This emerging trend in building supply information is in its green building infancy, but the movement for understanding the ingredients-chemicals, substances and other information is moving ahead.  The concept is simple: provide consistent labeling on each product displaying its components, percentage content, hazards and other information for things like windows, paint, fabric, insulation and other materials used in construction.

The movement for more precise labeling came from two directions. In one direction, green certification organizations like LEED, USGB and PassiveHouse US explored content, manufacturing, energy use and origin to assign points and credits for using certain types of materials in buildings. The other direction came from the realization that the supply chain in the global economy is large and complex: building materials were sometimes being manufactured with dangerous levels of toxic substances and being sold in the US without any warning information.  For example, some drywall imported from China in 2001 contained unknown volatile substances, which caused health problems for residents in homes constructed with the defective material.

Thus the idea of so-called “nutrition labels” or health product declarations was conceived for materials that would mirror standard information-like the ubiquitous black and white labels found on packaged food products. One organization called the Health Product Declaration Collaborative (HPDC) is working with manufacturers and end-users to create an easy-to-understand certification for a broad range of products, focusing on a Priority Hazard List of chemicals and substances with known health risks. The organization has created an inventory of substances using 70 sources to create an authoritative list for manufacturers to reference. For example, Green Spec lists the greenest of 2,600 green building products covering the most widely used building materials. Other lists provide a wealth of data for manufacturers to complete their own Health Product Declaration.

According to Wendy Vittori, executive director of HPDC, the process is a driving agent for innovation in manufacturing, and may offer up some new improvements for healthy products down the line. “We see this process as a means to help us move to a world where products are healthier and better for consumers,” she added.

Read more about Katahdin Cedar Log Home’s green building philosophy.