Building Gurus Looks To UL For Life-Cycle Help

When it comes to certification outfits, there’s few if any with the history of UL, aka Underwriters Laboratories. It dates back to 1894, for crying out loud, having arisen during an era when things electric were just beginning to take off.

Now old-school UL is hooking up with a young certification descendent, the U.S. Green Building Council, keepers of LEED. To get the ball rolling on the relationship, they plan to work together to create an environmental product declaration (EPD), a system that puts a number to building material products and processes that signals their environmental impact through an entire life cycle.

The Upcycle House prototype can be built quickly for a price of just $175,000. Image via Lendager Architects.

How would the Upcycle House fare in a life cycle assessment? (image via Lendager Architects)

Life cycle assessment edged its way deeper into the LEED building certification program  this year when the organization updated its ratings system to include a couple of credits for including an LCA approach.

With the joint USGBC-UL EPDs, the organizations think they can provide the disclosure and awareness of building material products and processes that both builders and consumers are looking for.

“Transparency into the impacts of a product at each stage of its lifecycle has become a critical driver of purchases and specifications,” Sara Greenstein, president of UL’s environment and information and insights business unit,” said in a statement. “This partnership between USGBC and UL will help businesses, individuals and project teams better understand the products they are including in their building projects, and have greater clarity about how those products can contribute to LEED credits.”

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

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