Deborah Dunning is the founder and president of The Green Standard, a sustainability advocacy and training entity based in Chapel Hill, N.C., that promotes the application of independent life-cycle analyses (LCA) to verify claims of environmental practices and product performance. The goal, she says, is to provide consumers—including home builders and other housing industry professionals—with the means to make informed decisions as they consider and procure products in a marketplace where the term “green” is used liberally, if not always responsibly or clearly.—R.B.
Q: What is life-cycle analysis?
A: It is a science-based tool to verify, measure, and report all of a product’s exchanges with the environment throughout its complete life history, ideally within a larger environmental product declaration (EPD) from the supplier or manufacturer. It provides transparency.
Q: Are building products suppliers providing EPDs now?
A: Last year, they were telling us that no one was asking for an LCA or EPD. But, with all federal agencies and a few states now mandated to verify and report the environmental impacts of the products they purchase, we’ve had hundreds of companies contact us to start on that path. Expanded guidelines from the Securities and Exchange Commission that all publicly held companies must disclose the environmental risks of their products or services are also driving EPDs.
Q: What role can builders play?
A: Builders are a key driver, too. They need to ask for EPDs to make sure they are bringing true added value to their buyers [when they make sustainability or performance claims], and they’re going to give preference to suppliers that make EPDs available.
Q: How do manufacturers and suppliers benefit?
A: Going through the process of developing an EPD gives a supplier the potential to reduce their costs and the environmental impact of their manufacturing, materials sourcing, transportation —all aspects of their business. It’s a great opportunity for them to tell their story in a way that builds trust among their customers.