In the materials selection process, builders seek to balance numerous product performance attributes, including durability, aesthetics and health, safety and environmental impacts. Transparency and life cycle thinking are central components of a robust materials selection process, one that enables builders to choose the most appropriate materials for their project.
The U.S. Green Building Council now offers an innovative LEED pilot credit, Integrative Analysis of Building Materials, to encourage building project teams to evaluate products and materials using available life cycle information to identify those that have positive environmental, health and safety impacts. The credit informs project team decisions by providing access to information shared by building materials manufacturers on their product’s life cycle impacts.
The pilot credit is consistent with the philosophy behind LEED version 4, which is focused on materials performance and an understanding of the effect materials ingredients have on human health and the environment.
Participating in this pilot credit benefits building project teams and product manufacturers alike:
- Project teams receive a LEED credit for specifying products and materials for which lifecycle impacts are available, and gain quantitative and qualitative information on the lifecycle impacts of materials they specify and use in building and construction.
- Participating product manufacturers make environmental, health and safety information about their products readily accessible, through an online database, so they can be easily specified by project teams seeking LEED certification.
Pilot Credit Requirements:
Building project teams must use at least three different permanently installed products that have documented health, safety and environmental impact data in the following five lifecycle stages:
- Assembly / Manufacturing
- End of Life / Reuse
In doing so, the builder should analyze and consider intended and anticipated product uses, potential hazardous exposures and the product service life, as well as contributions the product makes to health, safety and the environment – including improvements to occupant safety, air and water quality, materials reuse, energy efficiency and carbon mitigation.
Product manufacturers will provide this information on the human health, environmental and safety impacts of their products in a standardized matrix template.
Potential Human Health Impacts:
Product manufactures will gather and provide data on the following endpoints:
- Reproductive & Developmental Toxicity
- Acute Toxicity
- Eye and Skin Irritation
- Aspiration hazard
- Chronic toxicity
- Skin & Respiratory Sensitization
- Systemic Toxicity and Organ effects
- Air purification/filtration, or positive impacts to indoor air quality affecting human health
Commonly, this sort of product health impact information is available through manufacturer safety data sheets, which contains extensive information for a single chemical, including physical chemical data, potential hazards and safety precautions. Other sources for health impact information can include ecolabels or product-specific testing information.
Potential Environmental Impacts:
Manufacturers will gather and report data on the following environmental impacts:
- Air pollution abatement
- Acute and chronic aquatic toxicity
- Water use
- Energy use
- GHG emissions
- Solid waste generation/closed loop process
- Biodiversity, habitat and ecosystem
An established source for environmental impact information is a product life cycle assessment (LCA). LCAs typically report inputs, such as water and energy used, in addition to outputs, like greenhouse gas emissions and solid waste generation. Data for the matrix also can be sourced from ecolabels and environmental impact or other applicable standards.
Potential Safety Impacts:
In this section, product manufacturers can describe safety features conferred by a whole product, rather than the benefits of individual chemicals. Manufacturers are encouraged to use this section as an opportunity to highlight safety advantages that their product affords.
Examples of safety impact information that manufacturers can provide include:
- Provides egress during emergencies
- Increases wind load capacity / high wind resistance
- Moisture barrier
- Reduces acoustic noise
- Increases structural strength
- Low flame spread
- Reduces summer interior temperatures in non-air conditioned spaces