Sustainablity Standard for Single Ply Roofing

07/01/2015 | By Jennie Morton

Learn about NSF/ANSI 347

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Have a single ply roofing project on the horizon? To select a membrane that will deliver performance without negatively impacting the environment, consider offerings that meet NSF/ANSI 347: Sustainability Assessment for Single Ply Roofing Membranes.

Launched in early 2012, the standard is gaining traction among suppliers and helps building owners navigate responsible product specification. It focuses on EPDM, KEE, PVC, TPO, and PIB membranes. The certification process includes reviews of a manufacturer’s environmental documentation and on-site audits of facilities.

BUILDINGS Senior Editor Jennie Morton sits down with Amber Dzikowicz, Sustainability Business Unit Manager for NSF International, to learn more about the standard’s criteria.

What is the scope of NSF/ANSI 347?

NSF/ANSI 347 was developed with consideration for the lifecycle stages of single-ply roofing materials. Points may be earned for conducting lifecycle assessments and publishing verified environmental product declarations (EPDs), which are the most widely used transparency reporting tools. Ultimately, the choice to report a membrane’s lifecycle impacts or not is left to the organization, but the standard provides incentive to be as transparent as possible.

A product that is independently certified to NSF/ANSI 347 indicates to the purchasing decision maker that the roofing material is produced by an organization that is committed to sustainability. Companies that earn certification have demonstrated policies, procedures, and processes in place that make them responsible users of energy and water and conscientious about the waste and wastewater they produce. No other lifecycle or environmental rating system for single-ply roofing requires the level of organizational commitment that NSF/ANSI 347 does.

Additionally, the point-based rating system allows purchasers to make a decision as to the level of certification and sustainability achievement they want to pursue for their project. End users can then use the purchase of a certified product as evidence of their commitment to sustainability.

How is this standard different than other product certifications?

A sustainability assessment standard functions like an umbrella. It aggregates many single-attribute issues like recycled content and lifecycle assessment as well as social, governance, economic, and other environmental criteria into one comprehensive, science-based standard. It provides architects, engineers, and other purchasing decision makers with a simple method for understanding “is this product more sustainable?” 

Marty Grohman, Director of Sustainability, GAF

“We had been searching for a multi-attribute standard like this. It is one thing for the company to say our products are sustainable and another for NSF to verify our claims. NSF/ANSI 347 advances the development of environmentally friendly roofing.

In addition to green qualities, building owners want to know they’re selecting a reputable product. This standard is proof in hand that a company’s roofing material can satisfy both environmental and performance requirements.”

Jay Thomas, Vice President of Marketing, Sika Sarnafil

“We sought NSF/ASNI 347 because it’s a consensus-based standard that provides a yardstick for sustainability. It helps assure our customers that our roofing products meet comprehensive requirements and have the least impact on the environment and society.”

Sika earned several points for post-industrial and post-consumer recycling options. The company uses in-house grinding equipment to help separate PVC from other membrane components, which can then be incorporated back into the manufacturing process. It also has a recycling program for used membranes at the end of their useful life.

The NSF/ANSI 347 standard goes far beyond an EPD, which is an environmental statement only and makes no value judgment. EPDs simply present the facts of the LCA (Lifecycle Assessment) in accordance with the Product Category Rule (PCR) – the consumer must decide if the product is good or bad for the environment.

A sustainability assessment standard like NSF/ANSI 347, however, provides a value judgment on a product’s sustainability. With a point-based system, a product must meet a minimum criteria to become certified as conformant. To achieve the higher levels of silver, gold, or platinum, a product must meet additional requirements.

Another major attribute that differentiates NSF/ANSI 347 from other standards is that it was developed utilizing an accredited American National Standard consensus process. This means a balanced group of stakeholders from industry, non-governmental organizations, government, academia, and customers work together to build a consensus-based standard. Another benefit to this process is that NSF/ANSI standards are living documents, which means they may be revised to reflect new technologies or information as it becomes available.

How does NSF/ANSI 347 capture a product’s sustainable attributes?

A product can earn points across five categories to determine its overall rating. There are prerequisites for some of the categories that establish minimum performance:

  • Product design (42 points)
  • Product manufacturing (27 points)
  • Membrane durability (40 points)
  • Corporate governance (7 points)
  • Innovation (7 points)

For product design, the manufacturer must implement an assessment program that considers the environmental attributes and impacts across the lifecycle of the product and packaging. Issues addressed include designing for longevity, reusability, and recyclability. These minimum requirements ensure a foundation of environmental management in the product design that companies can continually improve upon. Other optional product design criteria provide points for a cradle-to-cradle lifecycle assessment and a third-party verified EPD.

Companies can also earn points in this category by identifying and minimizing chemicals of concern by both the manufacturer and the supplier. Other criteria address recyclability and reclamation at the product’s end life.

In the manufacturing section, points are assigned for implementing an environmental management system and creating energy and water use inventories. Additional points are received for demonstrated reductions in energy and water use. Wastewater reductions, waste minimization, protection of air resources, and GHG reporting and reductions are other elective areas.

Membrane performance is a key consideration. The standard addresses durability and service life, including a post-installation inspection protocol and an installer training process. Another set of optional criteria can be met if the company has a documented program in place to determine if installed roofing membranes are performing as intended over a 10-year (minimum) to 30-year (maximum) service life. Other points can be earned by meeting reflectivity standards (such as ENERGY STAR or others), having a roofing maintenance program, an operating quality management system, and a detailed contractor certification program.

In additional to environmental sensitivity, the standard also addresses corporate governance for worker engagement and safety. Companies must prove they don’t use forced or child labor and meet all applicable laws related to collective bargaining, wage standards, working conditions, and non-discrimination in employment.

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