The Steel Recycling Institute recently released the first industry-wide environmental product declaration (EPD) for cold-formed steel studs and track manufactured in the U.S. and Canada. The EPD quantifies the "cradle-to-gate" life-cycle environmental impacts and can be used by architects and engineers to document their impacts for certification of buildings under the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and other credit-based green building certification systems.
What Are EPDs?
EPDs are a standardized way of quantifying the environmental impact of a product or system. Declarations include information on the environmental impact of raw material acquisition, energy use and efficiency, content of materials and chemical substances, emissions to air, soil and water and waste generation.
An EPD is created and verified in accordance with the International Standard ISO 14025, developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). An EPD is also based on a peer-reviewed life-cycle assessment (LCA).
LEED has accepted EPDs for building products since version 4 of its system was released. Having EPDs opens steel products up to specification in a much wider range of building projects. Having them not only earns green credits, but it also is viewed by industry professionals as a measure of supply chain transparency.
Before LEED v4, the supply chain of a supposedly sustainable building material was very much in question, despite the certification bodies granting approval of building products such as wood. An example is the massive City Center development in Las Vegas. While it boasts 6 LEED Gold certifications — the second-highest level — among its many buildings, the project literally required more Forest Stewardship Council certified wood than was available in the entire U.S.
The many architects and building product specifiers turned to wood from China that did not have a traceable supply chain.
Cold-formed steel studs and track can now be declared and tracked for LEED projects. Source: Adobe Stock/ft2010.
This is the first industry-wide assessment of full lifecycle environmental impacts of steel commercial building products in North America. Roll-formed from galvanized steel sheet into a variety of shapes, cold-formed steel studs and track are being used as the primary structural system for buildings up to nine stories in height and have been used for curtain walls and interior partitions for decades.
"Environmental impacts of materials are critical decision factors for architects, engineers and builders," said Lawrence Kavanagh, president of Steel Market Development Institute, a business unit of American Iron and Steel Institute. "With the construction industry moving to comprehensive assessments of a product's entire lifecycle, it's important this EPD is now being added to the resources we and our partners have developed for our customers in the construction industry."
Cold-Formed Studs and Track, the First of Many EPDs
Kavanagh also said this is the first of several EPDs that will be released this year and next, and that SMDI hopes to, eventually, have declarations available for all steel building products manufactured in the U.S.
The ability of steel to be recycled has always been a strong selling point in getting it specified into LEED and other green buildings, but EPDs could help certain products be much more easily specified by architects into building projects.