News Brief

UL, USGBC Team Up to Standardize LCA Rules

The new partnership aims to prevent apples-to-oranges product comparisons under the guise of life-cycle assessment and environmental product declarations.

“We’re working on filling in some of the gaps” with the underlying data that informs LCA, Firth told EBN. Although there are rules specifying how to conduct an assessment (see “The Product Transparency Movement: Peeking Behind the Corporate Veil”), they currently leave too many options open, argues Firth. There’s nothing saying that two manufacturers of similar products have to use the same database, for example, so companies end up choosing the data they prefer—which creates the potential for gaming the system. “I don’t think there’s any wrongdoing,” Firth emphasizes, “but we can do a bit better than this. They do the best they can, but those rules aren’t there to help them.”

Also, he adds, there are multiple LCA software tools, which all use the chosen data differently. This can lead to sometimes-disparate results: in a recent analysis of biomass emissions, for example, UL found a 30% difference in outputs between two different software programs. “Those inconsistencies have to be known, and they have to be fixed,” he said.

According to the USGBC announcement of the partnership, which coincided with its 2013 Greenbuild conference, the new rules under development will eventually undergird a new disclosure format—a “joint USGBC-UL EPD” designed to help ensure that the environmental impact of multiple products in the same category can be compared reliably.


Published December 2, 2013

Melton, P. (2013, December 2). UL, USGBC Team Up to Standardize LCA Rules. Retrieved from

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