The following is a quick reference guide to get you started understanding the jargon associated with green design and construction. We hope you find it useful.
One thousandth parts per million is the minimum disclosure threshold. Manufacturer measures and discloses all intentionally added ingredients and residuals that exist in the product at 1000 ppm (0.1%) or greater. These may trigger a GreenScreen Benchmark (BM-1 or LT-1) or Possible Benchmark 1 (BM-P1 or LT-P1).
10,000 ppm (As per MSDS)
Manufacturer discloses all intentionally added ingredients and residuals that exist in a product. This is the threshold that is required by current MSDS standards
One hundred parts per million is the ideal disclosure threshold. Manufacturer measures and discloses all intentionally added ingredients and residuals that exist in the product at 100 ppm (0.01%) or greater. These may trigger a GreenScreen Benchmark (BM-1 or LT-1) or Possible Benchmark 1 (BM-P1 or LT-P1).
Used for the installation, maintenance , cleaning and operations materials; including materials recommended by warranty. For example, if a carpet requires a specific type of adhesive. The adhesive would be the accessory materials.
the evaluation of the toxicological properties (hazards) of chemicals; evaluates exposure and risk assessment in relation to both environmental and human health scenarios.
disclosure of the health hazards associated with each ingredient; Portico uses a minimum set of authoritative chemical hazard lists against which ingredients are screened for human health and environmental hazards.
Asthmagens are substances that are known to cause or exacerbate asthma. Asthma is a complex disease, and there is not enough evidence to point to any single cause. Public health agencies often report dust, pet dander, environmental air pollution, tobacco smoke, respiratory infections, mold, exercise, and stress as common triggers of asthma attacks.
Health organizations have also identified a number chemical asthmagens, including many that are commonly used in building materials, such as floorings, insulations and cabinet substrates. These chemicals include: formaldehyde, toluene, styrene, BPA and certain phthalate plasticizers.
Despite better management of asthma through medication, improved outdoor air quality and a dramatic decline in tobacco smoking, the incidence of asthma has continued to rise, especially in children — and in particular among children who are living in poverty.
Authoritative chemical hazard lists
a list of chemicals and their association to human health or environmental hazards. These lists are created by an expert assessment of scientific evidence by a recognized authoritative body.
“Biobased” is a term used in the marketing materials of many types of products. While biobased technically describes a product made from a living material (soybean oil, wool, etc.) marketing materials may stretch this definition to include minerals or other naturally occurring materials that aren’t renewable, or suggest that an entire product is made of biobased materials, when in fact only a small percentage of the product is.
A class of chemicals that can generate foam in materials, such as those used in insulation, which later harden or solidify into long-lasting structures. Many are known to possess extremely high global warming potential; chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) have been mostly eliminated from new production since the 2000s, but hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are still prevalent. Blowing agents, as a class of products used in building product manufacture, are in an active transition toward healthier and more environmentally friendly options.
chemical abstract service number is a unique numerical identifier for every chemical described in open scientific literature of elements, chemical compounds, polymers and other substances.
Can cause or contribute to the development of cancer.
identification and disclosure of ingredients and all hazards associated with ingredient components in the product/material formulation.
Common Product Profile
A profile of a generic, non-manufacturer-specific product type that contains: a brief description of the product type, the expected composition of the product based on publicly available sources, and corresponding health hazards inherent to this composition. Common Product Profiles (CPs) developed as part of the Quartz Project include additional information about the life cycle of the product, such as its contribution to global warming. See http://www.quartzproject.org/ for more information on CPs.
Can cause harm to a developing child, including birth defects, low birth weight, and biological or behavioral problems that appear as the child grows.
the level at which all intentionally added ingredients and residuals in the product/material formulation are disclosed (1,000 ppm, 100 ppm, or other). Different standards require specific disclosure threshold. MSDS (Materials Safety Data Sheets require minimum of 10,000ppm.
Can interfere with hormone communication between cells which controls metabolism, development, growth, reproduction, and behavior (the endocrine system). Linked to health effects such as obesity, diabetes, male reproductive disorders, and altered brain development.
this information can be found in an EPD, LCA, or other studies of global warming impact, carbon content, and embodied energy. We recommend providing this information (when available) because it will be helpful for LEED and LBC regional credit documentation and carbon accounting.
Flame retardants are chemical additives to building products that reduce their flammability. They are commonly found in textiles, plastics, coatings, finishes and foams. Halogenated flame retardants – those made with chlorine or bromine – are particularly toxic to human health, and the planet.
Flue-Gas Desulfurization (FGD)
Flue-gas desulfurization is an environmental control technology installed in the smokestacks of coal-fired power plants designed to remove pollutants from the air. These controls are also called “scrubbers”. Once the scrubbers are full of sulfur dioxide, they are often used to create synthetic gypsum. FGD gypsum can be used in drywall, but also in concrete and other applications where mined gypsum can be used. FGD can contain heavy metals such as mercury that can be released into the air when it is incorporated into these products.
Formaldehyde is a colorless gas used as a preservative and disinfectant in the building industry, and in the manufacture of polymers. Formaldehyde is carcinogenic, irritates the eyes, nose, and lungs, and is known to react with other atmospheric chemicals to produce the deadly gas carbon monoxide. Formaldehyde is used in some paints and adhesives, in some fabric treatments, and, significantly, in the manufacture of polymeric binding resins used in a wide variety of building products. Phenol formaldehyde, urea formaldehyde, and melamine formaldehyde are all known to release formaldehyde over time long after product installation in residential and commercial spaces.
Can absorb thermal radiation, increasing the temperature of the atmosphere and contributing to climate change.
Global Warming Potential (GWP)
Known as “greenhouse gasses,” certain gasses have the ability to warm the earth by absorbing heat from the sun and trapping it the atmosphere. Global Warming Potential is a tool that allows scientists to compare the severity of greenhouse gasses based on how much heat they can trap, and how long they remain in the atmosphere. By using carbon dioxide for each comparison, a larger GWP number, the more a gas warms the earth, and contributes to climate change.
short for “GreenScreen for Safer Chemicals”, a chemical disclosure and assessment standard developed by Clean Production Action to rank chemicals along a four point scale between the most toxic chemicals and the most benign to guide substitution efforts.
also known as Health Product Declaration. It is a standardized format that allows manufacturers to share contents of their products, including any hazardous chemicals.
status marked for products that have a Health Product Declaration with full ingredient and hazard listings and a hazard translator with a disclosure threshold of 1000 or 100 ppm; can contain LT-1 scored components
status marked for products that have a Health Product Declaration with full ingredient and hazard listings and a hazard translator with a disclosure threshold of 1000 or 100 ppm; can NOT contain LT-1 scored components
status marked for products that have a Partial Health Product Declaration and have characterization of hazards and hazard translator for ingredients; exceptions are acceptable with a disclosure threshold of 1000 ppm
Hazard is an intrinsic property of a substance – its potential to harm humans or some part of the environment based on its physical structure and properties. We can assess the hazard of a chemical or material by reviewing the scientific evidence for the specific kinds of harm that a substance can cause (often called the endpoints), such as damage to the human reproductive system, or the onset of asthma. On HomeFree, hazards are displayed with a color indicating the level of concern for each one. Purple is the highest level of concern, followed by red, and then orange.
Because very few products on the market are made with ingredients that have no hazards, you should expect to see hazards called out, even for products that are considered healthier options. The trick is to compare hazards between products, and whenever possible, prefer the product with fewer hazards.
A disease symptom or related marker of a health impact on a human or other organism. Examples of human health endpoints include carcinogenicity (causes cancer), reproductive and developmental toxicity, respiratory sensitization, etc. Health endpoints are due to the inherent hazards of a substance, and are determined by authoritative bodies, such as the US EPA or the National Institutes of Health.
Information Request Sent
this means that an email letter has been sent to the manufacturer requesting information about a specific product. This IR may ask the manufacturer to share HPD type data, a GreenScreen Assessment, or a C2C certification in order to meet Google’s Healthy Materials criteria
each discrete chemical, polymer, metal, bio-based material, or other substance added to the product by the manufacturer or supplier that exists in the product as delivered for final use requires its own line entry and must account for over 99% of the total product. To add content you may enter it by using a CAS registry number, chemical name, abbreviations, common/ trade names, genus/species (for biobased materials), product or manufacturer name (for components)
list of product contents, ingredients
In biology, the term “lifecycle” describes the arc an organism undergoes from birth, through stages of growth and development, to its death. When applied to building products, “lifecycle”describes the arc that chemicals or materials take from the extraction of the raw materials needed for their creation, through their synthesis and inclusion in a building product, the period of time that the product is installed in a building, its eventual removal from the building, and its disposal/reuse/recycling at the end of its useful life. Products (and the chemicals and materials used to make them) often present human and environmental health hazards at any step in this lifecycle.
listing the ingredients and present chemical hazards of a product and optimizing towards safer materials
Can cause or increase the rate of mutations, which are changes in the genetic material in cells. This can result in cancer and birth defects.
the absence of any “chemicals of concern” in the product/material formulation.
Can contribute to chemical reactions that destroy ozone in the earth’s upper atmosphere.
Persistent, Bio-accumulative Toxicants; these are chemicals that are toxic, persist in the environment, bioaccumulate in the food chains, and consequently pose risks to the human health and environment
Persistent Bioaccumulative Toxicant (PBT)
Does not break down readily from natural processes, accumulates in organisms, concentrating as it moves up the food chain, and is harmful in small quantities.
formerly known as the Healthy Materials Tool; is a new portal for entering and accessing building product data. Portico is a database that allows project teams unparalleled access to a vast selection of building products. Portico automatically screens manufacturer product information so that products are available in front of Google’s design teams right away.
Predicted from Process Chemistry
Fully disclosed projected residuals based on process chemistry. This option is suggested for manufacturers without the capability of measuring actual residuals. Indicate the tool or other basis for prediction in the Disclosure Notes. The HBN Pharos tool is an example of a tool that predicts potential residuals.
share HPD information solely to Google, not to general public. If public, please share public URL in the transparency section
Can disrupt the male or female reproductive systems, changing sexual development, behavior or functions, decreasing fertility, or resulting in loss of a fetus during pregnancy.
the by-product of a reaction of two or more chemicals that are used in the manufacturing process; known as trace substances remaining in the product from manufacturing steps (such as monomers and catalysts) or contaminants that come with raw materials. Residuals can be known from testing as well as estimated from process chemistry assessment. Predicted from Process Chemistry definition noted above.
Can result in high sensitivity such that small quantities trigger asthma, rhinitis, or other allergic reactions in the respiratory system. This can can exacerbate current asthma as well as cause the disease of asthma.
review contents against authoritative chemical hazard lists. Health Product Declaration standard uses screening as a pathway to understand and assess products for any human health hazard endpoints.
a product disclosure and screening/assessment which is created “in-house” by the manufacturer of the product, and does not utilize a third party assessor.
Third Party Assessor
an independent assessment body which is not affiliated with the manufacturer or the product.
Tints are a mix of pigments and other ingredients that give paints their distinct color. These tints can be a substantial source of VOC content in addition to whatever VOCs are in the paint itself. Darker and richer colors will tend to be higher in VOC content. Some manufacturers have developed low or zero VOC tint lines that can be used to insure that a low VOC paint product remains so even in dark or rich colors.
the level of product/material formulation information (including ingredients names and associated hazards) being shared by the manufacturer with the end users (i.e. public, third party, Google). Portico’s transparency category gives points to manufacturers who share product information (HPD) publicly rather than just to Google.
Volatile Organic Compound
provide the regulatory VOC content for liquid/wet applied product in g/L; if the VOC content has not been third party certified and there is no standard for the product, indicate “none” on the VOC content line. If the product is not wet applied, indicate N/A
emissions testing and certification for any product for which the current version of the CDPH (CA Department of Public Health) Standard Method provides emission scenarios
Volatile organic compounds (VOC) means any compound of carbon (excluding carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, carbonic acid, metallic carbides or carbonates, and ammonium carbonate), which react in the atmosphere in the presence of sunlight.
assessments verified by an independent, third party assessor, in compliance with specific requirements pertaining to the standard at hand.
5 g/L cutoff threshold recognized by SCAQMD for products that are Zero VOC
parts per million (1,000 ppm = 0.1%; 100 ppm = 0.01%).
We would love to hear from you on what you think about this post. We sincerely appreciate all your comments – and – if you like this post please share it with friends. And feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss ideas for your next project!
Architects need to continue to consider healthy living when designing private and public spaces. According to the sources cited below, the Well Living Lab aims to answer critical questions to make homes, offices and independent living environments healthier places. That means indoor environments could be altered to reduce stress and increase comfort, performance and sleep.
By understanding the interplay of elements such as sound, lighting, temperature and air quality, indoor spaces may be altered to address people’s specific and overall health needs. And by understanding how people’s behavior is shaped by their physical environment, facilities can be designed to maximize positive health habits and reduce negative influences. This ambitious three-year research plan is the start toward transforming human health and well-being in indoor environments.
WELL community functions to protect health and well-being across all aspects of community life. The vision for a WELL community is inclusive, integrated, and resilient, fostering high levels of social engagement.
Facilitates ambient air quality with strategies to reduce traffic pollution and reduce exposure to pollution.
Encourages drinking water quality, public sanitation, and facilities provisions with strategies managing contaminated water on a systems scale and strategies to promote drinking water access.
Facilitates fruit and vegetable access, availability and affordability with policies to reduce the availability of processed foods and providing nutritional information and nutrition education. Also includes strategies for food advertising and promotion, food security, food safety and breastfeeding support.
Supports maintained illuminance levels for roads and walkways and strategies for limiting light pollution, light trespass, glare and discomfort avoidance.
Integrates environmental design and operational strategies to reduce the risk of transportation-related injuries, mixed land use and connectivity, walkability, cyclist infrastructure, infrastructure to encourage active transportation and strategies to promote daily physical activity and exercise.
Facilitates strategies to reduce heat island effect with policies to deal with extreme temperatures and manage sun exposure and ultraviolet risk.
Facilitates noise exposure assessment with planning for acoustics, techniques to reduce sound propagation and hearing health education.
Supports strategies to reduce exposure to hazardous chemical substances in cases of uncontrolled/accidental release and contaminated sites and to limit use of hazardous chemicals in landscaping and outdoor structures.
Provides access to mental health care, substance abuse and addiction services and access to green spaces.
Supports health impact assessments, policies that address the social determinants of health, health promotion programming, policies that foster social cohesion, community identity and empowerment, crime prevention through environmental design, policies and planning for community disaster and emergency preparedness.
We would love to hear from you on what you think about this post. We sincerely appreciate all your comments – and – if you like this post please share it with friends. And feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss ideas for your next project!
The Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation Environmental Center
The nickname for the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation Environmental Center is the Grass Building, and it perfectly captures its spirit. It’s a structure so thoughtfully designed it’s almost as energy-efficient and low impact as the greenery that surrounds it.
The Maryland building is part of an educational farm on the Potomac River Watershed that the Alice Ferguson Foundation used to teach people about the natural world. This new building—which became the 13th in the world to receive full Living Building Challenge certification in June 2017—is an educational facility designed to blur the lines between indoors and out, while still providing shelter as needed. “Part of the intent of the building is to be in the landscape and still have a bathroom to use,” says Scott Kelly, principal-in-charge at Re:Vision, a Philadelphia-based architecture and design studio.
Drawing thousands of students, the Brock Environmental Center is a regional hub for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, in Virginia Beach, Virginia, supporting its education and wetlands restoration initiatives. A connection to nature defines the building’s siting, which provides sweeping views of the marsh and also anticipates sea-level rise and storm surges with its raised design. Parts were sourced from salvage: Its maple floors once belonged to a local gymnasium while school bleachers, complete with graffiti, were used for interior wood trim. The center was recognized for its positive footprint: It has composting toilets, captures and treats rainfall for use as drinking water, and produces 80 percent more energy than it uses, selling the excess to the grid.
Students have three distinct, age-appropriate playgrounds—with natural elements such as rocks and fallen trees—at Arlington, Virginia’s Discovery Elementary School. The name honors astronaut John Glenn, who returned to space on the Discovery shuttle and once lived in the neighborhood. Exploration is a theme at the school, whose interior focuses on forests, oceans, atmosphere, and the solar system. The largest zero-energy school in the country, it offers “hands-on learning around energy efficiency and generation,” jurors noted. The school maximizes natural light and provides views to the outside in all classrooms.
A laboratory is an energy-intensive enterprise, with specialized lighting and ventilation needs. That’s why jurors praised the airy health and science building at Bristol Community College, in Fall River, Massachusetts, for its net-zero energy achievement, “a difficult feat,” they noted, “in a cold climate like New England’s.” The move saves $103,000 in annual operating costs and allows the college, which offers a suite of courses in sustainability and energy, to practice what it teaches. Part of a holistic campus redesign, the new building’s location increases the density—and thus walkability—of campus for students.
Orange and red pipes flaunt their role in “heat recovery” at Stanford University’s Central Energy Facility. The center for powering the California campus—more than a thousand buildings—the facility was transformed from an aging gas-fired plant to one fueled mostly by an off-site solar farm, fulfilling a goal of carbon neutrality and reducing energy use by a third. With large health care and research buildings, the campus needs as much heating as cooling; now a unique recovery system taps heat created in cooling processes to supply 93 percent of the heating and hot water required for campus buildings. The plant reduces Stanford emissions by 68 percent and potable water usage by 18 percent, potentially saving millions of dollars and one of the state’s scarce resources.
Like other buildings in Singapore, Ng Teng Fong General Hospital incorporates parks, green roofs, and vertical plantings throughout its campus. But the city-state’s hospitals haven’t traditionally offered direct access to fresh air, light, and outdoor views. This hospital marks a dramatic change, optimizing each for patients. About 70 percent of the facility is naturally ventilated and cooled by fans, cross-ventilation, and exterior shading, saving on precious water resources. The building uses 38 percent less energy than a typical hospital in the area.
After receiving the donation of 388-acre Eden Hall Farm, 20 miles north, Pittsburgh’s Chatham University created a satellite campus centered around a sustainable living experiment. The university views the landscape—an agricultural area adjacent to an urban center—as critical to supporting cities of the future. The original buildings are complemented by new facilities for 250 residential students (and eventually 1,200), including a dormitory, greenhouse, dining commons, and classrooms. Students get hands-on experience in renewable energy systems—the campus generates more than it uses—sustainable agriculture and aquaculture, waste treatment, and water management. Now home to the Falk School of Sustainability, the farm is producing the next generation of environmental stewards, who follow in the footsteps of alum Rachel Carson.
Milken Institute School of Public Health, George Washington University
At George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health, located in the nation’s capital, design embodies well-being. Built around an atrium that admits light and air, the structure encourages physical activity with a staircase that spans its eight levels. A green roof reduces storm runoff; rainwater is collected and stored for plumbing, resulting in a 41 percent reduction in toilet fixtures’ water use. Limestone panels (left) were salvaged from the previous building on the site. Materials used throughout the building contain recycled content.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Inouye Regional Center
Located at the heart of Pearl Harbor, on Oahu’s Ford Island, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Inouye Regional Center repurposed two airplane hangars—which narrowly escaped destruction in the 1941 attack—linking them with a new steel and glass building (right). The research and office facility for 800 employees was raised to guard it from rising sea levels. Given the size of the hangars, daylight illuminated only a small fraction of the space, so specially crafted lanterns reflect sunlight further into their interiors. Necessity required invention: Due to anti-terrorism regulations, no operable windows were allowed in the space. Through a passive downdraft system that taps prevailing sea breezes, the building is completely naturally ventilated. The adjacent waterfront was returned to a more natural state with native vegetation.
Serving as the gateway to Hampshire College, in Amherst, Massachusetts, the multipurpose R.W. Kern Center holds classrooms, offices, a café, and gallery space—and is the place where prospective students are introduced to campus. The school converted what was once an oval driveway into a wildflower meadow, now encouraging a pedestrian approach (seen above). The center is self-sustaining, generating its own energy through a rooftop solar array, harvesting its water from rainfall, and processing its own waste. Its gray water treatment system is in a pilot program for the state, and may pave the way for others.
DSNY-Parking Garage and Salt Shead: New York NY, Architect: Dattner Architects with WXY Architects
Manhattan 1/2/5 Garage & Salt Shed
Two buildings belonging to New York City’s sanitation department redefine municipal architecture. Resembling a grain of salt, the cubist form of the Spring Street Salt Shed holds 5,000 tons for clearing icy streets. The Manhattan 1/2/5 Garage (background), whose floors are color-coded for each of the three districts, is home to 150 vehicles, wash and repair facilities, and space for 250 workers. The garage is wrapped in 2,600 aluminum “fins,” shading devices that pivot with the sun’s rays, reducing heat gain and glare through the glazed walls while still allowing views to the outside. Municipal steam heats and cools the building, so no fuels are burned. A 1.5-acre green roof reduces heat-island effect and filters rainwater. A condensate by-product of the steam is also captured, and, along with the rainwater, used for toilets and the truck wash. Combined with low-flow fixtures, the process reduced water consumption by 77 percent.
Starbucks has been a leader in the development and implementation of a scalable green building program for over a decade .Starbucks joined the U.S. Green Building Council® (USGBC) in 2001 and collaborated with them to develop the LEED® for Retail program, an effort to adapt LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) to new construction and commercial interior strategies for retail businesses. In 2008,Starbucks challenged themselves to use LEED certification not just for flagship stores and larger buildings, but for all new, company-operated stores. Many people, even internally, were skeptical, especially with Starbucks growth across the globe. But by collaborating with USGBC and other like-minded organizations, we have been able to integrate green building design not only into new stores but also into our existing store portfolio. Starbucks has also succeeded in providing a practical certification option for retailers of all sizes.
The Edge, located in Amsterdam, is a model of sustainability.is billed as the world’s most sustainable office building and has the certification to prove it. But, it’s more than that. The place is, well, fun. And interesting. And inviting. So much so that professionals are actually applying for employment with Deloitte Netherlands because they want to work in the building. That it has become a recruiting tool is a satisfying side effect of a project designed to both redefine efficiency and change the way people work. “We wanted to ensure that our building not only had the right sustainability credentials, but was also a real innovative and inspiring place for our employees,” says Deloitte Netherlands CEO Peter Bommel.