Healthy Building News from GreenBuild 2012
More than 30,000 attendees from across the world swarmed into San Francisco for this year’s international GreenBuild conference. The conference is hosted every year by the US Green Building Council, and it’s by far the largest green building conference in the US. GreenBuild is, by default, mostly LEED-centric, but there are always big industry announcements made at this huge event. There was significant healthy building news from GreenBuild 2012.
Soon we’ll report the air quality test results from samples collected during GreenBuild.
Here is some healthy building news from GreenBuild 2012:
- Health Product Declarations (HPDs) and Transparency make big lunge forward. The HPD Collaborative made a big splash and many of the educational sessions referenced big changes in manufacturer transparency. They have created a standard format for sharing environmental information for building materials and material ingredients. Going beyond energy concerns, HPDs incorporate many critical data points for health that are so often left out of MSDS. With major industry and customer support, my fingers are crossed that transparency will win the day!
- Red Lists = Healthy Buildings? There was much chatter about the Living Building Challenge Red List. Just as HPDs were a hot topic, so were Red Lists. The Living Building Challenge was an early adopter of a “do not use” list of material ingredients. Now there are other “do not use” lists… and many are realizing that it’s hard to build in the US without PVC, halogenated flame retardants, and formaldehyde. A combination of “do not use” lists and more transparency in the market place may really change materials in the US over the coming decade.
- Flame Retardants getting burned? The Green Science Policy Institute has been building a coalition of fire scientists, firefighters, toxicologists, code experts, and healthy designers, in order to draft The Safer Insulation Solution. This resolution calls for changing code to allow foam insulation buried under slabs or behind fire resistant barriers (e.g., gypsum board) to avoid halogenated flame retardants (HFRs). GSPI and Arlene Blum have developed a very clear arguement for the reduction of these known toxic chemicals, and when you hear fire scientists and firefighters clearly say that HFRs provide no clear benefits and many knowns dangers… the choice is clear. I believe the resolution and timely call to action will result in changed code language in the coming years.
- Resilient Design Institute. I believe in Alex Wilson. For years he’s been promoting “passive survivability,” but the concept struggled to grab hold in the green building movement. After every disaster his lessons would be brought to the forefront and showcase how post-hurricane suffering could be significantly reduced if we just built for passive survivability. This is the notion that our buildings would be able to provide our basic needs until power/water/sewer are restored to affected neighborhoods. Water collection, filtration, and minimal lighting, heat, and refrigeration might be on the menu. At GreenBuild there were several talks about global climate change and how NY has faired after Sandy. Finally, this year, right after NY got nailed again… “resiliency” is on center stage and Alex isn’t wasting any time further flushing out his concepts and soliciting support for the cause through a newly formed not-for-profit, the Resilient Design Institute. Great concept – it’s about time the movement bought in.
- HouseTalk. Two pioneers in the green building movement have come together to share current events and emerging best practices in the residential design-build industry. Ann Edminster and Bruce King are being chapparoned by Stanford business grad, Diego Fonstad, and the trio may have the magic touch. Most green building news outlets are commercial-focused, but this new source promises to focus on residential green building issues and I look forward to watching this venture unfold. The revenue model is still unclear to me, but for now it’s free. My faith in these three was solidified after receiving a tour and explanation of the latest development they’ve made to HouseTalk.us
- Building Science Modeling. Design and litigation mitigation is getting more high-tech. There was much discussion of new modeling tools for energy efficiency and daylighting. However, a new software tool, available free from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, really is gaining steam in the building science community. The WUFI modeling tool “allows realistic calculation of …. heat and moisture transport in building components.” This will revolutionize how building scientists and waterproofing consultants analyze building assemblies. It is intended to be used during design, but I’m sure WUFI will gravitate into the courts and eventually be used for supporting evidence in post-mitigation litigation.
- Jerry Brown gets it! This is huge news. This Sunday, for the first time ever, I heard a prominent political leader refer to the importance of “healthy building” within the “green building” movement. He said, “Green buildings aren’t just energy efficient, they don’t just use less carbon and produce fewer greenhouse gases. They are also healthy!” It was music to my ears.
If there is one piece of news I’m taking home from GreenBuild 2012 – it’s that building science and healthy building are finally getting the attention they deserve! I’m elated that “healthy building” is actually in the news, and that fact it’s in a proactive and reactive story makes it even better!
Hat’s off to the organizers, speakers, and attendees that made this such an amazing event. I’m confident that in the next ten years we’ll be seeing ripples from these news stories…. how far they will ripple is up to us.
Stay tuned for results from the air quality samples I collected at GreenBuild 2012.