Curious about the circular economy and its role in the future of Sustainable construction? How about Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) and building Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)? Well good news the Irish Green Building council has a new conference on the 21st June that aims to provide details on what needs to happen to transition Ireland’s construction sector towards the circular economy.

What is Re-Source 2018? It is a new Irish Green Building Council (IGBC) Conference focusing on how we can design buildings to minimise embodied carbon and create a circular economy for construction materials and healthy places to live and work. This half day conference will include Prof. Dr. Michael Braungart as the key-note speaker, a pioneering thought-leader in the circular economy having developed the Cradle to Cradle design concept. The conference will also include speakers on life cycle assessment, zero waste, healthy materials and responsible procurement.

The Future of Sustainable construction

Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) are 3rd party verified documents prepared by a manufacturer to set out the various environmental impacts of their products. An EPD displays the results of a Life Cycle Assessment detailing ‘cradle to grave’ environmental impact of all processes involved. This can include extraction and processing of raw materials, transport, all elements of the manufacturing process, dismantling and waste disposal. While an EPD doesn’t necessarily mean a product is greener it provides transparent and readily available information to a potential user on the product. Essentially allowing specifiers to make better choices on materials, thus supporting Green Public Procurement.

Speaker Peter Seymour, Ireland Manager of Ecoreview, will discuss Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) and the process of developing and measuring an EPD. Our speaker will review what the different EPD indicators mean and what their impacts are.

What benefits do EPD’s provide? Our speaker Nellie Reid is the Managing Director of Meehan Green. They will review indicators for the circular economy and what is being measured within LEED in Ireland. In addition to providing transparent verifiable information about a product, product EPD’s count towards additional credits under building certification schemes such as BREEAM and LEED, and the IGBC’s own residential housing certification scheme the Home Performance Index (HPI). In some cases, EPD’s are mandatory requirements for example Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) require them for carbon footprinting of road and rail infrastructure projects.

Is there a EPD Platform? In 2015 IGBC developed a business plan to mainstream embodied carbon calculation in Ireland. The EPD Ireland programme is now fully operational and it allows Irish producers to create an EPD for their product, using Product Category Rules (PCR) for Ireland and have it verified and published on a nationwide platform.

‘Cradle to Cradle’

A linear economy is not a sustainable model as it uses the principles of ‘take, make and waste’ and can have negative social and environmental impacts. The circular economy however is based on the model of reduce, reuse, renew and recycle and looks to remove waste from this process.

One of the largest contributing waste sources in Ireland is the construction and demolition sector. It is easy to see how there is a need for the industry to become more resource efficient. Circular economy thinking in the built environment could help to save many primary resources.

Prof. Dr. Michael Braungart is a chemist and widely known for his work with the Cradle to Cradle design concept, which he developed together with William McDonough. Michael is co-founder of the Hamburger Umwelt Institute (HUI), a non-profit scientific research institute focusing on environmental solutions. As keynote speaker at Re-Source, Braungart will discuss how we can design buildings and materials that are healthy and have a positive impact on both our health and the planet.

According to the authors of ‘Cradle to Cradle’, the world doesn’t have a pollution problem, it has a design problem. Design without circular thinking leads to products that can’t be recycled, reused etc. This leads to the loss of important resources. Essentially, cradle to cradle looks to the root of the issue, Design, to solve the problem. Changing the way we design our products and materials plays a vital role in moving towards a circular economy. Braungart discusses that conventional recycling is inadequate alone to protect the long-term health of our planet. Braungart believes design should incorporate environmental safety, so that materials are “circulated infinitely”

Source: Irish Green Building Council