The US Green Building Council, International Living Future Institute, Google, Healthy Building Network and many others in the green building movement are trying to convince building material manufacturers to actively promote the use of low toxin chemicals and lead the search for safer alternatives. They suggest many manufacturers are only pursuing passive strategies that meet the letter of the law but not the spirit.
Instead, they want manufacturers to take a more active role, one that says, “We have comprehensive chemical policies and procedures that go well beyond regulatory compliance.” An active strategy would take a holistic approach to chemicals by knowing and disclosing chemicals in products and supply chains, identifying hazardous chemicals and using safer alternatives.
Health experts have known for a long time that chemicals in building products like lead, asbestos, formaldehyde, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), mercury, arsenic, certain phthalates and flame retardants can pose serious health risks, including cancer, obesity, asbestosis, ecotoxicity, endocrine disruption and neurotoxicity.
“At their worst, our building materials and designs, and our choices about location, building construction, operation and maintenance, contribute to some of the key public health concerns of modern society,” the US Green Building Council noted in one report. “At their best, our buildings and communities can be powerful protectors and promoters of health and well-being.”
According to Green Biz, a new report by Clean Production Action lays out how the GreenScreen for Safer Chemicals tool can be used in the LEED green building certification program to clarify the role green materials can play in sustainable building projects. GreenScreen is a four step process that all manufacturers are encouraged to utilize.
- Step 1: Product Inventory — Identify a comprehensive list of chemicals in products. The guidance lists reporting thresholds for both LEED v4 credit options, as well as what to do about proprietary product information.
- Step 2: Chemical Hazard Assessment — Use GreenScreen to determine the inherent hazards of those chemicals. GreenScreen has the added advantage of enabling manufacturers to identify and report the hazards of both proprietary and non-proprietary chemical ingredients. The guidance explains how to use GreenScreen List Translator scores and GreenScreen Benchmark scores to meet LEED v4 Option 1: Material Ingredient Reporting (1 point), and Option 2: Optimization (1 point).
- Step 3: Reporting — Next, the “How-To” guide offers samples for how to fulfill LEED v4 documentation submission requirements, which are categorized by each credit option for ingredient reporting and optimization.
- Step 4: LEED-Compliant Certification — Lastly, the “How to” guide provides guidance on how to obtain certification marks from Green Circle Certified or Clean Production Action to enable easy identification of compliance to the LEED standard.
The US Green Building Council established a new set of standards for considering the health implications of building materials when it released LEED Version 4 in November 2013. LEED Version 4 establishes a systematic approach for the building community to address chemicals of high concern to people and the environment.
Construction materials comprise 75% of the raw materials used in the U. every year. By applying the GreenScreen tool to the materials used to build the places we live, learn and work in, we will make tremendous progress toward a safer, more sustainable marketplace and a less toxic, healthier world.