Why environmental product declarations matter in design
Product category rules and environmental product declarations are increasing material transparency for specifiers; AIA partner Excel Dryer explores the process
Since the green building movement picked up speed more than a decade ago, the market has been flooded with products making environmental claims. With little structure or verification requirements, it was hard to make accurate product comparisons, know which claims to trust, or understand which claims mattered in the overall sustainability of a building.
Gradually, the building products industry has been increasing transparency of product claims through the use of environmental product declarations (EPDs) that outline a material’s cradle-to-grave impacts.
Among those product categories that have undergone the process is hand dryers, where the invention of high-speed dryers had brought about many different claims and some misinformation. A year-long science-backed process with UL Environment, a business division of UL (Underwriters Laboratories), was initiated with the underlying goal of allowing the specifying community and buyers who purchase hand dryers to make more informed decisions. The result of their efforts: the publication of the first global product category rules (PCR) for hand dryers. The PCR created evaluation methods through industry consensus that compare products’ environmental impact and performance. Third-party testing results then enable specifiers and buyers to make a true “apples-to-apples” comparison of products and, thus, more informed decisions.
By definition, a PCR is a set of rules, requirements, and guidelines following internationally recognized protocols to develop environmental product declarations for one or more product categories. That means every product in a given industry is tested and evaluated in a clear, consistent way. The hand dryer PCR is the first industry consensus standard for hand dryers and is the first global PCR for any industry.
When working on public construction projects, the PCR creates a level playing field for hand dryers and allows for effective consideration of both proprietary and performance-based specifications, namely dry times and energy usage. No longer will architects and specifiers approve “or equal” products that are not true equivalents. Now buyers looking to compare and purchase the best product for their facilities can accurately assess their choice. All products need to be evaluated by the same set of rules and reporting guidelines—for hand dryers, that rule is the new global PCR from UL Environment.
The testing means were only the beginning, however. After the PCR was established, EPDs could be developed based on product-testing conclusions. The registered documents communicate transparent and comparable information about the environmental impact of products from cradle to grave. These independently verified ecolabels can govern one or more product category, allowing the performance and environmental impacts of similar products to be compared.
A champion for innovation and change, the first global PCR and EPDs for hand dryers are an important first step for the industry, introducing accountability and ushering in an age of transparency.
To download Excel Dryer’s EPDs and learn more about their publication, visit exceldryer.com/epd-leading-the-industry.
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