By Steve Rizer
Now that a supplier of ready mix concrete has achieved three groundbreaking milestones involving environmental designations for its products, will a flood of other companies that provide materials for green buildings follow suit? The question arises after Central Concrete Supply Inc. became the first ready mix supplier in the United States to offer concrete environmental product declarations (EPDs). It also is the first such supplier to receive external verification of the EPDs in accordance with the International Organization for Standardization’s (ISO) 14025 standard and ISO 21930. Furthermore, the San Jose, Calif.-based business, which serves the San Francisco Bay area, is believed to be the first U.S. company in any industry to produce EPDs at the individual product level.
What are the chances that other providers of concrete will seek these designations anytime soon? Will more suppliers of products for green buildings seek to produce EPDs at the individual product level? Here is what Central Vice President and General Manager Jeff Davis told ConstructionPro Week in response to these questions.
“I believe that the chance is very high” that other concrete suppliers will pursue such designations, Davis said. “One, it is important to know that concrete is 5 percent of the U.S. footprint and that, as the industry continues to recognize and respond to ways of reducing GHG [greenhouse-gas] emissions, low-carbon-dioxide concrete solutions are increasingly being viewed as a solution with a positive impact. Combine that with the fact that there are proposed changes in LEED V4 [the next version of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system for green buildings] for transparency utilizing EPDs and [that there is] a growth in green building led by Architecture 2030,” a non-profit organization whose stated mission is to achieve a dramatic reduction in the building sector’s GHG emissions by changing the way buildings and developments are planned, designed, and constructed. “The expected result: other producers of ready mix concrete will respond and develop EPDs for their respective products, particularly if designers begin to specify EPDs as a requirement in their project specifications.”
But what needs to happen for more companies within the construction community to pursue EPDs?
“Both public and private owners can drive the acceptance of EPDs by directing their design teams to require EPDs in the products specified in their projects,” Davis said. “But, most importantly, by using the information contained in EPDs, they can make informed design decisions that can guide them in improving both the performance and the sustainability of their projects.”
An EPD is a standardized (ISO 14025/TR) label that is designed to communicate the environmental impact of a product in a scientifically sound, streamlined, and comparable format. EPDs include information on the environmental impact of the product throughout its lifecycle. Often compared to nutrition labels, EPDs are intended to provide the facts and transparency needed to make informed decisions as they relate to such characteristics as global-warming potential, ozone depletion, and water use.
Davis explained that all 1,479 concrete mixes produced from Central’s 12 manufacturing facilities in northern California have been certified with type III EPDs by the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association (NRMCA). As new concrete mixes are developed, they will be submitted to NRMCA for certification, Davis said.