Instead of focusing on the individual material characteristics of a product, multiple product-lifecycle attributes are considered. Products like cable that have appropriate transparency documentation disclosing these attributes can now help you earn LEED points.
There are different types of transparency documents available. We’re comparing them here, and explaining how they contribute to LEED certification.
Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs)
An EPD is a transparency document that summarizes a product’s lifecycle impacts. To prepare an EPD, a lifecycle analysis (LCA) must be conducted on the product. These assessments must conform to ISO 14040 and ISO 14044 guidelines and collect information about:
- Materials that make up the product
- Energy and water usage required during the manufacturing process
- Waste created during manufacturing
- Typical transportation impacts
- End of life
Once this information is gathered, an LCA practitioner determines the overall environmental impact of the product, which is then summarized into a document format designated by the appropriate Product Category Rule, or PCR, based on the product type (such as cable, for example). PCRs also define the type of data that needs to be collected, measured and reported on.
Product-specific EPDs are known as Type III EPDs, and are preferred to industry-wide EPDs. Details found in Type III EPDs for cable include:
- Product description
- Material-usage summaries
- Amount of energy used to manufacture the product
- Waste-management analysis
- Amount of water used to manufacture the product
Each product’s impact on global warming, fossil fuel depletion, eutrophication, smog, acidification and ozone depletion is also summarized.
In a LEED project, a product with an EPD allows for up to two LEED points. To obtain the first point, a project must use a minimum of 20 different permanently installed products (including cable) from at least five different manufacturers that offer EPDs.
Products that have Type III EPDs count as one full product; products that have an industry-wide or generic EPD count as one-quarter or one-half of a point, depending on whether or not the EPD is third-party verified. Several program operators certify and publish EPDs, including UL Environment.
EPD transparency documents are valid for five years. After this time, the entire process, including extensive data collection on individual products and a complete lifecycle analysis, must be completed again. This will likely drive manufacturers to continually improve their raw-material usage, energy usage, water usage and processes.
Material Health Assessments (MHAs)
There are many types of material-declaration formats that qualify as acceptable transparency documentation for an MHA. One example is Product Lens™, which was designed by UL Environment and is a USGBC-approved MHA.
When possible, UL Environment works directly with the product manufacturer and their suppliers to obtain a complete bill of material information for each product. This information is communicated down to the CAS level, which is a unique identifying number assigned to designate only one chemical substance. (For example, polyethylene, PVC and FEP all have unique CAS numbers.)
Each of those individual chemicals are assessed by another third party – MBDC – which uses a modified GreenScreen-type assessment. Each chemical is assessed for hazard and risk in all stages of a product’s lifecycle: supply chain/manufacturing, installation, use and end of life.
The results are then presented in a colorful summary document, with the first page showing a snapshot of the hazard/risk analysis of the top 85% or more by weight of substances contained in the product. Any potential routes of exposure, such as dermal or inhalation, are disclosed. The second page contains the complete bill of materials summary, down to either 100 or 1,000 ppm, with continued color coding, percentage ranges representing what’s present in the product and other pertinent comments.
By design, Product Lens allows manufacturers to withhold the specific identify of the substances in the product while still allowing you to know about any risks or hazards associated with those substances.
Product Lens transparency documentation is valid for two years before reverification is required. In the meantime, if a product undergoes significant changes to the substances used, or the quantity of substances, it is the manufacturer’s responsibility to work with UL Environment to update the information.
Health Product Declarations (HPDs)
HPDs are another type of recognized MHA, and are developed by the Health Product Declaration Collaborative.
These transparency documents summarize by CAS number any known substances contained in a product. An HPD discloses ingredients down to either 100 or 1,000 ppm, and describes any corresponding human and environmental health impacts associated with those substances.
Unlike an MHA, however, an HPD does not evaluate risk – it only discloses the hazard. This type of document can be self-certified, although third-party verification is available.
Similar to an EPD, to qualify for a LEED point, it is necessary to use a minimum of 20 different permanently installed products (including cable) from at least five different manufacturers that offer some USGBC-approved format of material ingredient disclosure.
LEED Points for Belden Cable
Belden views transparency documents like EPDs, HPDs and MHAs as valuable tools to help measure, monitor and improve the environmental impact of its products. We currently offer transparency documentation for our copper, fiber, AV and security cables.
If you have any questions about LEED, transparency documents or how to select the right cable to earn LEED points, send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re happy to help!
Alice Albrinck joined Belden in 2011 as a materials development engineer. Prior to this, she performed a similar function at General Cable, specializing in PVC formulation. In the past three years, she has shifted her focus to sustainability, green building and environmental product compliance. She represents Belden on many environmental and sustainably industry working groups. She earned her LEED Green Associate in early 2017. Alice also has a bachelor’s of science degree in chemical engineering from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.