Issues and PCA Positions: Through the PCA Codes and Standards participation at varying levels of engagement are intended to support concepts and criteria favorable to solutions provided with concrete or masonry and oppose those that do not fairly reflect sustainable solutions that are be provided using concrete and masonry. Consultants funded through the PCA Sustainable Development Department are also engaged in this work to provide, support, and refute, as necessary, technical arguments related sustainability activities of ASTM E60. Several standards development activities have little if any impact on the concrete and masonry industries, such as those related to invasive species, earthen walls, water and wastewater management, and rainwater collection and quality. The issues vary with proposals presented during each standard development process. Discussion here only addresses examples of major issues and PCA positions related to the basic concepts. For information on specific issues raised at meetings, click here.  

ASTM E60.01 Buildings and Construction Subcommittee

ASTM E60.80 General Principles of Sustainability Subcommittee

ASTM E60.01 Buildings and Construction Subcommittee

Completed standards that are not currently being revised may not be assigned to a specific task group. The following is one such standard.

E2432 Standard Guide for General Principles of Sustainability Relative to Buildings

This guide covers the fundamental concepts of sustainability: environmental, economic and social as associated with building characteristics. The guide distinguishes between ideal sustainability and applied sustainability. Ideally, human activities would not require making trade-offs among environmental, economic, and social goals. However, this guide recognizes that, in applying sustainability principles to buildings, decision makers must often balance opportunities and challenges associated with each of the general principles. The general principles are applicable to all life-cycle stages of a building and its components, including: material extraction, product manufacturing, product transportation, planning, siting, design, specification, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, retrofit, reuse, deconstruction, and waste disposal of buildings.

General Principles. The presentation of the criteria can significantly alter the way sustainability of products is evaluated. Major issues can be tied to a single word. For example a large group of participants prefer “extracted or harvested or processed or manufactured” in lieu of “extracted or harvested and processed and manufactured.” Changing “and” to “or” precludes consideration of raw materials obtained large distances away from the point of processing or manufacturing creating an advantage for many materials such as metals. Equally important, such a word change could actually preclude environmental practices form even being considered for some extraction and harvesting processes. PCA Codes and Standards activities closely monitor and work to maintain criteria that fairly and accurately represent the sustainability features of products. 

E60.01.01 Terminology Task Group

This task group addresses terms and definitions pertaining to sustainable development with an emphasis on sustainability relative to the performance of buildings. The terms and definitions may significantly influence the scope and impact of standards and in some instances design and construction criteria may be incorporated into the terms and definitions. The standard maintained by this task group is:

E2114 Standard Terminology for Sustainability Relative to the Performance of Buildings, also WK30009.

The standardization of terminology pertaining specifically to sustainable development is a fundamental need for standards development by providing a common understanding and consistent word usage to help eliminate the major barrier to effective technical communication.

Terms and phrases. The definition of terms and phrases can significantly alter the application and impact of criteria in standards related to sustainability, often by exclusion or inclusion. Also, definitions may contain qualifying content that is technical in nature.

E60.01.12 Whole Building Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) Task Group Task Group

This work group is involved in the development and maintenance of standards pertaining to life cycle assessments (LCA). The Portland Cement Association supports LCA over prescriptive criteria intended to reflect sustainability attributes of materials products and systems, as LCA best reflect the attributes and allow specific attributes to be considered in the context of the entire project. The standard maintained by this task group is:   

E2921 Standard Practice for Minimum Criteria for Comparing Whole Building Life Cycle Assessments for Use with Building Codes and Rating Systems, also WK46299

This practice supports the use of whole building Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) in building codes and building rating systems by ensuring that comparative assessments of final whole building designs relative to reference building designs take account of the relevant building features, life cycle stages, and related activities in similar fashion for both the reference and final building designs of the same building regardless of the assessment tools being used.

Product Design Service Life. There are a variety issues related to concrete and masonry addressed in this standard. The highest priority item is to have adequate longevity of building and product service lives. It is in the best interest of the concrete and masonry industry to have the current service lives based on 100 years or more, but the current standard has the service lives set at 75 years. Routinely there are proposals to further reduce the service lives to 60 years or less. This is a significant issue because the standard truncates product service lives for the specified service life. Thus a product with a 100-year service life is only permitted to be considered for a 75-year service life. There is no credit for the extended use. If this is lowered the longevity, one and possibly the most important aspect of a sustainable material, product or system, the frequency of repair and replacement, is compromised for materials that have long services lives, i.e. sustainable.

Also, the truncation may in inappropriately direct users to select less sustainable materials with shorter lives. For example a product with a 15-year service life will be in the initial project and then replaced on the 15th, 30th, 45th, and 60th years. Five purchases for a 75-year service life and the end of life would be at 75 years. However, a product with an 18-year service life will be in the initial project and then replaced on the 18th, 36th, 54th, and 72nd years. This are also five purchases for a 75 year service life, but the end of life would be at 90 years and there is no credit for the extended use.

A more appropriate approach would be for material, product, and system providers to simply state the longevity and service/maintenance requirements for their goods and allow them to be appropriately integrated into the LCA for the design service life of the project. However, there is considerable resistance to the totally altering of the standard because the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) uses a product design service life and sets it at 60 years.              

Project Configuration: The standard currently does not permit deviations in the configuration of the structural components and systems. Thus, significant reductions in environmental impacts related to alternative structural systems are not reflected when these criteria are used for the LCA comparisons of alternative designs. For example the frequency of columns and beams could be dramatically reduced by incorporating longer span post-tensioned concrete floors into the building. Another example is reducing floor to floor heights by using flat plate floor systems in lieu of systems that require beams or deep joists. Not only might this result in the sustainability benefit of less material, but shorter floor to floor heights also can dramatically reduce the volume of air that must be conditioned daily for occupant comfort while maintaining the same floor to ceiling heights.

E60.01.14 Product Communications Task Group

This task group develops criteria for communication information about the sustainability attributes, features and benefits of products.

E2129 Standard Practice for Data Collection for Sustainability Assessment of Building Products

This practice provides instructions for collecting data to be used in assessing the sustainability of building products for use in both commercial and residential buildings. This standard only addresses selection of products for use in a building and does not address sustainability issues related to overall building design, site selection, building operations, or other features influencing sustainability. Construction Specifications Institute's (CSI) MasterFormat sections are used to promote consistency in the evaluation of building products.

WK23356 New Practice for Development of Product Category Rules for Use in Development of Environmental Declarations for Building Products and Systems 

This practice addresses consistency in the development of product category rules (PCR) that can be used by Type III environmental declarations program operators to develop business-to-business (cradle-to-gate) and business-to-consumer Type III environmental product declarations (EPD) for building products and systems. Product category rules provide a set of specific rules, requirements, and guidelines for developing EPD and specify the underlying requirements of the life-cycle assessment (LCA). Only environmental aspects of sustainability are addressed and social and economic aspects of sustainability excluded.

Product Category Rules. PCA Codes and Standards Department works to make sure the criteria contained in PCR’s result in fair treatment of materials in the development of Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs). EPDs are a crucial component of LCA which PCA favors over prescriptive criteria for environmental or sustainability assessment.

Data Collection. The type and reporting of data are addressed in this standard. Issues include preserving proprietary information and minimizing the complexity and extent of data that must be reported. Transparency does not need to be synonymous with full disclosure.  

WK31993 New Practice for Communication of Sustainable Attributes of Products

This standard sets requirements for communicating product data related to the sustainability of a product by identifying attributes that must be reported and specifying the unit reporting requirements associated with each attribute. Reported attributes are the environmental aspects and environmental impacts associated with the acquisition and manufacture of a product and the standard does not address the environmental aspects and impacts associated with a products use or end of life.

E60.01.15 Site Development and Urban Planning Task Group

This work group addresses the criteria for site development and urban planning related to sustainability.  Development density, access to services and public transportation, invasive species are all within the purview of this subcommittee.  Although there are criteria that impact could amount the amount and type of infrastructure used in developments, the efforts of this task groups tend to have a low priority for PCA Codes and Standards department.   There are no significant issues for the concrete and masonry industry but the development of these standards is encouraged in lieu of criteria developed in the less technical process for the International Green Construction Code.

WK31420 New Practice for Establishment of Adequate Infrastructure into the Development of Building Sites Promoting Sustainability

This standard addresses establishment of adequate infrastructure as a component of building site sustainability. Adequate infrastructure refers to roads, transit, sidewalks, utilities, water infrastructure and schools. The availability of such infrastructure is important for growth management because sites cannot be sustainable if they do not have sufficient infrastructure. This standard provides communities with a list of elements that are included as infrastructure so that each jurisdiction can better evaluate whether or not its development pattern is providing the general populace with an adequate level of capacity (infrastructure) to support existing and new development in a fiscal and environmentally sustainable manner.

WK31423 New Specification for Sustainably Siting a Building Relative to the Proximity of Neighborhood Assets

This standard specifies minimum requirements for locating a sustainable building on the basis of proximity to neighborhood assets. Neighborhood assets are services or physical amenities available in a specified area, including assembly, business, educational, and mercantile.   This standard establishes baseline criteria for jurisdictions and builders to use to determine if a building site is sufficiently close to neighborhood assets, thus allowing residents and employees of the area to complete errands and satisfy daily needs by walking to their destinations.

WK31429 New Practice for Incorporating Street Connectivity Provisions into the Development of Building Sites Promoting Sustainability

This standard offers instructions for optimizing street connectivity in support of sustainable development. Street connectivity involves street networks that form grid patterns, providing multiple routes and connections to get from points of origin and to destination points. This is typically achieved with parallel routes and cross connections with few dead-end streets and many points of access. Frequent intersections create block lengths that are amenable to walking, bicycling and use of transit.

WK31430 New Specification for Standard Specification for Sustainably Siting A Building Relative to the Proximity to Public Transit

This standard specifies minimum requirements for locating a building in order to demonstrate improved sustainability on the basis of proximity to public transit.

E60.01.16 Collection Waste Planning Task Group

This task group is identifying strategies for dealing with waste on building construction sites.  Properly developed, this standard may be used to demonstrate sustainability benefits of concrete and masonry which tend to have minimal waste that requires disposal of on the construction site. Ready-mixed concrete that is not discharged on the site is returns for further processing at the ready-mix plant.  Unused masonry units are typically used on future projects and precast concrete it typically provided to the project with the required dimensions. Each of these processes result in no waste at the construction site. PCA Codes and Standards Department is engaged in this effort to assure that the criteria adequately reflect construction materials processes.  

WK38560 New Practice for Ecologically Sustainable Construction Site Waste Management

This standard facilitates development of a Construction Waste Management (CWM) Plan required in most sustainable building codes, standards and programs. It applies to construction and demolition of buildings and other structures. It includes:

  1. all wastes generated on-site including construction products and material waste,
  2. construction product and materials packaging,
  3. construction office waste, food waste, and
  4. food and beverage packaging waste.

Waste generated in the manufacture, preparation, or fabrication of materials off-site is not in the scope. 

E60.01.17 Product Transparency Declarations Task Group

Product transparency declarations are being developed as an alternative to a variety of Health Product Declarations (HPD) already in existence and used by several large and influential design and specification firms. The current approach in most HPDs is to black list materials, products, components and systems based on ingredients regardless of any risk of exposure to the building occupants. While some of this effort may duplicate what is already in safety data sheets (SDS) mandated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The PCA Codes and Standards Department’s priorities in this area are to assure minimal duplication of already mandated requirements, requiring realistically appropriate levels of concentrations to trigger actionable reporting, restrict reporting to known ingredients, and to limit risk to exposure in the completed building and rely on OSHA regulations for installer safety.

WK44075 New Practice for Standard Practice for Issuing Product Transparency Declarations

This standard provides requirements for publishing a Product Transparency Declaration including:

1)  product ingredients,

2)  product ingredients identified as hazards,

3)  warning label requirements for finished building materials,

4)  intentionally added heavy metals,

5)  volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions and VOC content information,

6)  recycled content, and

7)  environmental certifications.

This practice is intended to include all building products incorporated in a building. 

Product transparency declarations provide designers and specifiers with a list of ingredients in a building product and helps them make the appropriate choices to satisfy the owners’ needs and to know whether any ingredients are present at levels requiring a warning notification to their clients.

E60.01.18 Multi-Attribute Sustainability Task Group

This task group is developing criteria for materials, products, components and systems that have multiple sustainability attributes.   The attributes being considered are not just related to environmental impacts but also social and economic impacts.  For example ready-mixed concrete contain recycled content, be indigenous (regionally produced), and employ local residents.  There are clear, but often difficult to quantify environmental and social impacts.  This task group is attempting to develop standard strategies for accounting for these multi-attributes.  

WK49400 New Practice for the Development of Multi-Attribute Sustainability Standards for Building Products

A multi-attribute sustainability standard identifies and incorporates a broad range of social and environmental criteria throughout all phases of a products life cycle and establishes minimum thresholds for conformance as relevant to a product category. The purpose of such a standard is to facilitate the reduction of social and environmental stresses by setting forth product requirements which are effective, verifiable, industry-relevant, and consistent for all products within a category. A growing number of building materials and furnishings industries are identifying minimum social and environmental requirements for products. This standard is intended to help achieve this mission. 

ASTM E60.80 General Sustainability Standards Subcommittee

This subcommittee develops standards that may be applied, compliment, or serve as an umbrella documents for standards developed within other subcommittees. Currently there are two new standards under development that may have an impact on the concrete and masonry industries.

WK39435 New Guide for Standard Guide for General Principles of Sustainability

This guide is intended to cover the three types of general principles related to sustainability: environmental, economic, and social. This guide covers the fundamental concepts for each of the general principles and distinguishes between ideal sustainability and applied sustainability. The guide acknowledges the need for trade-offs in applying sustainability principles and therefore offers guidance to decision makers with regard to balancing opportunities and challenges.

Balancing principles. The concept offering guidance for balancing the principles of sustainability can be advantageous or dangerous. It is extremely difficult to develop guidance for balancing principles without favoring some aspects of one principle over another. PCA Codes and Standards Department involvement in this initiative is primarily limited to assuring the concrete and masonry are fairly addressed in the guidance being provided.

WK40619 New Guide for Making Chemical Selection Decisions in the Life Cycle of Products

This guide outlines considerations for comparing ingredient-product pairs in all products except food, pharmaceuticals, ammunition/explosives, herbicides/pesticides, and fuel. It is intended to provide basic criteria and possible factors for consideration in developing sustainability related assessment attributes applicable to various stages in the product life cycle of products. This guide considers the 12 principles of both green chemistry and green engineering in evaluating the overall social, economic, and ecological impact of an ingredient-product pairing and alternative assessment.

Alternative chemicals.  The influence of this effort currently does not appear to have a significant impact on the development of model building codes, referenced standards or related documents that pertain to the concrete and masonry industries. Alternative (green) chemicals may have significant impacts on liquid applied materials using in building construction, cleaning materials or other materials used during building operations or materials used in the manufacture of materials, products, components or systems. The PCA Codes and Standards Department role in this activity is primarily monitoring to observe if changes may ultimately have a significant impact on our industries with regard to building design and construction criteria.  

E60.80.06 Sustainability Database Task Group

This task group is not developing standards but is maintaining a database of standards related to sustainability: ASTM Sustainability Standards Listing. The database extends beyond standards developed by ASTM. Future versions are intended to identify the standards development process used in a matter that permits to user to see if the standard is an industry standard or a consensus standard developed under the guidelines that would permit the standard to be referenced in the national model building codes.  Additionally the database is anticipated to include product categories rules (PCR) in the near future.