EPD Australasia

EPD Australasia’s newest director Cyril Giraud sees EPDs as the foundation of low carbon solutions

Cyril Giraud is EPD Australasia’s newest director appointed by the Australian Life Cycle Assessment Society, he is also the National Development & Sustainability Manager at Holcim Australia. He has been focused on statutory approval processes, stakeholder engagement, environmental practices and sustainable solutions across France and Australia for over 15 years. As well as managing Holcim’s Reserves, Planning, Environment and Sustainability teams across 250 quarries in Australia, he is also leading the charge for Holcim to become a leader in sustainable construction.

We spoke to Cyril about his dedication to sustainable construction and the role he sees EPDs playing in improving sustainability in the sector.

How (and why) did you first become involved in sustainable construction?

I have been working in the construction material industry for almost 20 years, starting in Europe and already focused on sustainability principles for quarries, concrete plants and precast concrete. To this day, I am fascinated and proud to be part of an industry shaping our built environment. Concrete is such an essential part of construction. In fact, concrete is the second most consumed material after water! And yet, I remember attending a sustainable construction conference 4 years ago and realised that I was the only representative from the concrete industry. It became clear that concrete was the missing link to better inform projects’ life cycle and assist our customer to reach their own goals. This is how my sustainability journey took a different turn, the belief that increasing transparency of our products would drive change and allow the industry to make informed choices. This is exactly what the Holcim and Humes teams have been doing at a local level, underpinned by a very strong commitment to sustainable construction at an international group level.

What has been your experience with EPDs (Environmental Product Declarations)?

Holcim built practical experience in developing, registering and using EPDs. They are the foundation of our low carbon solutions. Particularly for embodied carbon, the EPDs are a credible way to provide third-party verified data to our customers and demonstrate the performance of our products. We registered our first EPD for Humes concrete pipes back in 2017, but the breakthrough was in 2019 with the registration of the first EPD for Readymix in Australia. That EPD covers all our normal class mixes across our network of 190 concrete plants throughout the country. Since then, we have registered an EPD for our low carbon concrete range ECOPact. We also received certification for an EPD on demand, giving us the ability to produce an EPD for any concrete mix, existing and future! That is revolutionary for our industry in Australia. And we continue to increase transparency across our product line. In 2021, we registered an EPD for our aggregates, as well as an EPD for our precast and prestressed products.

What role do you see EPDs playing in sustainable construction in Australia and globally?

Although far from being a new concept, life cycle assessment (LCA) in construction is gaining momentum as organisations and governments commit to decarbonisation. I see EPDs as a critical pathway to communicate transparent and comparable data about a product. I am excited to see that with this data in hand, suppliers and customers can have conversations about product specification very early on in a project. It allows the industry to consider products not only on their performance and price but also on their environmental impact. Ultimately, the transparency provided in a very scientific (and complex) way in an EPD will turn into a real positive impact in the built environment. And because “a ton of carbon” is “a ton of carbon”, this principle applies to all markets around the world, mature and emerging.

What do you predict will be the future of LCA and EPDs in the construction industry and/or across all categories of products and services?

I strongly believe that LCA and EPDs will become the minimum requirement to disclose environmental data and information of a product, across all categories. I believe it will be a pathway similar to the nutrition information panel on food labels, which most people are familiar with. The transparency and standardisation of disclosure allows the consumer to compare and make informed decisions. Although we tend to focus on carbon footprint, the EPD also discloses information on other environmental impacts including air, water and soil pollution, and resource depletion. EPDs are a game changer for the construction industry, and it is very pleasing to see that at the start of January 2021, there were just over 10,000 Verified EPDs to EN 15804 for construction products registered globally.

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