#BlackLivesMatter in Green Building

Bill Walsh - December 12, 2014

Eddie Bautista knows what he is talking about.  He is an award-winning community organizer and urban planner, the Executive Director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance (NYC-EJA), a network of community-based organizations in low-income communities of color throughout the city.  He has campaigned to stop waste transfer stations, power plants, incinerators and sludge plants from being sited in those communities, and served a four-year stint as the Director of the Mayor’s Office of City Legislative Affairs during the Bloomberg administration. In interviews last week with the Washington Post and Grist, Bautista raised eyebrows when he talked about a connection between environmental justice and the Eric Garner case in Staten Island. Garner, who was born in 1970, had asthma that may have made him more vulnerable to the chokehold that killed him. According to the US EPA, since 1980 the disparity in asthma rates between black and white children has... Read More

Antibacterials In Building Products: The Good, The Bad and the Downright Ugly

Davida S. Smyth, PhD - November 19, 2014

Last month’s article by Bill Walsh, “The Dirt on Antimicrobials”, spoke of the recent trend to infuse antimicrobial substances other than antibiotics into building products. I had known that antimicrobial substances were creeping into many consumer items, such as soap, toothpaste, mouthwash, and hand-wipes to name but a few. I did not, however, know the extent to which these substances were finding their way into people’s homes, places of work, offices, hospitals and other environments via “paints, tiles and grouts, carpets, solid surfaces, faucets, elevator buttons and toilet seats.” The lack of study and evidence to support their use in these situations, combined with what we know of bacteria’s capacity to adapt, is extremely worrisome for me -- as a microbiologist and a consumer. In this situation I believe it’s a case of what we don’t know might hurt us! This trend is likely a consequence of people’s fears when it... Read More

The Dirt On Antimicrobials

Bill Walsh - October 15, 2014

The infusion of antimicrobial materials into building products is on the rise.  Manufacturers now routinely add substances such as nano-silver and the pesticide triclosan to paints, tiles and grouts, carpets, solid surfaces, faucets, elevator buttons and toilet seats.  The dirty truth is: they do not make people healthier. They do cause environmental harm throughout their lifecycle. And their overuse, like the overuse of antibiotics, may contribute to the evolution of microbes that are more resistant to our known antimicrobial defenses. The authoritative evidence could not be clearer. One of the most widely used antimicrobials is triclosan, which is sold under trade names such as Microban and BioFresh. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) established its position on these antimicrobials in 2003 after a comprehensive study of infection control practice concluding: “No evidence is available to suggest that use of these [antimicrobial] products will... Read More

It’s Time To Rethink Recycling

Wes Sullens and Jim Vallette - October 10, 2014

Recycling is a deeply embedded principle of green building.  From the beginning of LEED®, recycling has stood by itself as an important attribute of material and waste management credits. These credits, in turn, fueled a huge increase in recycled content in many building materials, from wallboard to concrete to carpet to construction fill. The status quo is about to change.  The green building movement is in the midst of a quantum leap in understanding, during which the collection of information through transparency tools is paramount. Product ingredient data -- collected by systems like the Health Product Declaration, the Pharos Project, Declare and Environmental Product Declarations -- informs the new multi-attribute assessment structure into which LEED® Version 4 and green building in general are moving. The single attribute of recycled content is not necessarily enough anymore. In other words, the more we learn, the more we know that not all recycled... Read More

Constructive Dialogues Begin With Disclosure

Bill Walsh - September 15, 2014

Opponents of content and hazard disclosure tools such as the Pharos Project and the Health Product Declaration frequently raise concerns that this information will incite irrational panic about toxics in buildings.  In fact, to the contrary, there is a growing track record of constructive dialogues between building owners and product manufacturers that result in win-win solutions. This week, The Durst Organization, developer of the first LEED Platinum high-rise, Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park, is publicly launching an ambitious multi-stakeholder engagement in New York City to “optimize the health and transparency of construction product ecosystems through material research and innovation, process improvements, policy/code evolution, and accessible education.” The Building Product Ecosystems (BPE) project is a partnership initiated by The Durst Organization with City University of New York (CUNY) and Parsons The New School For Design.[1] A hallmark of this... Read More

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