Nov 18, 201306:09 PMPoint of View


Stand Up for Material Health

Stand Up for Material Health

From left to right: William McDonough, Eden Brukman, Kira Gould, Stacy Glass.

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This is an important moment for the material health movement. So it’s time to bring together key voices to talk about the harmonization amongst groups leading the healthy products initiatives. In preparation for Greenbuild 2013, I asked William McDonough designer, thought leader, and co-author of The Upcycle and Cradle to Cradle; Stacy Glass, executive in residence at the Cradle to Cradle Product Innovation Institute; and Eden Brukman, technical director of the Health Product Declaration Collaborative (HPDC), about these topics as the U.S. Green Building Council’s conference and trade show, is about to settle in Philadelphia’s Convention Center, November 20-22, where material health matters will be front and center. For a political point of view on green building, we look forward to the Hillary Rodham Clinton keynote on November 21. 


Kira Gould: Bill, you’ve been working on this for more than two decades. Let’s start with a little background and talk about why working together is important now.

William McDonough: What a great moment. Material health is gaining traction in the product and building sector and we are seeing a coalescing of support for detailed transparent material health standards. Part of what I am so excited about right now is that the tools and the organizations are really coming together. The Cradle to Cradle CertifiedCM program and the Health Product Declaration have a common goal of abundant, beneficial materials and products in the marketplace. These are two complementary approaches to support this evolution.

When MBDC created the Cradle to Cradle approach and then the Cradle to Cradle Certified program in 2005, it was to help our clients improve their products. I led the creation, in 2010, of the Cradle to Cradle Product Innovation Institute to put the certification program into the public realm and bring it to scale. Cooperation between groups was always a part of our original vision for Cradle to Cradle and continuous improvement. We’re pleased to be working with HPD Collaborative in the building sector and happy to see an escalating commitment to quality and transparency. There has been a long history behind where we are today, and an amazing acceleration over the past year or so by many groups in the building sector and across all other sectors. These include MBDC, the Healthy Building Network, and several of the largest architecture and design firms such as HDR and Perkins + Will. These and other efforts are converging—it’s very exciting.

A key recent development has been the U.S. Green Building Council’s leadership on this issue. LEED v4, which has been approved this year, includes several important material health commitments. The USGBC has taken an important position, acknowledging the critical nature of the building industry’s role in human health.

At Greenbuild this year, Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) will be announcing their recommendation that their clients and customers choose Cradle to Cradle Certified products. As we are seeing JLL and other major players, such as Google, stand up for material health, the building industry is changing quickly and recognizing material health as a primary opportunity for principled innovation, value creation, and market differentiation.

KG: Stacy, over the last few months, you have been working on the harmonization effort with HPD Collaborative, HBN, and Clean Production Action, what have you learned?

Stacy Glass:  Well, the time was right to engage in this effort.  The first step was to analyze each tool and methodology.  What we found was that there are logical steps that a manufacturer engages in on their way to designing and manufacturing better products.  And each of these tools offers value at different stages of the process.  The common steps include a detailed inventory of all ingredients, scanning those ingredients for known hazards, conducting an assessment to determine hazard and risk, and then with that knowledge, working to optimize formulations to move away from chemicals of concern. 

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