EPD Australasia

Profile: Andrew Moore, TAG Chair, Technical & Quality Advisor & found of Life Cycle Logic

Andrew D Moore has been Chair of our Technical Advisory Group (TAG) for over five years and was recently appointed to an operations role as Technical and Quality Advisor. He is an experienced and passionate sustainability scientist and founder of Life Cycle Logic.

We spoke to Andrew about the role and value of EPDs and some of the technical changes coming in the short term and the longer term future of EPDs.

You have been involved with EPDs for many years, as an LCA professional and EPD verifier, as chair of the Technical Advisory Group, and most recently as the Technical and Quality Advisor for EPD Australasia.  How has the development and increasing distribution of EPDs changed the landscape of corporate environmental responsibility?

EPDs provide a solid data foundation for informed decision-making based on specific manufacturers’ data. EPD Users benefit when choosing between different products for their projects or organisation. EPD Owners benefit from the insight LCA provides by examining their operations from an environmental perspective.

Before EPDs (and the background LCA studies), it was certainly harder for both EPD Users and EPD Owners to understand where to focus their sustainability efforts to achieve significant improvements in environmental performance.

In my view, EPDs are all about continuous improvement and transparency. The EPD and LCA provide insight into how a company can improve their environmental footprint and overall efficiency. Often the insights provided by the LCA deliver a far greater bottom-line return than was initially expected.

EPDs have taken off in the building and construction space, driven by their adoption in the Infrastructure Sustainability Council rating scheme and Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) Green Star program. But as more and more people are exposed to EPDs through building products, they are also starting to ask questions about other products. Organisations are increasingly approaching me in the food, fashion, and packaging industries. A diverse range of sectors are now looking at using EPDs because they represent best practice.

In your new role as Technical and Quality Advisor, you are currently working on updating the Regional Annex for EPD Australasia.  Can you explain what the Regional Annex is and what changes might be coming in the latest update?

The Regional Annex provides specific regional guidance to the General Program Instructions (GPI) published by EPD International. As EPD International are based in Europe, their guidelines can have a European focus – the Regional Annex provides context for our region of the world. For example, the way the European electricity grids and markets are structured is different from that in Australia and New Zealand. So that’s one area where we provide more guidance to ensure that our specifications are comparable.

The aim is to make the Regional Annex as brief and as clear as possible. So, it only focuses on those areas where the TAG members have had questions or where other consultants or EPD owners have asked for more guidance.

We also try to minimise the number of changes when we review the document. But one area where there will be more guidance is the guarantee of origin for electricity so that EPD owners can effectively be rewarded for purchasing renewable energy. It’s not a new mechanism in the GPI, but we will be providing a lot more guidance as purchasing renewable energy is more widely adopted.

The Regional Annex also looks at new rules released by EPD International, and we work to ensure changes make sense in our region.

You are also working with EPD International on the digitisation of EPDs.  What exactly is digitisation and how is it going to benefit current and prospective EPD Owners?

Digitisation will minimise the manual handling of information. With the current PDF EPD format, there can be a lot of manual work to pull out the information and put it into databases or LCI software. Verification and registration of EPDs is also a manual process, managed mainly through email. So, the role of digitisation is to make it easier, faster, and eventually cheaper to produce, verify and register EPDs.

Part of my job is to ensure that the transition to digital EPDs is smooth. The PDF EPD format is not going anywhere in the short term, and there will certainly be a transition period where both PDF EPDs and digital (machine-readable) EPDs are available. Eventually, the digital machine-readable versions will be so good that no one will use the PDF versions. But that’s a way off yet, so there’s no reason for anyone to delay EPD publication waiting for this change.

You have many years of LCA and database management experience.  Based on that experience, how would you rate the quality and consistency of EPDs being published today and what (if any) changes do you think are needed?

EPDs represent best practice, and the quality is very high, particularly in our region.

  • Australia and New Zealand have some of the best verifiers of EPDs in the world
  • EPDS have an additional peer-review process where new verifiers must have their first EPD verification projects peer-reviewed to ensure any issues are addressed.
  • We have a well-established quality assurance process of which we are very proud. It works well to pick up any errors and ensure they are corrected.
  • We’re also trialling the Annual Verification Surveillance Report for this region to ensure that the EPD results are representative throughout the five-year validity period. In these annual reviews, we ask EPD Owners targeted questions annually to ensure that their EPD is still valid and representative.

I’m reminded of an old colleague who told me about an LCA study he participated in over 30 years ago. The study looked at a television and, in the absence of LCA databases and software, took a team of people several years to complete. The team relied on extensive interviews with suppliers to investigate the potential environmental impacts. My old colleague would often comment on how far LCA had come. I’m sure we’ll look back in 30 years and be proud of how far things have come but also chuckle at how things used to be done. It’s all about continuous improvement. This is what drives me and all of the members of both the Technical Advisory Group and EPDA Board. We are committed to making the program as good as possible.

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