June 19, 2013
Athena publishes first North American building declaration to EN 15978
The Athena Sustainable Materials Institute has published the first North American environmental building declaration to a standard increasingly recognized globally: the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) standard EN 15978:2011.
With interest in whole-building LCA rapidly growing in North America, we believe efforts are needed to ensure quality, consistency and comparability of environmental performance information. While standards and protocols are still developing in North America, we can look to Europe for some help. Standard EN 15978 is part of a European effort to consolidate various protocols across the continent. We expect 15978 – or something similar – will eventually bring standardization and transparency to how designers on this continent report environmental performance of buildings.
To demonstrate what this looks like, we developed a building declaration together with well-known sustainability consultants Enermodal Engineering, for their own office building in Ontario, Canada. See the building declaration here. In order to assess the relative environmental merits of the Enermodal Office Building, we also prepared a supplemental report which compares the as-built design results to those of a “reference design” reflecting conventional construction.
In addition, we have adjusted our Impact Estimator for Buildings software to conform to the standard’s information module format.
More detail on EN 15978
The reporting of a standardized set of environmental indicator results by information module forms the basis for comparability, as building sector LCA has historically been conducted with varying system boundaries and formats. Additionally, the reporting requirements of EN 15978 ensures a good degree of transparency since the object of assessment, system boundaries, scenarios, and data sources and quality need to be properly declared.
EN 15804/15978 are quickly becoming the standard methodology for reporting construction sector environmental data in Europe. For example, in 2011, 25 organizations across 17 European countries agreed to establish the EN 15804-based EPD Platform called “ECO”. Similarly, the provisions of EN 15804/15978 are being incorporated into building certification schemes such the German Sustainable Building Certificate (DGNB) and France’s Haute Qualité Environmental (HQE). Another example of the emerging use of the standards is the EeB Guide Project, which developed guidelines for the use of EN 15804/15978 for undertaking research projects within the Energy Efficient Buildings Initiative (E2B EI).
North American adoption of EN 15804/15978 has not yet occurred due to its recent publication and the general lag in the development of LCA practice here compared to Europe. Nevertheless, EPDs produced thus far in North America have highlighted the need for standardization across building product categories and hence adoption of a standard such as EN 15804.
Photo courtesy Enermodal Engineering