Don A. Clem, PE
NRMCA VP Local Paving
National Ready Mixed Concrete Association (NRMCA)

Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) are a tool that allows agencies to measure compliance with climate change policies and to set benchmarks for achieving climate change goals. EPDs are summarized reports which quantify the environmental impact data from manufacturing a product. These reports are extracted from an in-depth Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) that complies with the ISO 14040 series of standards, ISO 14025, and ISO 21930. Specific requirements for each category of products, such as ready-mixed concrete, cement, supplementary cementitious materials, and aggregates, are each governed by a Product Category Rule (PCR). Although tempting, using EPDs developed under different PCRs to compare the different materials’ environmental impacts should not be done unless certain criteria are met.

EPDs report multiple environmental impacts but the most significant in the current market and policy environment is global warming potential (GWP), also known as a product’s carbon footprint. This allows EPDs to be a powerful tool to measure, communicate, and improve the sustainability of various building materials. In short, the EPD allows an agency to drive its climate change policies through various material supply chains for public construction projects.

Streamlining the EPD Process

The National Ready Mixed Concrete Association (NRMCA) is an EPD program operator that facilitates the production, verification, and publication of EPDs for ready-mixed concrete and constituent materials, including cement and aggregates. NRMCA assists producers from the beginning of the process by connecting producers seeking EPDs for their products with several consultant companies, called LCA practitioners, who produce the underlying LCA reports and draft EPD documents. LCA practitioners guide the producer through gathering all the requisite data, including the material suppliers’ transport distances to the plant, and 12 months of past operations data, such as energy, water, and fuel usage.

After a draft is produced, an EPD must be third-party verified to ensure compliance with ISO standards and the PCR. Companies seek verification of an EPD contract directly with NRMCA, which in turn selects a third-party verifier in a randomized process to ensure impartiality. Verifiers are qualified experts in life cycle assessment (LCA) who work with the LCA practitioner to correct errors.

Once complete, NRMCA publishes the EPD, which can be publicly downloaded as a PDF file signed and dated by the verifier, valid for five years after the publication date. EPDs previously published by NRMCA can be found on NRMCA’s EPD program webpage.

EPDs are recognized by multiple green building rating systems, including BREEAM, Green Globes, the International Green Construction Code (IgCC), and LEED. In addition, industry leaders in the tech and logistics sectors have begun to specify EPDs for building materials, especially in large distribution and data center projects.

EPDs in Public Policy

Public policies on the state and local levels have begun to establish carbon footprint limits, backed by EPDs, for public construction projects. The City of Portland, OR, has been at the forefront in encouraging lower-carbon building materials. Since January 2020, the City has required a third-party verified, product-specific EPD to be submitted for concrete mixes used on city projects (over 50 cubic yard threshold). Furthermore, starting in January 2023, the City will implement maximum GWP thresholds, by strength class, for concrete mixes used on city projects, for which the EPDs will be used to verify compliance. To learn more about the City of Portland initiative, contact Stacey Foreman, Sustainable Procurement Program Manager, City of Portland (, or download the policy document.

The bottom line is that state and local agencies will demand low-carbon products more and more in the immediate future in response to climate change, and EPDs are the best current way to document GWP.

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