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1, 2017

Machine-redable EPDs and their use discussed in Vienna

Kristian Jelse

In February, two events were held in Vienna, Austria related to EPDs for construction products. The first was a workshop on the topic of "The missing link between EPD and BIM (Building Information Modelling)", and the second a meeting of the working group InData, which aims at providing machine-readable EPDs for further import into different calculation tools.

We met with Kristian Jelse who participated to the events on behalf of the International EPD® System to get the latest updates:

What are "machine-readable EPDs"?
"Machine-readable EPDs" (sometimes rather confusingly referred to as "digital EPDs") is the concept of providing the EPD or a subset of it in a data format that may be directly imported into different IT tools, databases or LCA software.

The interest for the topic has been growing recently, mainly in the construction sector where there are now thousands of EPDs available on the market. Besides the existing standard EN 15942, an initiative has been taken in ISO and in research projects in different countries that will hopefully result in a standardised digital format for including all information in an EPD in a machine-readable format.


What does the International EPD® System offer in terms of machine-readable EPDs today?
If an EPD owner wishes, the International EPD® System allow the publication of a machine-readable LCI/LCIA dataset in parallel to the EPD. Such data sets made are available on the EPD page at www.environdec.com and may be published in one or several of the available formats currently available on the market. Many LCA software provide import/export functionality that may be used for this purpose.

We are also evaluating how we can further facilitate the use of EPDs on the market by working in this area.


What are the problems that need to be solved before all EPDs are available in a machine-readable format?
I see three main issues to solve, beside agreeing on a format to use:

1. The ownership and liability of an EPD lies with the manufacturer. This means that programme operators, database owners, and tool developer etc., have limitations in how they may commercially distribute these data.

2. The validity of the data in an EPD is dependent not only on the stated validity in the EPD, but requires that the EPD owner monitors the environmental impact and updates the EPD if necessary. The role of the programme operator remains very important to avoid incorrect data being distributed and used, leading to invalid conclusions.

3. An EPD contains more information than the quantified environmental impacts. How to ensure that this qualitative information is distributed with the EPD so that the data is not misused or misunderstood?


How can a stakeholder contribute to this development?
Besides participating in standardisation and working groups, I would encourage EPD owners and users of EPD information to provide their feedback to the Secretariat.

It is part of the objective of the International EPD® System to broaden the use environmental declarations on an international market, and this will be a topic in which we are active in the upcoming year.