Melissa Coffin | August 01, 2016
Since 2009, the Pharos Project’s Building Products Library (BPL) has been a resource for those seeking disclosure of the chemicals and materials used to formulate and manufacture building products. More than 1,600 individual building products appear in the BPL, representing 15 different product categories (adhesives, flooring, etc.). Compiling this data was no easy feat. It required a lot of time reaching out to manufacturers and formulators and urging them to disclose the contents of their products. More often than not, companies would opt to hold back some portion of information as proprietary or confidential. At that point, HBN would do its own research to fill in the gap of this missing data.
Patent review, industry publications, trade data, academic articles, and government publications were all referenced to account for substances in the product that the manufacturer was unwilling to disclose directly.
In 2015, HBN brought this rigorous literature review approach to product research to a larger audience. We partnered with Flux, Google, and thinkstep on the Quartz Project, an open-source effort to introduce transparent data about the health and environmental hazards of building materials earlier in the construction process. For its part in that effort, HBN identified the typical composition of 102 products used in construction -- ready-mix concrete, steel beams, hardwood flooring, etc. These 102 products were described in Common Product Profiles, and are freely available in the Quartz database for browsing or download in both Excel or machine-readable formats. Hundreds of individual products were researched in this effort. HBN has continued to create additional Common Product Profiles since the Quartz Project research was completed.
Each of these Common Product Profiles provides an accounting of the chemicals and materials identified as standard. For example, the Common Product Profile for Cast Iron Pipes provides a breakdown of the cast iron itself, as well as the composition of the lining of the pipe, and both the pre-treatment and topcoat black finish on the exterior of the pipe. Known hazards for each of these substances are presented, via the Pharos Chemical and Material Library. Data is also provided for expected impurities in these substances, their hazards, and when known, the quantity in which they can be expected.
It is our belief that these Common Product Profiles provide an unprecedented opportunity to get more data into the hands of more materials decision-makers, more quickly. This is why the Pharos BPL will now shift away from providing material disclosure for individual products, and toward Common Product Profiles. Users can search for Common Product Profiles in the BPL clicking on the “Browse Common Products” tab.
Pharos users responsible for making healthy material selections will now be able to compare material options for a project at the product category level, and make an informed choice in the design phase. The Common Product Profiles allow users to compare chemistries, and choose materials that tend to be inherently healthier. Comparing Common Product Profiles for flooring adhesives, for example, shows that all things being equal, preferring an acrylic product to an epoxy product will introduce fewer and less severe hazards to a building.
Have a question about Common Product Profiles, or want to request that one be added to Pharos? Contact us!