Receive our news :

Who verifies the content of the environmental declarations? And what?

Since 1 July 2017, manufacturers must have the conformity of their environmental declarations verified by an independent third party (accredited verifiers) in accordance with the reference standards as part of a verification programme: INIES programme for construction products and PEP Ecopassport programme for equipment. These programmes are in particular framed by the order of 31 August 2015, relating to the verification of environmental declarations by an independent third party, which sets the method to be followed to assess the environmental impacts of building construction and decoration products and equipment as far as they are intended to be sold to the consumer, as well as the content of the verification, the skills expected from the verifier and the conditions for recognition of the latter’s aptitude. Each verifier passes an exam to obtain an accreditation which is based on the requirements of the ISO 14025 standard aimed at qualifying the skills required to ensure the quality and independence of the verifications. The prerequisites for the verifier exam are the practice of life cycle assessment in the field of construction products or equipment, and a completion of at least 2 FDES / PEP ecopassport® for different product families in the last two years. All data recorded in the INIES Programme and PEP ecopassport are valid for 5 years. The points examined by the verifier are multiple:

  • Objective of the study
  • Functional unit
  • Description of the product
  • System boundaries
  • Energy mix
  • Cut-off rules
  • Data collection and quality
  • Scenarios used
  • Plausibility and completeness of data
  • Verification of communication aspects
  • Health characteristics for FDES

Beyond the FDES, the INIES programme also offers a verification of Life Cycle Inventories (LCI) and configurators.

Learn more about the INIES verification program and the PEP ecopassport® verification program.

What is the FDES and PEP climate change indicator for?

The climate change indicator is used to assess a construction product or equipment’s contribution to the increased content of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. It is generally accepted that the increasing greenhouse effect causes changes to the Earth’s climate, notably an increase to its average temperature. It is expressed in kg CO2 equivalent (carbon dioxide or carbonic gas) and includes all of the greenhouse gases that the product emits over the course of its life cycle. Not all gases have the same effect.

For example, a kilogram of methane (CH4) contributes 21 times more to the greenhouse effect than a kilogram of CO2, and one kilogram of nitrous oxide (N2O) is 310 times more harmful. Per kilogram emitted, some gases contribute several thousand times more to the greenhouse effect than CO2. Thus, the climate change indicator provides information on greenhouse gas emissions and their impact on global warming. The standard requires that at least the three main gases relevant to construction products (CO2, CH4, N2O) be taken into account.

While many tools exist for evaluating a territory or activity’s greenhouse gas emissions (carbon footprint or carbon accounting, etc.), life cycle analysis (used in the FDES and PEP) is the only tool adapted to both products and buildings.

As for energy, it is important to think on the scale of the building rather than the products because some products benefit the building by reducing its consumption and greenhouse gases emissions. To avoid counting this effect twice, avoidances are not attributed to products but are included in the environmental and energy performances of buildings.

Read more : Product LCA

What do the FDES and PEP energy indicators mean?

For construction products and equipment, the “total primary energy consumption” indicator represents the primary energy “used up” by the product over the course of its life cycle. This represents the amount of energy from nature (gas, oil, uranium ore, biomass, wind, geothermal, etc.) needed to produce, transport, and implement the product, plus the energy used during its lifetime and at the end of its life. This primary energy is one part renewable and one part non-renewable. It also includes a “material” part and a “process” part. The “material” part corresponds to the amount of energy that could theoretically be recovered by burning the product (in the case of products containing polymers or biomass). The “process” energy part corresponds to all of the primary energy invested in processing procedures, operating processes and transporting the material over the entire product life cycle. The FDES and PEP therefore contain the values of five energy indicators that correspond to the product concerned.

Reference standards provide the method for calculating these indicators. However, only the indicators of total primary energy, renewable and non-renewable energy are set according to the standard in the table of environmental indicators. For construction products, these indicators make it possible to explain the concept of embodied (or “grey”) energy. Indeed, there is currently no standardised definition of this concept, and different interpretations coexist. Embodied energy values found in the literature differ greatly depending on the definition chosen and its interpretation. Therefore, it is advisable to use the various energy indicators given by the reference standards to describe and quantify the different energy resources consumed over the course of a product’s life cycle.

Read more : Product LCA

Are the construction products in INIES safe?

If we exclude the special case of materials that come into contact with drinking water, there are no benchmarks in place to confirm that a product is safe, that is, one product does not have an impact on health but another product does. For the materials that come into contact with drinking water, based on benchmarks (list of authorised materials, migration test, etc.), it is up to health authorities relying on detailed regulations and approved laboratories to grant a product authorisation to come into contact with drinking water (in France: ACS or Certificate of Sanitary Conformity). More generally, the Construction Products Directive (DPC 89/106), transposed into French law, specifies in essential requirement No. 3 that the hygiene and health of occupants and neighbours must be ensured by measures including:

  • the design of the project, its implementation, and its maintenance,
  • properties,
  • performance and use of construction products.

This directive also establishes that the health performance of construction products is assessed through a multi-criteria approach using known technical characteristics (ability to seal out water and gases, thermal shock resistance, permeability to water vapour, etc.) and other more specific health criteria that require specific tests and methods, currently being drafted and/or harmonised at the European level (emissions of hazardous substances including volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and formaldehyde, natural radioactive emissions, emissions of fibres and particles, etc.).

FDES sheets that meet the requirements of standards NF EN 15804 and its national supplement and have been accepted into the INIES contain information that reflects the current French consensus on conveying the health and comfort characteristics of construction products.

The INIES database is therefore not a database of products that have been selected because they are safe. Any product can be in the database, as long as its manufacturer meets the requirements for admission.

Read more: Indoor air quality