Greenbuild wrapped up on Oct. 7th in Toronto. This was CaraGreen’s fifth year attending the conference and despite the lack of growth in the overall building industry, there is a growing green building economy and there was plenty of excitement and inspiration to be had.
The theme of the conference and expo was “NEXT” and based on what I saw (admitting a bias towards interior non-structural materials), materials seem to be the next frontier for the USGBC. The Materials and Resource section of LEED is getting a complete overhaul for the next release in 2012. With the changes proposed, we can expect real innovation from manufacturers as they work toward material optimization from a health, environment, and social perspective.
The MR section of LEED is evolving toward transparency, the avoidance of chemicals of concern, responsible sourcing of raw materials, and end of life considerations. Overall, LEED 2012 is adopting a preference for multi-attribute assessment of materials vs. single attribute assessments. This is a leap forward for our industry expanding the definition of what is ‘green’. As most of us know, just because a product doesn’t off-gas or just because it has recycled content, doesn’t mean that it is sustainable, healthy, or manufactured under safe and fair conditions.
The call for transparency is coming from owners, specifiers, and occupants who want to know exactly where the product is coming from, what’s in it, what’s its impact during use, and what will its impact be at the end of its useful life. Credits have been drafted to address many of these questions and it looks like we can expect Life Cycle Assessments to take a major role in the future of materials.
One area of transparency that can be difficult to make sense of is the ‘chemicals of concern’. Various groups from the EPA to Healthy Building Network and large firms like Perkins+Will and Google have lists of chemicals they want to eliminate to improve indoor air quality and human health. The problem is, lists can vary from one organization to the other, manufacturers don’t consistently know their chemical make-ups down to the parts per million (often due to the depth of their supply chain), and reporting formats vary so comparing products is very difficult.
A promising solution, The Health Product Declaration (HPD) Forum, a group of building designers, specifiers, owners and users, have developed the HPD Open Standard. This form is a voluntary, open standard for the communication of product content and associated health information for building products. Establishing protocols for reporting this information in a consistent manner will help building professionals quickly and easily find the information they need. It will help manufacturers by standardizing the information they need to provide to answer the increasing number of inquiries on these issues. It will also facilitate the integration of building product data into certification programs, product databases and design software.
The open process and database has the potential to encourage widespread industry participation and adoption. Check out the form here and let us know if your firm is moving in the same direction.