Making Sense of LEED v.4 materials: EPDs

By Kunwar Rana
Sustainability Analyst
LEED Green Associate
Sustainable Investment Group (SIG)

An EPD (Environmental Product Declaration) is an independently verified and registered document that communicates transparent and comparable information about the life-cycle environmental impact of products. An EPD tells the life cycle story of a product in a single, written report, focusing on information about a product’s environmental impacts, such as global warming potential, smog creation, ozone depletion, and water pollution. EPDs are developed after a product life cycle assessment (LCA) is conducted and are based on applicable product category rules (PCRs). An EPD must have a corresponding PCR to contribute to this credit, it is beneficial for the project teams to find out whether a PCR exists for a product type, and if so, the organization that created it. The organization that created the PCR is likely to have used it to create an EPD. If there are no PCRs for the product to be declared, they need to be created.

chart explaining: Product Category Rule (PCR) | Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA) | Environmental Product Declaration (EPD)

Cost for Developing an EPD – The EPD cost consists of two types of fees:

  • Registration fee (one-time fee, which includes future updates)
  • An annual fee paid per organization.

In addition to these fees, the total cost of an EPD also includes:

– Performing Life Cycle Assessment in accordance with the PCR

– Compiling the data into the EPD reporting format

– Verification by an accredited certification body or a recognized individual verifier

Are EPD’s only useful for large companies?

The EPD’s are applicable for companies of any size. It is more common for large companies to register many products with declared EPD’s, while smaller companies publish EPD’s only for their key products. In 2017 companies with published EPD’s are:

  • 44% large companies (More than 250 Employees)
  • 46% small and medium sized (SME)
  • 10% micro sized companies

Credits in LEED

Materials and Resources Credit: Building Product Disclosure and Optimization – Environmental Product Declarations

Option 1. Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) (1 Point)

Use at least 20 different permanently installed products sourced from at least five different manufacturers that meet one of the disclosure criteria below.

  • Product-specific declaration – Products with a publicly available, critically reviewed life-cycle assessment conforming to ISO 14044 that have at least a cradle-to-gate scope are valued as one quarter (1/4) of a product for the purposes of credit achievement calculation.
  • Environmental Product Declarations – which conform to ISO 14025, 14040, 14044, and EN 15804 or ISO 21930 and have at least a cradle to gate scope.
  • Industry-wide (generic) EPD – Products with third-party certification (Type III), including external verification, in which the manufacturer is explicitly recognized as a participant by the program operator are valued as one half (1/2) of a product for purposes of credit achievement calculation.
  • Product-specific Type III EPD – Products with third-party certification (Type III), including external verification in which the manufacturer is explicitly recognized as the participant by the program operator are valued as one whole product for purposes of credit achievement calculation.

Exemplary Performance: Use 40 different products from five manufacturers.

Table 1. EPD process comparison

What Counts as a Separate “Product”?

If there are two versions of the same product that differ only in appearance, they only count as one. For example, if you are using two paint colors that differ only in appearance. But if they differ in function, they count as two. For example, if you are using two paint colors with different gloss levels – like a flat wall paint and a semigloss for trim.

Required Documentation:

  • Provide either a full EPD or a summary report with a link to full EPD which should include manufacturer name, EPD program operator, and a product description.
  • Environmental life-cycle assessment, the scope must be at least “cradle-to-gate”
  • The qualifying EPD should include:
    • Name of program Operator
    • Date EPD was published and for how long it’s valid
    • Which product category rule (PCR) it follows
    • Name of the organization or person who reviewed the PCR
    • Who independently verified that EPD meets ISO 14025
    • Who verified that the life-cycle assessment behind the EPD conforms to ISO 14044 and the stated PCR
  • LCA results for the product must cover at least six basic environmental impact categories:
    • global warming potential (greenhouse gases), in CO2e;
    • depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer, in kg CFC-11;
    • acidification of land and water sources, in moles H+ or kg SO2;
    • eutrophication, in kg nitrogen or kg phosphate;
    • formation of tropospheric ozone, in kg NOx, kg O3 eq, or kg ethene; and
    • depletion of nonrenewable energy resources, in MJ.

Changes proposed in LEED v4.1: EPD’s have been considered the biggest movement in green buildings, still not widely accepted in the market. The change will be moving away from USGBC promoted EPD’s to globally accepted EPD’s. For the tenant fit-outs and commercial interiors project it is difficult to find 20 materials with declared EPD’s.

List of EPD program operators:


  1. The International EPD® System – Environmental Product Declarations. (2009, December 30). Retrieved April 12, 2018, from
  2. The essential tool for any LEED project. (n.d.). Retrieved April 12, 2018, from
  3. LEED v4 BD+C Reference Guide

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