Happy Birthday! Healthy Building Network Celebrates 20 years in 2020

Gina Ciganik | January 2020 | Newsletter

2020 marks Healthy Building Network’s 20th year. I can summarize the decades past with two words: Progress and Possibility. We’ve achieved great momentum toward our vision, which we know you share – a future where all people and the planet thrive when the environment is free of hazardous chemicals. I see the potential for acceleration toward a healthier world. 

As we celebrate progress together with you – our supporters, partners, and champions – we imagine the possibilities as we collectively know better, and do better.


We’ve often been called a great “harmonizer,” as we have consistently worked with our partners and friends to develop a common language, a coordinated agenda, and co-designed solutions in order to achieve meaningful results. Our unique ability to interpret and translate complexity into simple, actionable, and high-impact change frameworks has supported many in their quest to know better.

By working with partners, we have promoted better health through large scale, high-impact and systematic reductions in toxics hazards, such as eliminating arsenic from pressure treated wood and phthalates from vinyl flooring. In 2017 The Home Depot acknowledged HBN’s role in crafting their chemical strategy that eliminated 12 chemicals of concern from the carpets, paints, vinyl flooring, and fiberglass insulation that they sell.

HBN has inspired and led the movement with a series of “firsts” that are transforming products. Here are a few notable examples:

  • we developed the first and most comprehensive open database of chemical hazards - Pharos
  • we were a leader on the initiative that created the first health-based materials credits adopted by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) standard
  • we completed the first thorough analysis of toxic hazards in recycled content and solutions for removal, which is key for a safe and circular economy
  • we led the team that developed the first standardized format for disclosing product content and health hazards, the Health Product Declaration 
  • we launched the first-of-its-kind community of practice through our HomeFree initiative. It organized the affordable housing sector to shape and lead safer materials policy and practice - ensuring that marginalized communities are co-creating affordable solutions

Together, progress has indeed been made. We have a lot to celebrate, and, we also have more to do! 

Our work has expanded since 2000, when Bill Walsh, HBN’s Founder, had a vision to transform the products marketplace to a toxics-free economy. At that time, few organizations were working to reduce hazardous chemical use, and promote transparency. Today, a robust healthy materials ecosystem has taken shape - the number of organizations, resources, and tools are almost dizzying. Public commitments are stacking-up from corporations of myriad sectors (and their supply chains) to manage and improve their product cycles though chemical management and green chemistry solutions; waste elimination and recycling; emissions and pollution reduction, and product innovation. Now is the time to leverage our collective work and realize the benefits of toxic chemicals reduction.

In the last few years, HBN has been reinventing itself, preparing for our next chapter. We’ve doubled-down on our legacy partnerships (i.e. Google, Perkins&Will, the Durst Organization, HPDC, etc.), added new partnerships (ChemFORWARD, Natural Resources Defense Council, Housing Partnership Network, Enterprise Community Partners, etc.), and are now being asked for our support in sectors beyond the built environment. We’ve added new staff, updated our tools, and launched new resources. 

We have some exciting things to reveal in 2020, so make sure you are following our news and resources. And, be proactive... do you have a need? Reach out and let us help. Do you have an idea? Connect with us, and let’s make it happen. 

Thank each and every one of you for the support and successes of the past 20 years, and together, let's make sure that 20 years from now, all people and the planet are thriving because the environment is free of toxic chemicals.