methodology across all PCRs (Part A) while including sector-specific reporting flexibility across the building products industry (Part B).

Additional guidance is also included for companies wishing to benchmark internally against their own EPD and/or an industry-wide EPD. The guidance layers additional benchmarking requirements over the limited language in international standards EN 15804 and ISO 21930.

This framework is important and timely to help move the PCR and EPD industries toward greater consistency in reporting and increase the functionality of EPDs for the design community. While existing standards set a strong foundation, there is still considerable room for interpretation, confusion, and obfuscation within the PCR and EPD development process.

LEED v4 options

The LEED v4 EPD credit has two options. The first option rewards companies that disclose life cycle impacts of their products through environmental product declarations, and the second rewards manufacturers who can demonstrate improvement in those impacts relative either to themselves or industry benchmarks.

EPDs conforming to this guidance can contribute to both option 1 and option 2 (optimization) of the LEED v4 EPD credit. EPDs published under this guidance are intended to support increased supply chain transparency and provide a mechanism to document product optimization. They can be easily used by project teams designing, building and operating buildings.

What’s next?

In a constantly evolving space, the world of PCR creation is technical and complex. In order to create clear, functional and aligned guidance, phase II of this framework will be informed by industry and program operator feedback, as well as a diverse group of technical experts comprising current TAP members and representatives from the Program Operator Consortium. 

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