Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) are yet uncharted territory for MEP planning. This is because, in practice, the environmental impacts of technical building systems are simply estimated in life cycle assessments. We explain why this will change and how the environmental product data for MEP components will be made available barrier-free as soon as possible in the future.
According to Statistics Sweden, greenhouse gas emissions from the Swedish economy decreased by three percent in 2022 compared to 2021. Finland’s greenhouse gas emissions shrunk by four percent in 2022, compared to the year before, according to Statistics Finland. The Nordic countries have been leading the way in lowering greenhouse gas emissions, yet they are aiming to do better. The EU envisages a climate-neutral building stock by 2050 with the Green Deal, the Climate Protection Act and incentives for climate-friendly new construction and renovation projects. All Nordic countries have introduced more ambitious targets for abatement than the EU. For example, the new Building Act adopted by the Finnish Parliament in March introduces the statutory control of carbon levels in construction. From 2025 onwards, a ceiling will be placed on emissions from new construction, setting the maximum size of the carbon footprint from the construction stage to the end of the life span. The system is already in use in Sweden, and Norway and Denmark are likely to enact similar legislation soon. Also, against the backdrop of the unexpected energy crisis, politics and business are adopting measures to reduce emissions at a quickening pace. We need to become more sustainable in all areas of life. The EU “Circular Economy” Action Plan was adopted as early as 2020. The goal is a more-efficient use of resources as well as a circular economy and the action plan announces initiatives along the entire life cycle of products. This also has a strong impact on the construction sector.
Circular construction: Endlessly recycling resources and building materials
Circular construction is derived from the above-mentioned EU action plan and goes beyond the previous credo of end-to-end BIM planning – “from the cradle to the grave”. So now, it is “from the cradle to the cradle”: Raw materials for buildings should be planned and used in such a way that they can ideally be endlessly reused. Or completely biodegrade. The main driver of this change is the EU taxonomy. As an instrument of the Green Deal, it directs investments specifically into ecologically sustainable economic activities – such as the construction or refurbishment of real estate. Therefore, it provides assessment criteria for the sustainable classification of buildings. For example, quotas for building materials used: At least 15 per cent must be recycled, 15 per cent reused and 20 per cent must be either renewable, reused or recycled. Further specifications concern, among other things, the net primary energy requirement. This implies that building materials and product materials must become more transparent for these sustainability assessments.
EU taxonomy makes life cycle analyses necessary
As investors, banks have been required to report within this framework since 2022; whether and to what extent they finance environmentally friendly projects. The value of a building is increasingly measured in terms of its environmental impact over its entire life cycle – from manufacture, transport, construction and operation to demolition and recycling. That is why investors demand ecological consideration or certification of the building at an early stage. Federal funding programs also usually require a sustainability assessment.
Importance of MEP planning for life cycle assessment
The technical building equipment has so far been neglected by the common life cycle assessment for buildings. When calculating environmental impacts, the focus is on the construction of the building, i.e., on the building envelope and the building materials required for it. The CO2 footprint of the very small-scale MEP systems is simply overestimated for the life cycle analysis of the building. This is changing due to the EU taxonomy. An approximate ecological assessment of MEP systems is being met with harsh penalty values by recognized “Green Building Label” certification. This can have a negative impact on the eco-balance and thus, for example, on a grant or loan approval. Negative LCAs due to rough MEP life cycle assessments become correspondingly unattractive. An accurate sustainability assessment is only possible with the inclusion of the MEP components. It is now known that MEP components account for a not-inconsiderable proportion of total CO2 emissions over a building’s life cycle. This proportion increases as the degree of mechanization rises. The DGNB has already raised the allowance for systems engineering from 10 to 20 percent for its certification system in 2021. So, property developers are already benefiting from a life cycle analysis that is as accurate as possible. However, there is a lack of environmental product data for MEP for a precise sustainability assessment. Although there are databases, such as ÖKOBAUDAT or those of the IBU, MEP environmental data are hardly available here either. Furthermore, manufacturers are not allowed to issue the Environmental Product Declarations themselves. They must first have them independently verified, which takes time. EPDs consist of much more information than CO2 emissions. Each component has multi-page EPDs containing information on all raw materials used, weight, in which factory it is manufactured and how, etc. All this information has an impact on the sustainability rating.
MagiCAD Group further develops MagiCAD Cloud for MEP BIM planning with EPD
In turn, designers are faced with the problem of importing the few existing EPDs into their own design software in a very time-consuming manner and referencing them with the MEP elements in the digital project model. So far, there is no MEP software manufacturer that provides the environmental data “directly on” the product so that it can be used as barrier-free as possible in digital MEP planning. As the developer of the BIM object database MagiCAD Cloud and the MEP planning software MagiCAD for Revit, MagiCAD wants to enable its users and other MEP planners’ easy access and working with this data. We have been developing our BIM object database MagiCAD Cloud to this end for a year now. The goal is to provide the MEP planners with a tool with standardized data with which they can carry out an accurate life cycle analysis. This is only possible with BIM. For this reason, the MEP BIM objects of the MagiCAD Cloud should also contain environmental product data in addition to the geometric dimensions and technical properties. These can then be transferred directly into the project as BIM data and used for life cycle assessment or passed on with the IFC model. However, this still needs a little time.
In the first step, we collect the EPDs from manufacturers and support them in making the data available in our cloud. Kampmann is a MEP manufacturer that is leading the way in the industry and has already provided EPD for the BIM objects of its underfloor convectors in the MagiCAD Cloud.
Imke Klompmaker, Compliance & Sustainability Trainee, KAMPMANN GmbH & Co. KG, explains:
“Using Environmental Product Declarations, we make it easier for our customers to certify buildings with sustainability seals by allowing MEP designers to simply pass on the EPD of the respective product to the building certification auditor. In addition, we can use EPDs to identify approaches for the sustainable optimization of our products. For this reason, we will be equipping more products in our portfolio with EPDs in the future.”
In the next step, we plan to implement the BIM-enabled data for the GWP value. When we integrate this into the MagiCAD Cloud, we directly include as much data as possible. This will enable comprehensive LCA calculations of MEP systems and further energy calculations with BIM models in the future.
MagiCAD Cloud is the world’s leading mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) BIM platform. It includes over 1,000,000 data-rich BIM objects of commercially available MEP devices and components from more than 300 manufacturers internationally. At MagiCAD Manufacturer Services, we specialize in creating high-quality BIM objects for MEP manufacturers.