What’s the EN15804?
To understand this revised standard of the EN15804, it’s useful to first know what this norm initially entails.
The EN15804 standard initiated by the EU in 2012, defines how- especially construction- companies should go about creating their Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs). The standard is important as it makes sure that the EPDs in the construction sector are all transparent and comparable- in turn making the construction sector more fair and transparent. In the Netherlands, the EN15804 is the foundation for the SBK Bepalingsmethode.
In short: It’s a norm that allows the assessment of the sustainability of construction works. The norm is formally known as the EN15804 +A1 “Sustainability of construction works -Environmental product declarations – Core rules for the product category of construction products”.
An EPD obviously has some strict requirements and rules to conform to and requires a verification process (usually performed by program operators). To create an EPD of a specific product, an LCA needs to be set up that’s based on the EN15804 (A1+A2) and possibly some additional relevant norms specific to the certain product (Product Category Rules). For example, ceramic products will have different norms to follow when conducting an LCA, than steel.
The main ISO standard for sustainability in the construction sector is ISO 21930. This ISO is more in line with the EN15804 since 2017 and shows the importance of the EPD in the sustainable future of the construction market.
The revised version: EN15804 + A2
On June 2019, the EN15804 was revised and accepted by the European Committee for Standardization (CEN).
Well- the revised version of the EN15804 makes the EPDs more aligned with the European Commission’s ‘Product Environmental Footprint (PEF)’. The PEF is a new methodology and standard, initiated by the EU, that will steer organizations to perform more reliable environmental measurements and aims at creating a level-playing field for all EU country members. This also means that the construction sectors of all EU members need to become more aligned.
The EN15804 + A2 results in 6 main changes in EPDs for construction companies:
1. It now accounts for the benefits of end-of-life recycling:
The revised version now includes calculations for the end-of-life benefits (Annex D). This newly added annex D for calculations of end-of-life (EoL) benefits entails a more detailed guideline for calculations of the benefits and loads beyond the system boundaries and is based on the PEF EOL formula. Including the end-of-life phase means that circularity and recycling will play a larger role in defining environmental impact. It also means new opportunities for biobased materials.
2. EPDs are required to now include more life stages:
All construction products now have to declare modules A1-A3, as well as C1-C4, and module D (as mentioned above). These life stages were previously optional. The revised norm specifically states that only under very specific conditions it would still be possible to do a cradle-to-gate (A1-A3 only) EPD. However, for all other cases, the end-of-life (EoL) and the benefits of end-of-life recycling need to be included in the EPDs.
This means more extensive calculations, which means more work. On the other hand, it also increases insights into the environmental performance of your product. As we move towards a more circular economy understanding the end-of-life impact is crucial.
3. Biogenic carbon reporting:
The revised version places more attention on biogenic carbon (including carbon offsetting). This means that the biogenic carbon mass in the product and packaging now needs to be declared and biogenic carbon in construction products now needs to be included in EPDs. In the coming years, the PEF Category Rules (PEFCR) will most likely be updated on these specifying this biogenic carbon content to different product categories as well as different sectors.
4. Reporting on additional Environmental impact indicators:
The EN15804 + A1, required reporting on 11 impact categories as well as 17 reporting categories (resource use, output flow data, or waste generation). However, in the revised these 7 impact categories will no longer count, and the EN15804 + A2 now requires reporting on 13 impact categories with 6 additional environmental impact categories that are in line with the new PEF methodology from the EU.
This means that from the 1st of January, 2021 LCA practitioners have to report on both the old impact categories as well as the 19 new impact categories until the transition period to the new EN15804 + A2 is complete (July, 2022).
One noticeable change is that the impact category ‘resource depletion’ (metals + fossil fuels) weighs more heavily in the EN15804 + A2. A change that will most certainly have a positive effect on the development of a circular economy. In the EN15804 + A1, Fossil Fuel Depletion contributed only a few percent to the final weighted score. Due to the EU’s PEF method, this category has become a very high, dominant contributor with regards to aluminum and solar panels and – remarkably – polyester products as well.
The old and new impact categories can be found in the graphs below.
5. Documentation + datasets need to be converted into ILCD format:
The revised version of the EN15804 requires additional changes in the quality assessment of data. Here documentation and datasets need to be converted into the International Reference Life Cycle Data System (ILCD) format. This a requirement that’s tricky, as it can complicate the use of current databases for EPDs.
6. Detailed descriptions of functional and declared units:
Finally, the revisions also allow for more comparison with other production systems that fulfill the same functional unit. EPDs were usually never intended for product comparison. However, one of the goals of the PEF is to allow product comparability which is why they are now developing a standard that will contain the horizontal rules for business-to-consumer construction EPD benchmark systems in the future. These horizontal rules are called the Product Category Rules (PCR’s) and are currently being developed. One of the first finished PCR’s are the ones for the Dutch asphalt sector. Which can be found here. This is great news as it will help many consumers select construction products on the basis of their environmental impact and performance.
What are the implications of the revised EPD standard for me?
What does this revised EPD mean for me?
The revised version of the EN15804 has resulted in a more detailed and extensive EPD that will help companies create more insights into the environmental impact and performance of their products. It will allow for better product comparison in tenders, more sustainable decision-making, and eventually will create a more sustainable and circular construction sector. Not only in the Netherlands but also throughout Europe- stimulating international business opportunities.
Furthermore, it has a higher focus on circularity- which opens up opportunities for companies that are active in the recycling and the end-of-life phase of construction. Finally, the revised norm opens up the construction market to new sustainable material types, especially biobased materials.
The Dutch construction sector & the EN15804 + A2
In the Netherlands specifically, the revised norm will have a larger effect due to the sustainability norms already present. Because of the EN15804 + A2, the SBK Bepalingsmethode now requires dual reporting: reporting according to the EN15804 + A1 as well as the EN15804 + A2. This means that new LCAs need to be made and will eventually also have implications for the calculations of the Dutch MKI (Milieukostenindicator). Therefore, we highly recommend you do our quick free risk check on how much the EN15804 + A2 will affect your company below.
Ecochain and the EN15804 + A2
As you might have guessed- creating these more extensive EPDs also requires a bit more work.
From July 1st, 2020 it was a possibility to report on EPD with 19 environmental impact categories conforming to the EN15804 + A2 next to the previous 11 impact categories in the original EPD. From the 1st of January 2021, this has become an obligatory requirement.
In order to create these new EPDs, the EN 15804 + A2 first needs to be implemented by software providers that support the creation of EPDs.
Ecochain is one of these software providers. We produce ECIs and EPDs for many different parties in the construction sector with our LCA software. With our software, you will be ready for the revised EPD, its effect on the MKI, and all the new opportunities it has to offer. Interested in this process or what we could do for you? Schedule a call with one of our environmental specialists below.