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.

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.


Help Us Build a World Where All People and the Planet Thrive

Gina Ciganik | November 2018 | Newsletter

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

Reflecting on 2018, we think of 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. And we see the potential for acceleration toward a healthier world.

As we celebrate progress together, we also imagine the possibilities that will arise as we collectively Know Better. Your contribution will help fund the research, education, and initiatives needed to advance human and environmental health and inspire critical product innovation in the building industry and beyond.


Bill Walsh Honored by WE ACT for Environmental Justice

Gina Ciganik | November 2018 | Newsletter

On October 16, WE ACT recognized HBN founder and board president Bill Walsh at its 30th Anniversary Awards and Gala. WE ACT for Environmental Justice, which operates in both New York City and Washington, D.C., seeks to build healthy communities by ensuring people of color and/or low-income residents participate meaningfully in the creation of sound and fair environmental health and protection policies and practices. The group honored Bill for his outstanding work to advance the environmental and social justice movement over the past 25 years.

WE ACT’s deputy director, Cecil Corbin-Mark, noted that HBN’s work to transform the building industry and create healthier affordable housing for all is more important than ever. Congratulations, Bill, on this well-deserved recognition.


Affordable Housing Sector Is Advancing Healthier Materials for All

Billy Weber | November 2018 | Newsletter

Healthy Building Network is excited to announce our new partnership with Housing Partnership Network (HPN) and its procurement platform, HPN Select. Our aim is to leverage our combined strengths and expertise to make affordable housing environments healthier for residents and for the practitioners who build and maintain them.

By merging the power of the Select marketplace with HBN’s research and our HomeFree initiative’s in-depth information about the health impacts of building materials, we’ll increase our capacity to shape innovative solutions and encourage the adoption of healthier materials throughout the affordable housing sector. This, in turn, will create solutions for everyone—not just those with financial means.