News Brief

Measuring the Environmental Impact of Furniture

By Paula MeltonWhich chair, desk, or filing cabinet has the smallest environmental impact? Many manufacturers make claims about recycled content, VOCs, sustainable harvesting, or other green features—but making an apples-to-apples comparison of several products’ environmental features is next to impossible.

That’s where environmental product declarations (EPDs) come in: these multi-attribute labels are under development in the U.S. as a way for purchasers to get detailed information on the full environmental life cycle of a product. In order to get an accurate EPD, though, an independent body must first set the ground rules—called product category rules (PCRs)—for a set of products. The Business & Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association (BIFMA) has partnered with standards developer NSF International to define these PCRs for furniture.

It is anticipated that more organizations will be stepping up soon to develop PCRs for other product categories. EPDs will have increasing importance as the building industry strives to meet both voluntary commitments and regulatory requirements for reducing energy use and carbon emissions. For more on the emerging role of EPDs, see “LEED Pilot Credit to Promote Product Transparency—Not Performance” and “A 2030 Challenge for Building Product Manufacturers,” EBN March 2011.

Published June 30, 2011

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