SERA Demonstrates Safer Products Leadership with Magnolias Project

HBN | February 2022 | Newsletter


Affordable housing is a space for innovation and market leadership, not just within the affordable housing space, but for the entire building sector. Leaders in affordable housing are blazing a trail in the discovery and use of products that are safer for humans and the environment, which in turn works to combat climate change, improves health and justice outcomes, and advances a circular economy. 

We are excited to release a new HomeFree case study demonstrating the use of Healthy Building Network’s Product Guidance to inform healthier material selection in affordable housing projects. This case study celebrates a year-long collaboration between HBN and SERA architects, designers of the Magnolias, a 66-unit affordable housing development in Morgan Hill, CA., developed by First Community Housing. The Magnolias aims for LEED Platinum certification and places a strong emphasis on equity and community-centered design. 

The case study shares information about the products specified by the project team across four categories – flooring, countertops, insulation, and paints. In addition, it provides insight into the strategies, challenges, and lessons learned related to healthier material specification from the perspective of the project team. For example, it highlights how product warranties can sometimes get in the way of safer material choices and why products with recycled content may not always be the most sustainable solution.

Building from the work of its predecessors, this case study also addresses the intersection of healthier material use and environmental justice by taking a closer look at three of the highest-priority chemicals avoided in this project and indicating their impact on fenceline communities, workers, installers, and residents. We hope that this information provides a more comprehensive lens through which project teams can assess the costs and benefits of their material choices, and provide a framework for doing so in this previous article.

“As you set out on your journey to choose safer materials, don’t hold yourself to being perfect,” said Walter Currin of Sera Architects. “Start with what you know best, and define your goals early, incrementally building on past experience and the learnings of others. Every project will have a different path to safer materials. Make the path your own, and stand by it.” 

At HBN, we are proud to work with industry leaders like SERA and First Community Housing who continue to invest in delivering healthier safer communities for all. 

Not sure how to begin or advance along your safer materials journey? HBN’s Product Guidance will jumpstart your progress, and our article about low- and no-cost ways to start using safer materials can help keep your budget intact while advancing health for all.