How many mothers would buy a food product for a newborn child without first checking the label to see what was inside? Not many. How many health experts would eat at a restaurant and not check into how something was prepared? Few. How many auto-mechanics would put oil in their car without knowing the weight? Probably none. Yet all too often, with regards to building or remodeling, people overlook the contents of the materials.
With the advent of the sustainability movement, gradually the community at large is becoming more aware of the importance of choosing products for building. IBISWorld estimates that there has been 18.3% increase in green and sustainable building in 2012 and expects to see that number grow to 23% annually by 2016. With this shift in the culture of the building industry, the need for healthy, green products has increased substantially.
In the residential market alone, there is an opportunity of approximately $7.8 billion dollars as it relates to product value. And these numbers are expected to increase. What may be more fascinating is that 82% of consumers in the United States are regular purchasers of green products, according to a study done by Green Seal. The average American wants some knowledge about the product he is buying. To a further extent, with all of the municipal regulations and potential benefits of green living, full disclosure of product details has become paramount.
The Healthy Product Declaration Open Standard is a significant step in the right direction. The HPD Open Standard is a format for the reporting of product content and associated health information for individual building products and materials. The goal of the HPD is to promote transparency in the manufacturing and building communities as it relates to sustainability and environmental concerns. Ultimately, the thought is to significantly reduce the amount of volatile organic compounds being used in construction.
The HPD is a benchmark in helping buyers to red list products that are of concern and to locate products that meet guidelines, but it is merely just the beginning. In a joint effort with HPD and the Pharos Project, the Living Future Institute has developed the DECLARE product label. Like a nutrition label on a food product, the DECLARE label is designed to quickly give the purchaser an idea of what a product is made of and with.
Historically, buyers have had a difficult time locating products that meet standards. DECLARE was designed to encourage manufacturers to be forthright with content declarations so that the onus is no longer on the buyer. The purpose is to make building greener an easier proposition. It also reduces the administrative time on the project, which will allow designers to focus more on other initiatives.
Amanda Sturgeon, VP of the Living Future Institute, contends, “Despite a growing mountain of research demonstrating the detrimental impact of toxic building materials and increasing public awareness of this fact, change has been slow.”
As the business of green building has grown, the need for the right products has never been more real. We are starting to see some traction within the manufacturing community as it relates to creating healthier products. With the creation of the HPD and DECLARE, information is becoming easier to find and document.