Options? Rivals? Imitators? Transparency Market Has Them All

Bill Walsh - November 6, 2013

The Health Product Declaration (HPD), within a year of its introduction at Greenbuild 2012, has inspired a growing array of transparency... options? rivals? imitators? One thing is for sure, we have entered a new age of market transparency, and it has changed the conversation about building materials for good. The Resilient Floor Covering Institute (RFCI) recently joined the dialogue with a publicity blitz touting a new Product Transparency Declaration (PTD) prototype. It is modeled after the HPD, but with less stringent ingredient disclosure thresholds and absent any hazard reporting not already required by law.[1]  One flooring manufacturer who is not an RFCI member, Forbo, has publicly opposed the RFCI approach.[2]  Another company that is a member of the RFCI, Tarkett, is introducing a different disclosure prototype, the Environmental Health Standard, developed in conjunction with the Environmental Protection Encouragement Association (EPEA). It features only partial... Read More

Remembering Florence

Bill Walsh - September 25, 2013

On Tuesday, September 17th, Florence Helfand passed away at age 84. She was the mother of filmmaker Judith Helfand, and along with her late husband, Ted, a star of Judith’s 2002 award winning documentary, Blue Vinyl. More than that, Florence was the courageous if reluctant face of a generation of DES Mothers, 5 million women who took the synthetic estrogen diethylstilbestrol (DES) with devastating health consequences for their offspring, especially girls. In 1990, at age 25, Judith was diagnosed with DES-related cervical cancer. She went home to her family to heal from a radical hysterectomy. There she picked up her camera. Her video diary, A Healthy Baby Girl, was shot over five years and was first broadcast on PBS in June 1997. It goes beyond loss to document mother-daughter love, family renewal, survival, political awakening, and community activism. Five years later, Blue Vinyl was inspired by Judith’s desire to use her experience with this powerful... Read More

Walmart to USGBC: You Are Right

Bill Walsh - September 13, 2013

Yesterday Walmart announced a new policy on “Sustainable Chemistry in Consumables.” Though intended for consumer and personal care products sold at the retail giant, key elements of this policy reinforce and vindicate the US Green Building Council’s strategy for encouraging the use of healthier building materials. Walmart’s policy makes mandatory for their suppliers many practices that the USGBC has made voluntary in LEED through modest, optional credits. Beginning in January 2014, Walmart will begin monitoring the progress on “reduction, restriction and elimination” of approximately 10 high priority chemicals in the consumer products it sells. In January 2015 it will require its suppliers to provide online disclosure of ingredients for any products sold in its stores. This “disclose all and avoid the worst” approach to addressing toxics hazards is the same framework used for the new materials credits in LEED v4. Walmart’s... Read More

Self-Cleaning or Greenwashing? New Product Claims Raise Questions

Melissa Coffin - July 23, 2013

Can building products make the environment cleaner and healthier? Has the first generation of "pollution-eating," "regenerative" materials arrived? A growing number of products are claiming to remove everything from VOCs from interior environments to auto-exhaust on highways. The apparent wizardry behind some of these products is the photocatalysis of titanium dioxide. In nanoscale form, titanium dioxide in these products' surface layers can react with ultraviolet light to catalyze a chemical reaction that breaks some pollutants down into non-hazardous molecules, carbon dioxide, and water. European researchers have confirmed, for example, that cement enriched with titanium dioxide can reduce NOx airborne pollutant levels in a laboratory setting. But as is so often the case, lab conditions differ significantly from many real world applications. Indeed follow up experiments outdoors showed that variations in sun and wind can significantly alter performance.... Read More

Follow the Leader: Skanska

Bill Walsh - July 18, 2013

Last week, Skanska, one of the world's largest construction companies, resigned from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to protest the Chamber's backing of a chemical industry-led initiative to effectively ban the future use of LEED for government buildings. Skanska's public opposition to the self-serving campaign by the chemical and plastics industry raises an obvious question: where do other USGBC member companies stand? A 2012 review by HBN researchers found that scores of USGBC member companies are represented by the 27 trade associations that are attacking LEED in Congress.[1] Some companies are members of more than one. Eighteen USGBC member companies are also members of the American Chemistry Council, which is leading the attack (see list below). In a clearly reasoned Washington Post commentary, Skanska USA president and chief executive Mike McNally laid out the damning business case against "a few single-minded businesses... putting their bottom lines first... Read More

For more news and analysis from HBN's research team, visit our companion blog at the Pharos Project:

Visit The Signal