Embodied carbon, embodied energy and renewable energy: a review of Environmental Product Declarations

Anderson, Jane and Moncaster, Alice (2023). Embodied carbon, embodied energy and renewable energy: a review of Environmental Product Declarations. Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers - Structures and Buildings, 176(12) pp. 986–997.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1680/jstbu.21.00160


Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) to EN 15804 provide information about embodied carbon of construction products – their life cycle greenhouse gas emissions - alongside reporting use of renewable and non-renewable primary energy and secondary fuels amongst other environmental indicators. As the number of EPD to EN 15804 increase, they become a useful data resource to consider these impacts. As we move to reduce the embodied carbon of products, we also need to use renewable energy resources efficiently to allow the transition to net zero – this is due to the increasing demands on renewable energy to decarbonise industry, transport and domestic energy consumption and the limited capacity to expand renewable generation. This paper reviews published EPD data for structural and reinforcing steels, cement, bricks and structural timber products and considers, for the cradle to gate “product” life cycle stage, exploring the relationship of embodied carbon with embodied energy (total energy used), the balance of renewable and non-renewable energy, and the efficient use of energy. It finds, for bricks and timber, that EPD show products which use a greater percentage of renewable energy have higher embodied energy, suggesting a less efficient use of renewable energy for these products.

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