Forum drafts standards for measuring environmental footprint of concrete

The Carbon Leadership Forum at the University of Washington College of Built Environment is gathering input this month on a draft of “Product Category Rules (PCR) for ISO 14025 Type III Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) for Concrete.” The group especially seeks feedback from concrete producers and their suppliers, architects and engineers, plus life cycle assessment and environmental specialists.

Posted at the CLF PCR website (, the draft provides a framework for producers to report the “environmental footprint” of different mixes, thereby enabling design professionals to specify low impact concrete. The document details energy or fuel consumption inputs and related environmental impacts (i.e. global warming potential/carbon footprints) producers need to account for and report in an EPD. This PCR addresses impacts of making concrete from the “cradle to gate,” and thus includes raw materials extraction, production and transportation; it can be used for both ready mixed and precast concrete. Requirements for such documentation could be commonplace as green building practitioners and their clients look past LEED certification to performance-based project measurements.

A 14-member Carbon Leadership Forum committee began work on “PCR/EPD for Concrete” in January 2011. Industry representatives are Jeff Davis of Central Concrete Supply, San Jose, and Greg McKinnon of Stoneway Concrete, Seattle; plus National Ready Mixed Concrete Association’s Lionel Lemay, Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute’s Dean Frank, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology/Concrete Sustainability Hub’s John Ochsendorf.

PCR and EPD prepared according to consensus guidelines—and International Organization for Standardization 14025-2006— are aimed at helping architects and engineers meet the 2030 Challenge for Products. With phased targets over nearly two decades, it compels building industry suppliers to reduce the carbon-equivalent footprint of their materials and products at least 50 percent against current industry benchmarks. The Challenge was issued by the American Institute of Architects-aligned Architecture 2030, a non-profit organization focused on addressing climate change by lowering energy consumption throughout the building sector.