EPD Australasia

Interview: Jeff Parker, Technical Manager WPMA on publishing a collective EPD

The Wood Processors’ and Manufacturers’ Association of New Zealand (WPMA) has recently published an EPD using compiled data from 10 participating members.

Jeff Parker, Technical Manager at WPMA has extensive industry experience and spearheaded the project from the beginning. We spoke to Jeff about the process of corralling 10 companies toward a collective EPD and the value it delivers for WPMA and participating members.

When did you first learn about the potential for EPDs?

The very first day I arrived in Wellington to start working for WPMA, my boss asked me to go and see a seminar on EPDs. Right away I thought this was valuable. I had worked at Lockwood Homes and we were always trying to sell our environmental credentials, but without evidence it was hard. When I saw that there was a standardised way to measure environmental impacts that was also third party verified I knew this could be valuable for the timber industry.

How did you go about selling members on the idea of publishing an EPD collectively?

It was November 2015, so very early days. We organised a meeting of 25 companies in the industry and Barbara Nebel from thinkstep spoke about the potential of EPDs.

Negotiations continued for another 6-months or so. It was tricky because the cost depended on how many joined the project, and how many joined depended on the costs. Remember EPDs were still new so a lot of companies weren’t sure it would be worthwhile. But we had some strong industry players who championed the project and eventually 10 companies signed up.

What’s the primary value in doing the EPD as an association rather than as individual companies?

The ability to share the cost of getting early stage data makes a significant difference in the overall cost to each company. For all of our members the data on cutting timber, getting it into a sawmill, out of the sawmill, kiln dried and ready for production is exactly the same. So doing it collectively means there’s no duplication of effort or expense.

How does the WPMA intend to use the EPD?

The Association will be using the EPD primarily to promote the environment benefits of using timber generally. We will also be running webinars to train the sales and marketing teams in participating companies on how to effectively use the EPD. There is a genuine competitive advantage to having a credible measure of cradle to grave environmental impacts. Increasingly architects and developers are expected to accurately calculate the environmental impacts of the buildings they design. Now the participating companies can provide that information.

EPDs are really starting to be appreciated and I predict in a year’s time they will be a necessity, as NZs target of zero emissions by 2050 really starts to take hold.

What advice would you give to other associations considering a collective EPD?

I know I was tearing my hair out at times through this process. But honestly, I think it’s easier now. There are more EPDs, and places like Auckland City Council are leaning strongly toward Green Star ratings. I think it’s an easier sell, not just a feel good thing. There’s a real business case, and its more obvious today that an EPD can result in more business.

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