By Steven Burke
In recent years, a new concept of what it means to define a building product as “sustainable” has taken hold. Focus has shifted to consider whole-life (i.e., “cradle to grave”) environmental impact, prioritizing the disclosure of ingredients that may be hazardous to human health.
Novel standards, such as Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) and Health Product Declarations (HPDs), have been instrumental in advancing this new definition of sustainability. Designers’ adoption of what has been labeled the “Materials Transparency Movement,” coupled with the integration of the aforementioned standards into green building rating systems, has prompted manufacturers to slowly, but steadily, move toward more health- and eco-friendly production.
In response, a diverse group of industry experts—designers, construction professionals, specifications writers, and consultants—convened to standardize the process, keeping it in line with the movement’s goal of transparency. Drawn together by their shared experience incorporating these standards into past projects, the group offers guidelines for fellow designers, developers, and building owners to develop projects that take into account the effects of materials on the environment and building occupants.
The group set out to accomplish three primary goals: Provide a unified language that can be used across disciplines, from design to construction; ensure that this language can be applied to specifications, regardless of whether the subcontractor is a materials expert; and publish materials in an easily shareable format.
These efforts resulted in various resources, all meant to encourage collaboration and conversation. They are all housed here – Check them out, share them, and let us know what you think.