Healthy Building Network Receives 2019 Design for Humanity Award

HBN | May 2019 | Newsletter

Healthy Building Network has been honored as the national 2019 Design for Humanity award recipient from the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID). In celebrating an institution for having made significant contributions to improving the environment for humanity through projects that transform lives, this award recognizes the far-reaching impact of HBN’s work.

Founded in 2000 by Bill Walsh, HBN has a mission to advance human and environmental health by improving hazardous chemical transparency and inspiring product innovation. Our vision is that all people and the planet thrive when the environment is free of hazardous chemicals.

Our success is in no small part due to exceptional partnerships with global and national corporations, research centers, product R&D groups, architects, and innovators in healthcare, housing, environmental justice, and other sectors. Working with industry innovators who are committed to healthier materials has contributed greatly to our research, and has amplified results. Kathy Gerwig, Vice President of Employee Safety, Health and Wellness, and Environmental Stewardship Officer at Kaiser Permanente, says: "Healthy building guidelines based on HBN’s work give us confidence that our facilities are places where our patients can thrive.” 

The ASID award recognizes HBN for decades of leadership and engagement with the design community, providing research, education, and toxics elimination. A few notable achievements:

  • 2004 - Ban on arsenic in treated wood: HBN led a multi-year effort resulting in a US EPA decision to restrict the use of arsenic in pressure treated wood, the largest source of human exposure at that time. This led to a dramatic drop in arsenic use in the United States. “This will be remembered as one of the great pollution-prevention victories. It will be seen in retrospect to be of comparable importance to getting mercury out of consumer batteries or the lead out of gasoline.” (Bill Hinkley, Bureau Chief, Solid & Hazardous Waste, Florida Department of Environmental Protection.)
  • 2007 - Green Guide for Health Care: HBN served as a founding co-director for the guide, which was launched after a two-year pilot program that included 100 projects (30 million square feet). It was the first building rating system to include health-based materials credits, and became the foundation for LEED for Healthcare, which debuted in 2011.
  • 2009 - Pharos: The Pharos project was the first chemical and hazardous material library of its kind. Today, its database cross-references nearly 140,000 chemicals and materials, against 78 authoritative lists of hazardous substances, for 15 health and environmental hazards, including cancer, brain function, and reproductive health. 
  • 2012 - The Health Product Declaration (HPD) is the first open standard format for the full disclosure of product contents and related health hazards. HBN wrote the initial white paper and, together with Building Green, convened the ad hoc HPD stakeholder working group that created the HPD and the independent HPD Collaborative governing body. There are now over 4500 publicly available HPDs.
  • 2016 - HomeFree: HBN engaged affordable housing owners, architects, and others to co-create and lead the healthier materials movement to ensure that the most vulnerable populations, such as children, low-income communities, and people of color, who experience disproportionate health impacts, are engaged and benefiting from decreased exposures to toxic chemicals.

"I am honored to receive this award,” says Bill Walsh, “which recognizes the results of nearly twenty years of HBN’s efforts to advance environmental health and justice through good design. When we know better, we do better. Together, HBN and the design community are showing how design impacts lives by making our buildings and our planet healthier." For more than a decade, HBN has had the great fortune of having consistent ASID leadership on our board of directors. Penny Bonda, FASID, a former ASID National President, and Linda Sorento, FASID, a former ASID National Director at large and past chair of the Washington Metro Chapter, have a combined service on the HBN board of nearly 15 years. The ASID Foundation was also an early supporter of the Pharos Project.

Over the summer, ASID will create a feature page for award winners at and hold an ASID Awards Gala celebration on Saturday, July 20, 2019, in Atlanta.