Why is an EPD database better than generic data for your LCA?

Read this guide to find out what are the benefits of an EPD database

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Why is an EPD database better than using average LCA data?


Population growth and societal changes are driving the development of urban societies, and we know that close to 3/4 of the world population will live in cities in the near future. Studies also show that the building sector accounts for 40% of total environmental impacts. So, to meet our carbon goals, we must address the impacts from buildings.

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a scientific method that measures environmental impacts. You can use LCA to analyze building materials and whole buildings. With LCA, you can measure the environmental impacts of a material from material extraction to manufacturing, use, and disposal. During each stage, environmental impacts occur and can be measured.

Some of the most important applications of LCA are Environmental Product Declarations (EPD). These are standard ways to measure and record the environmental impacts of products. International and European standards prescribe how an LCA should be conducted to create an EPD.

Nowadays, LCAs are commonly conducted via a dedicated software instead of manual calculations which, in turn, saves a lot of time and effort. When conducting Life Cycle Assessment analysis, you are interested in choosing the right tool that delivers the most accurate results. Opting for a more comprehensive database is one way to ensure reliable and transparent results you can share with confidence. 

When choosing the best Building LCA software for your project you are presented with two options: a comprehensive EPD database or a generic LCA database based on industry averages?

We will answer this very question in our guide.

EPD database vs. generic database


First of all, we need to establish what is an EPD database and a generic LCA database are. 

An EPD database is understood as a database that contains a comprehensive amount of construction Environmental Product Declarations across one or more countries. In this database, an expert is free to select a specific material produced by an available manufacturer that reflects the LCA analysis of that material only. For example, One Click LCA has more than 4500 EPDs in the database and more than 7000 individual materials are extracted from these EPDs. Why don’t you test it with a free trial?

A generic LCA database is a database of industry average LCAs for selected material groups. Industry average LCA is the environmental performance of a material, calculated as an average across all manufacturers of that material. For example, if you are looking for the environmental emissions of paints in Germany, you will find the generic average LCA for all German paints. In this case, the average value consists of both the materials that have exceptional environmental performance and those that contribute highly to CO2 emissions. This way, even if you choose a better performing paint, in the final report it’s going to be downgraded to industry averages, and if you choose a less eco-friendly material, the report results will be leveled to the average as well. The end result is limited creativity, transparency, and design flexibility for all. 

Why do we think you should choose an EPD database?


The three key reasons are:

  1. Transparency of the materials’ impacts
  2. Accuracy and comparability of the results
  3. Flexibility that creates opportunities

Let’s review and discuss them one by one.

1. Transparency of the materials’ impacts

Construction EPDs are available via international programmes that guarantee their conformity with the standards. Each declaration is verified by a third party. Interested parties can access the information and use it to make informed decisions.

Compliancy with the international and European standards ISO 14044 and EN 15804 standards guarantees transparency and accuracy of the verified EPDs. Multi-step creation and verification process ensures that the results include the most precise calculations, allowing the manufacturer to gain competitive advantage by showcasing the efficient environmental performance of their products. Moreover, the end user has the freedom to choose the best material for their design.

2. Accuracy and comparability of the results

The results of an EPD show important information about the product. The results include the environmental impacts from raw material extraction, to use and disposal and show the impact of the technology used to produce the material.

An EPD includes how much energy is used in the manufacturing process and the fuel mix of that energy. For example, the use of fossil fuels will have a higher footprint than the use of wind or solar energy. Also, more efficient manufacturing processes include less material waste and lower energy consumption.

The use of a common standard allows for the easy comparison of information. Products made efficiently and with cleaner energy sources will be winners in the comparison.

3. Flexibility that creates opportunities

The possibility to integrate individual materials into your calculations results in new opportunities. Due to the common EPD standard and requirements, through the careful selection of single materials with different environmental indicators and their combinations, you can create design variations for your project to achieve a better, more efficient eco-performance of your design.

Most software tools allow design comparison as it is the accepted requirement of any LCA analysis, but it is up to you to choose the software with the most comprehensive material database to improve your project’s real CO2 emissions and to achieve more credits in your chosen scheme. Among all LCA tools, One Click LCA has the largest EPD database that we constantly update. If a material is missing, we add EPDs on demand, or, alternatively, missing data can be supplemented with industry averages. It is as easy as it sounds, and you can start testing One Click LCA right away.

In conclusion, the EPD database is your starter kit for more sustainable buildings. Projects that use EPDs show a stronger commitment to improving their environmental performance. Through effective combination of generic datapoints and EPD-verified materials, you can achieve transparent and accurate LCA results that can be shared with confidence.

And here are some key takeaways for you in a downloadable format:

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