Transparency is the New Green

by Mike Manzi

In recent years, building owners and the construction industry have come to recognize that buildings have a significant impact on the health of their occupants. As one example, Dr. Bruce Lanphear created this video, illustrating the effects of toxins on the developing brain. Forward thinkers in design and manufacturing are uniting around the idea that the disclosure and optimization of building product contents is essential to promoting human and environmental health in our built environment. At the forefront of this movement is the Health Product Declaration (HPD), an open standard reporting tool used by manufacturers to disclose product ingredients and their associated health impacts.

Bora is a founding sponsor and current member of the HPD Collaborative (HPDC), the non-profit organization that oversees evolution of the HPD. Associate Principals Amy Running and Mike Manzi served on the steering committee of the working group that conceived of and developed the HPD. Mike then became a founding board member of the HPDC and currently chairs the HPDC Technical Committee.

The HPDC recently released Version 2.0 of the HPD Open Standard, including an online Builder that automates the HPD creation process for manufacturers and links directly to the Healthy Building Network’s “Pharos Chemical Library” for reporting the known health impacts of building product contents.

The HPD is one tool among several that have recently joined forces to harmonize efforts to improve the health of our buildings, while minimizing the burden on manufacturers, designers, and building owners. Others tools include Cradle-to-Cradle, GreenScreen, Declare, and BIFMA Level .  These tools represent the first step to building with healthier materials and to understand more about what’s in the products we are currently using. Manufacturers are already using the information these tools disclose to avoid chemicals with known adverse effects.

An enormous challenge remains, as the material supply chain is very complex, and manufacturers and designers have a lot to learn. But we have begun an unstoppable trajectory towards a world where material transparency is commonplace and building environments are optimized for humans to thrive.