Blogs

Take an inside look into emerging markets and trends. Gain valuable new perspectives from HBN experts and our partners. Be inspired to know better.

National Healthy Housing Leaders Announced as HomeFree Champions

Billy Weber | January 2019 | Newsletter

Healthy Building Network is excited to announce the HomeFree Champions who will shape and guide HomeFree, our initiative to support affordable housing leaders who are improving human health by decreasing their use of toxic building materials.

The 16 members are a dynamic group of national and regional healthy-housing experts who represent cross-sector disciplines. “We are honored to be working with top innovators who have been creating the healthiest, high-efficiency buildings in the country, and who are willing to share their knowledge with others,” says Gina Ciganik, CEO of Healthy Building Network.


MaterialWise Seeks Director of Science & Verification

Stacy Glass | January 2019 | Newsletter

MaterialWise is seeking a Ph.D chemist, toxicologist (or similar technical background) to scale the program. MaterialWise is a non-profit initiative to build a globally harmonized chemical hazard assessment repository of third-party verified alternative assessments. They have engaged leading brands including Target, Google, Nike, Levis, Steelcase, Method and others in the design of this program to provide an evidence base that empowers manufacturers to move toward safer chemistry and avoid regrettable substitutions as an unintended consequence of list based chemical management programs.

With philanthropic support from Target, Schmidt Futures, C&A Foundation and others, they are building a team of full-time employees to implement a scalability plan over the next 3-years. This senior position will be critical to their success. The ideal candidate will have an unwavering commitment to scientific data quality, a bit of entrepreneurial spirit, and a desire to apply better chemistry for a better world.  

Send inquiries to Stacy Glass (stacy@materialwise.org) or apply online via Indeed.


AIA Code of Ethics Now Includes Healthier, More Sustainable Materials

Rebecca Stamm | December 2018 | Newsletter

The American Institute of Architects (AIA), a professional association for architects, recently made several additions to its Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct with the intention of improving sustainability and decreasing the health impacts of materials. The new code, which outlines the tenets of ethical behavior by all AIA members, states that “members should select and use building materials to minimize exposure to toxins and pollutants in the environment to promote environmental and human health and to reduce waste and pollution.”

In addition to these ethical standards, which guide the work of AIA chapters and  members (numbering over 260 and over 91,000, respectively), the organization offers a step-by-step protocol for setting healthier materials goals that educates members on design and implementation best practices. We applaud the AIA for including consideration of material health impacts as a tenet of ethical behavior. We look forward to providing continued guidance to the architecture and design communities as they work with their clients to make product choices that are healthier for all people and the planet.

Read more


Smart Resources for Understanding the Hazards of PVC

James Vallette | December 2018 | Newsletter

As the largest consumer of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), the building and construction industry shares a large responsibility for the global pollution unleashed by its production. In HBN’s first research report, Environmental Impacts of Polyvinyl Chloride Building Materials (2002), Dr. Joe Thornton observed, “The hazards posed by dioxins, phthalates, metals, vinyl chloride, and ethylene dichloride are largely unique to PVC, which is the only major building material and the only major plastic that contains chlorine or requires plasticizers or stabilizers.” Although many architecture and design firms, health care systems, product certifiers, and building owners have red listed PVC since Dr. Thornton’s report, global production of PVC continues to rise. This industry’s impacts are growing.

Phase 1 of our Chlorine & Building Materials Project updates Dr. Thornton’s analysis of the impacts of PVC production, from ozone layer depletion to the global distribution of bio-accumulative toxicants, from ocean pollution to fenceline community disasters. In a recent webinar hosted by the Collaborative on Health and the Environment (CHE), I described our findings and their relationships to building products.


Tom Lent Announces His Retirement After 18 Years of Leadership and Friendship

Bill Walsh | December 2018 | Newsletter

A letter from Bill Walsh, Founder and Board President, and Gina Ciganik, CEO

With our deepest appreciation and respect, we announce that Tom Lent has decided to retire at the end of the year after 18 years as Healthy Building Network’s policy director and, most recently, senior advisor. In our very first year, Tom worked side by side with HBN founder Bill Walsh to create our programs, tools, policies, and, most importantly, the spirit that is HBN.

Tom has served on virtually every significant advisory body in the green building industry, influencing the evolution of building rating systems including LEED, Living Building Challenge, and Green Communities Criteria; product certifications including Cradle to Cradle and Living Product Challenge; and the Green Screen chemical hazard assessments. Just a few highlights from his HBN career give you a sense of his impact.


Selecting Safe Materials for a Circular Economy Is Critical – and Possible

Stacy Glass | December 2018 | Newsletter

Circular design encourages us to rethink business models and how we make products, and to consider the systems surrounding them. But we also need to think about the materials we use – and the chemistry behind them. To create a truly sustainable circular economy, we must know what’s in the materials and products we choose, and those choices should focus on optimized chemistry for human and environmental health. Only then will we have the building blocks for a circular economy.

To help designers, entrepreneurs, and innovators make positive materials choices and integrate better chemistry into the design process from the very start, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute (C2C PII) have released a new series of advanced learning modules as part of the foundation’s Circular Design Guide, which was co-created with IDEO. The MaterialWise screening tool, powered by HBN’s Pharos database, is featured in the modules.


This Holiday Season, Help Us Celebrate Progress and Build Possibility

Gina Ciganik | December 2018 | Newsletter

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

First, a heartfelt thank you to everyone who responded to our newsletter appeal in November or contributed as part of #GivingTuesday. Your donations make our work possible and represent an investment in a vision we know you share – a future where all people and the planet thrive when the environment is free of hazardous chemicals.

If you’re still considering your end-of-year or holiday giving plans, we hope you’ll think of us. In 2018, we achieved great momentum, and we see the potential for even more acceleration toward a healthier world. As we reflect on the progress we’ve made together, we invite you to help us imagine new possibilities as we collectively Know Better.


The Not So Secret Formula: a Major Milestone for Transparency?

Bill Walsh | December 2018 | Newsletter

Did you know that the first ingredient listed in many name-brand infant formulas is corn syrup? I learned this during a late-night run to CVS in search of a post-Thanksgiving feast for my infant granddaughter. Her mother, my daughter, admonished me, “Make sure you read the label; no corn syrup.” In the end, she came with me. Just to make sure.  

That got me thinking about how far the building industry lags behind the sort of basic transparency we expect in virtually every other aspect of our lives, and how the recent Greenbuild announcement by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and the Health Product Declaration Collaborative (HPDC) could change that. 


From Climate Change to Health: Material Selection Has Never Been More Important

Bill Walsh | November 2018 | Newsletter

With apologies to T.S. Eliot, October was the “cruellest month.” On October 7, 2018, the global scientific consensus on climate change was revised by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to conclude that catastrophic climate disaster is irrefutably underway and requires a level of “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”

Five days later, the world pumped more oil and petroleum liquids than ever before. And the International Energy Agency forecast that “the largest driver of world oil demand” will soon be petrochemicals, led by plastic materials. Building materials are the second-largest use of plastics after packaging.