The American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) hosted a webinar featuring John Jewell, senior consultant with thinkstep. Jewell provided an in-depth look at California’s Assembly Bill 262 and the accompanying 1827, which together require facility-specific Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) for flat glass and other selected products. The bills eventually will set a maximum limit for a product’s global warming potential (GWP).
Jewell said facility-specific EPDs are being accepted through 2019 and will be required in 2020. The established global warming potential (GWP) baseline will be published on January 1, 2021, and manufacturers will have six months to comply if they wish to work on state-funded projects in California. So far, the law only applies to carbon fiber rebar, structural steel, mineral wool insulation and flat glass—clear or tinted float glass, as well as rolled glass—but not glass in doors or windows, or glass with any additional processing.
Jewell explained that AB 262/1827 also only applies to jobs with the State of California—including anything that the state would pay for—and not private projects. However, the law requires any manufacturer desiring to do business with the State of California to make EPDs available for each facility at which a product they would supply is made (a company with multiple manufacturing facilities will be required to present an EPD for every one of those facilities). These facility-specific EPDs were unexpected by those who work with life-cycle assessments (LCAs) the way Jewell does.
“Folks in the LCA community were surprised that they were facility-specific, not product-specific EPDs,” Jewell said. “Your customer doesn’t buy a product from your ‘Facility A,’ but not ‘Facility B.’ They just want your product and you have to get it to them. If there’s a problem at ‘Facility A,’ you might have ‘Facility B’ make it and ship it, but usually you’re not selling location-specific versions of a product.”
Jewell laid out some of the problems that others have already come to identify as well, including establishing a GWP limit. GWP limit represents the maximum warming potential a product should have in order to be accepted for use in a state project. Only those products that fall below a certain baseline will be accepted. This, he said, will likely create hardships for some companies that may never be able to meet the requirement.
“If their impacts are related to the electricity grid where they operate—if the EPD is mostly associated with the energy they buy and they’re in an area where it’s mostly coal, there’s very little management can do to get below baseline. They can’t just move,” he explained.
The Weighted Average
Right now, the GWP baseline is set using a weighted average, plus a 20-percent cushion. However, Jewell opined that using a weighted average—even with a cushion—to determine the GWP, could work against the state.
“I would say let’s encourage manufacturers to improve, set a high bar so they can achieve it, but if we block half the industry for being ‘worse than average’ there are a lot of companies that just might pull out of the state,” he said. “If the line is drawn in the middle, you don’t necessarily have control over the things that might get you into the position where you can qualify to sell to California. Everyone can try and reduce waste, reduce energy. It’s great for business and great for the environment, but if incremental changes won’t get you there, it’s going to put some companies out of business.”
In order to develop the EPDs used for baseline/weighted averages, the California Department of General Services (DGS) tabulated the baseline from information available on EPDs that DGS staff members found published on the internet.
“That creates sampling bias,” Jewell suggested. “If you want to really reflect the market, you want to look at everyone who creates these products, not just the early movers.”
Right now, the DGS is set on following the letter of the law, he added, which means that the door and window markets are not affected—yet—because AB262 only applies to flat glass, and not glass used in applications. But Jewell warned that could change going forward.
“They’ve kind of figured out that flat glass isn’t sold into buildings, but finished glass products would be,” he said, adding that, “Implementation is a bit nebulous the way it is written. If it’s enacted as written today, I have no idea if there are enough products that would qualify, as in better than the baseline, to actually build all the buildings California wants built. That should be considered before they roll this out.”