Nov 18, 201306:09 PMPoint of View

Stand Up for Material Health

(page 3 of 3)

KG: There is an undeniable movement from owners, operators, and the design community to address chemicals of concern in the built environment.  How do we create an environment that is welcoming to manufacturers at different places of supply chain knowledge and that supports a cooperative environment for change?

EB: It is heartening to see early support for the HPD by so many industry sectors, and consumers are certainly demonstrating an interest. For example, more than two dozen design firms have already initiated conversations by writing letters to manufacturers in their product libraries. The communications speak to the desire for transparency, a fundamental aspect of the HPD. The letters aim to request participation in a cooperative environment using the HPD because it is neutral ground that acknowledges limits of current market realities.

SG: The collaboration of A&D firms calling for transparency is powerful and is certainly changing the market.  Collectively, what we want are better products but that requires more than transparency. We need to create an environment that encourages continuous improvement and rewards progress. 

I would like to see LEED, the Living Building Challenge, owners, operators, and architecture and design firms align language and their requests to encourage companies to disclose ingredients, assess ingredients, make commitments to avoid and eliminate chemicals of concern, and be rewarded for their progress on this continuum. For example, the Cradle to Cradle Certified scorecard is one indicator of how optimized a product is.  At the bronze level, the product contains no Cradle to Cradle-banned list chemicals, at the Silver level there are no carcinogens, mutagens, or reproductive toxins, at the Gold level and above, the product is optimized and poses no human or environmental threat.  The Cradle to Cradle system recognizes there is room to improve and companies make those commitments as part of their reevaluation and recertification every two years.

KG: It’s great to see collaboration. But of course, everyone always wants to know what’s ahead. Bill, what’s next?

WM: This is an exciting moment of unprecedented collaboration and sharing around material health issues in the built environment and beyond. We are committed to helping to foster this important work together to create a system that embodies continuous improvement. There is work to be done with manufacturers, through advocacy, and through policy, but we are all keeping our eye on the highest values and the biggest drivers. It’s not hard, once you focus on human health and kids: more good will always trump less bad. Less bad was never good enough and we are trying to do better together. Instead of asking “How much can I get for how little I give?” we are now asking “How much can we give for all that we get?” And we are asking it together.

For more on Health Products, and how it may change our material world for the better, see our previous Q&A's with key members of the Health Product Declaration (HPD) iniative architect Robin Guenther, furniture manufacturer Teknion, HPD Chairman Peter C. Syrett, and Healthy Building Founder Bill Walsh.



William McDonough is a globally recognized designer and thought leader and founder/co-founder of McDonough Innovation, MBDC, and William McDonough + Partners. He works with executives at the highest level at some of the largest companies in the world. He is co-author, with Michael Braungart, of Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things and The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability—Designing for Abundance. In 1992, he wrote the Hannover Principles: Design for Sustainability to, as he puts it, wage peace through principled commerce. McDonough will be signing copies of 'The Upcycle' at the USGBC’s Greenbuild at 4:30 pm on November 20 at the Shaw booth (#3413) on the Expo Floor. At 4: 00 pm, there will be a Herman Miller chair giveaway at the MBDC booth (#2319). His latest product design, Butterfly Effect for Patcraft (a division of Shaw) will be launched this week. Follow him on Twitter @billmcdonough.

Stacy Glass is the executive in residence at the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, advancing the adoption of Cradle to Cradle Certification in the built environment.  She is co-author of Understanding Green Building Materials and regularly speaks on the topics of sustainability and healthy building materials. She co-founded CaraGreen, a sustainable building materials company.

Eden Brukman is the principal of Concenter Solutions and technical director of the Health Product Declaration Collaborative. She’s an architect who focuses on establishing socially and environmentally responsible solutions for human habitat, particularly as it relates to the systemic reform of traditional resource flows and supply chain impacts of building materials. Eden is co-author of Living Building Challenge and directed its evolution from 2007 to2012.

Kira Gould is a writer and director of communications for William McDonough; she is a contributing editor with Metropolis magazine and co-author, with Lance Hosey, of Women in Green: Voices of Sustainable Design. She will be a table host/honorary chair at Greenbuild 2013’s Women in Green Power Breakfast (Thursday, 7:00am) and will speak at a Master Speaker session on Heath Matters and Green Buildings (with keynote Richard Jackson and moderator Susan S. Szenasy) on Thursday at 3:30pm. Follow her on Twitter @kiragould and @womeningreennow.

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