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Healthy Building Rating System

by / Tuesday, 12 February 2013 / Published in Green Building Consulting
Healthy Building Rating System

Healthy Building Rating System

Is there a “Healthy Building Rating System?”  I asked the same question five years ago, when Healthy Building Science was just getting off the ground.

Having been a LEED and “green building” consultant for many years, I knew of several health-related credits in the major green building rating systems. The major rating systems I was familiar with included:

Healthy Building Rating System

Healthy Building Rating System – Draft assembled by Healthy Building Science

There are now a plethora of other green building rating systems on the market… but in my small world these were the major players. And when I dug into each of these systems it was obvious that their primary focus was not healthy building. However, each rating system did have its own variation on health-related credits and some were very interesting indeed. So we assembled a “Healthy Building Rating System” of all the health-related credits from these programs and began using that as a guidance document for healthy building design consulting. Clients and design team members familiar with only LEED or GreenPoint Rated were quite impressed with the depth and breadth of health-related credit requirements from the various programs from around the country.

The most notorious healthy building credits are for:

  • Low-VOC adhesives, sealants and paints
  • No Added Urea Formaldehyde
  • During Construction Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Management Plan
  • Minimum Ventilation and Air Filtration Media Requirements
  • Living Building Challenge “Red List”
Of these limited healthy building credits, the “Red List” is by far the most challenging.
Red List v2.1

Red List v2.1 – Challenging Healthy Building Prerequisite

Healthy Home Standard is the most comprehensive Healthy Building Rating System

turned out to be from the lessor-known Institute of Building Biology & Ecology (IBE). Several experienced and tenored building biologists got so fed up with everyone referring to LEED (non health-centric) that they developed their very own… Healthy Home Standard.
Healthy Building Rating System

Healthy Home Standard – Healthy Building Rating System

The Healthy Home Standard is, to my knowledge, the only building rating system that is entirely focused on occupant health. It is also the only green building rating system in the US that even mentioned electromagnetic fields (EMF) and electromagnetic radiation (EMR). GreenPoint Rated and LEED have numerous credits for water conservation… but no points available for water quality testing or water filtration! People looking for healthy building would be wise to incorporate credits from the Healthy Home Standard.

Basics of the Healthy Home Standard (HHS)

Like most Green Building Rating Systems, the HHS is broken up into categories of credits and relies on checklists to evaluate the project’s performance.

There are only 3 categories:

  • Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)
  • Electromagnetic Radiation (EMR)
  • Water Quality

Instead of just awarding a total number of points (GreenPoint Rated), or categorizing how buildings score by precious heavy metals (LEED), Building Biologists decided that buildings should be graded like children… so they issued letter grades!  For each category, and again for the whole house, a letter grade from A-to-F is determined. In my opinion, this was a mistake, because once clients see their building may receive an “F” in any category they quickly decide not to pursue formal certification through IBE. I’ve seen it happen, and I don’t blame the clients one bit.

A strength of the Healthy Home Standard is its commitment to onsite verification before, during and after construction. A rather extensive air quality testing procedure is involved in the IAQ verification, and I prefer the Building Biology testing methods over LEED’s approach. An obvious advantage is that HHS includes airborne biological contaminants.

Subsequent blog posts will dive into specific categories of the Healthy Home Standard – the best “Healthy Building Rating System” we’ve got!

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