At the beginning of an EPD project, the EPD owner must decide on a goal and scope of the EPD. One of the elements of the goal is the target audience which means who are the customers who will be utilizing this data. Once a goal is defined, the scope is decided to ensure that the study meets all the stated goals. One of the elements under scope that has to be defined is the geographical coverage of an EPD which determines data gathering and modelling choices throughout the project.
According to EN 15804+A2:2019 Section 22.214.171.124 Data Quality Requirements,
The geographical coverage shall reflect the physical reality for the declared product or product group by as far as possible taking into account:
- technology representativeness for the region/country
- input materials representativeness for the region/country
- input energies representativeness for the region/country.
According to EN 50693:2019 Section 126.96.36.199 Data Quality Requirements,
- Geographic coverage shall reflect operational reality of the different life cycle stages
As seen from text cited in the standards, geographical representativeness of the data should be considered and analysed throughout the data collection and modelling process. Examples include:
- Manufacturing dataset choices while modelling the production phase
- Transportation distances during the construction process stage
- Energy mix used in modelling the use phase
- End of life scenario definition and choice of datasets during modelling
In the case of manufacturers who manufacture and ship to different locations. there are certain modelling choices one has to make to address multiple location use phase scenario, such as:
- Choose country specific energy mix data only for the use phase operational energy
- Choose sales volume-based weighted average data for multiple locations
- Select one specific country as a base case and include multi-location scenarios in the EPD Annex to represent B6 operational energy in different countries
This goes back to the intended audience of the EPD. For example, if an EPD is intended for customers in country X, electricity and end of life scenario values from country X will be used to get high representativeness of the geography. However, if a customer in country Y wants to use the same EPD for their building LCA calculations, the EPD may not be representative of the energy grid and end of life scenario in country Y and the data quality will be considered poor. Moreover, different countries have different regulatory requirements for product related materials and emissions and therefore an EPD created and declared for a product in one country may not be sellable in another country if it doesn’t meet the relevant regulations.
In summary, the key points to keep in mind for an EPD owner are:
- Goal and scope clarity
- Data collection and selection to meet data quality requirements for geographical representativeness
- Accurate and transparent documentation of all applicable scenarios per the requirements of the standard and PCR of the program operator
- If the physical reality related to geographical representativeness of the product system changes during the validity period of an EPD (for example: increased % of renewables in the grid mix), the EPD owner must analyse the results of the EPD and check if the rules in the PCR mandate an update to the published EPD
The location of a program operator does not matter with respect to the geographical representativeness of an EPD.
Please note that these guidelines are generalized to cover a wide audience. The reader must check any specific guidelines and reporting requirements in the PCR of the program operator.