Immediate data accessibility and, ideally, usability across disciplines is becoming increasingly important for all stakeholders both in the design process and during the use of buildings. Only this approach will make it possible to fully tap into the potential opened up by digitization. The construction sector is a prime example of a field in which many different stakeholders are involved that require a large amount of information and reliable sources to enable efficient planning and design, calculation and assessment processes. Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) provide an important database for this purpose with respect to sustainable construction. This is why Institut Bauen und Umwelt e.V. (IBU) has recently begun to provide EPDs in a digital format, which is associated with the benefit of making the EPDs published by IBU available to a large number of practitioners on an international scale so that they can actively use them when performing life cycle assessments (LCAs) of buildings.
In the construction sector, EPDs have become an industry standard to document and publish LCA data in a uniform manner. IBU has been using the EPD online tool for several years for all processes pertaining to the drafting, review, publication, and management of EPDs. This third party verified information is thus publicly available on a permanent basis. “With a view to the increasing number of users and complexity of data, it is no longer sufficient to provide EPDs merely as PDF documents,” says Dr. Burkhart Lehmann, the IBU Managing Director. “We want to provide compatible data to those using EPDs for calculating LCAs of buildings to make their work as easy as possible.” For this reason, IBU has recently launched the IBU.data platform to enable access to EPDs in a digital, machine-readable format.
Compatible with software tools
IBU.data imports all EPD data from the IBU EPD online tool. This direct link ensures that the information stored in IBU.data is always up-to-date. Currently, nearly 1,200 digital EPDs are publicly accessible, and this number is constantly increasing. “IBU.data is not at all meant to replace, or compete with, ÖKOBAUDAT, which remains an important channel for publishing generic data in particular,” Lehmann explains. In future, IBU intends to enable manufacturers of construction materials and components to provide additional information as part of their EPDs. “One of our next targets is to also provide supplementary digital information that is required in the context of international certification systems,” Lehmann adds.
Burkhart Lehmann firmly believes in the enormous potential opened up by European or international standards. According to him, this also applies to the Building Information Modeling (BIM) design method, which develops a virtual building model as part of digitizing the entire field of building construction. This overall model is composed of submodels elaborated by individual design disciplines, including architectural, structural design and mechanical services models. “We think that the environmental impact of buildings must be considered in an integrated design process as part of a life cycle assessment model,” Lehmann emphasizes. According to him, digitized LCA data should be linked to BIM information related to individual construction products in order to provide decision-making support with respect to selecting structural components or building structures, or designing entire neighborhoods, with a view to maximizing their sustainability.