Contract - Considering Life Cycle, with Rigor

design - process



Considering Life Cycle, with Rigor

02 December, 2013

-By John Czarnecki



This editorial appeared in Contract's December 2013 issue. To read the digital edition, click here.

With a wide variety of products and materials to specify, your role 
as designers can be challenging. Add to that a greater depth of understanding that is needed regarding the sustainable aspects and chemical composition of building materials and products, and your decision-making process has become more complicated.

An exclusive feature this month, “How Sustainable is Your Interior?” (page 68) by Deborah Fuller, IIDA, a senior interior designer 
in the Dallas office of HOK, helps readers decipher the latest in sustainable product and material evaluation and certification. Fuller writes, “Designing healthful interiors is critical as more and more environmental chemicals are linked to human health issues. As our profession continues to embrace the concept of embodied energy, carbon emissions, indoor environmental quality, ozone depletion, and human health impacts, the task of evaluating materials is somewhat more daunting.”

At Greenbuild last month in Philadelphia, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) introduced LEED V4, which includes significant changes to the Materials and Resources credits. The changes, overall, amount to greater transparency, and a step forward—although a complicated one—for our industry. The changes with LEED V4 will also impact other industries related to building design and construction and product manufacturing, as well as shift expectations on reporting and performance related to sustainable built environments. In a time of transparency and accountability as it relates to supply chains, this is 
a responsible step for both manufacturers and design professionals.

One change in LEED V4 will be the use of verified life-cycle assessment (LCA) data, which conveys the impact of a building product, a material, or an entire building over its life. Under a new LEED V4 credit, manufacturers will provide third-party verified LCAs or Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs). Earlier versions of LEED focused more on crediting recycled, reused, or bio-based content in building materials, but now, the impact of LCAs will be more holistic. 
In LEED V4, having an EPD will contribute to one point. Indications 
that a product’s impacts are below industry averages will contribute 
to a second point.

All of this relates to increased transparency through material content reporting. Even if a product’s content includes potentially hazardous materials, or even contains carcinogens, the project still receives a credit for the reporting alone. That may seem controversial on the surface, but the simple act of disclosing product materials will pressure manufacturers to consider content and eventually lead to less hazardous products. In essence, transparency and disclosure can drive improvement in the product industry, leading to cleaner products and practices. This is similar to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration disclosing food ingredients on nutrition facts labels. As the public becomes more aware of unhealthy ingredients, for example, greater pressure is placed on food companies to reduce or eliminate trans-fats.

Finding and specifying products that are compliant with LEED 
V4 will be easier in some instances and more challenging in others. As Fuller points out in her article, we now have Greenguard, Green Label Plus, BIFMA level, FloorScore, Green Seal, Green Squared, facts, Forest Stewardship Council, USDA Certified Biobased, BuildingGreen, Cradle to Cradle, SMaRT, Pharos Project, and SCS Global to evaluate products and materials. That might make your head spin. But, in the big picture, the increased rigor that both manufacturers and designers will require can enable the most accessible and transformative of these standards and programs to become prominent and have a sustaining, long-term impact on both interiors and building design and construction. These are positive steps forward in the evolution of sustainable design as the norm, not the exception.


Sincerely,

John Czarnecki, Assoc. AIA, Hon. IIDA


Editor in Chief




Considering Life Cycle, with Rigor

02 December, 2013


This editorial appeared in Contract's December 2013 issue. To read the digital edition, click here.

With a wide variety of products and materials to specify, your role 
as designers can be challenging. Add to that a greater depth of understanding that is needed regarding the sustainable aspects and chemical composition of building materials and products, and your decision-making process has become more complicated.

An exclusive feature this month, “How Sustainable is Your Interior?” (page 68) by Deborah Fuller, IIDA, a senior interior designer 
in the Dallas office of HOK, helps readers decipher the latest in sustainable product and material evaluation and certification. Fuller writes, “Designing healthful interiors is critical as more and more environmental chemicals are linked to human health issues. As our profession continues to embrace the concept of embodied energy, carbon emissions, indoor environmental quality, ozone depletion, and human health impacts, the task of evaluating materials is somewhat more daunting.”

At Greenbuild last month in Philadelphia, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) introduced LEED V4, which includes significant changes to the Materials and Resources credits. The changes, overall, amount to greater transparency, and a step forward—although a complicated one—for our industry. The changes with LEED V4 will also impact other industries related to building design and construction and product manufacturing, as well as shift expectations on reporting and performance related to sustainable built environments. In a time of transparency and accountability as it relates to supply chains, this is 
a responsible step for both manufacturers and design professionals.

One change in LEED V4 will be the use of verified life-cycle assessment (LCA) data, which conveys the impact of a building product, a material, or an entire building over its life. Under a new LEED V4 credit, manufacturers will provide third-party verified LCAs or Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs). Earlier versions of LEED focused more on crediting recycled, reused, or bio-based content in building materials, but now, the impact of LCAs will be more holistic. 
In LEED V4, having an EPD will contribute to one point. Indications 
that a product’s impacts are below industry averages will contribute 
to a second point.

All of this relates to increased transparency through material content reporting. Even if a product’s content includes potentially hazardous materials, or even contains carcinogens, the project still receives a credit for the reporting alone. That may seem controversial on the surface, but the simple act of disclosing product materials will pressure manufacturers to consider content and eventually lead to less hazardous products. In essence, transparency and disclosure can drive improvement in the product industry, leading to cleaner products and practices. This is similar to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration disclosing food ingredients on nutrition facts labels. As the public becomes more aware of unhealthy ingredients, for example, greater pressure is placed on food companies to reduce or eliminate trans-fats.

Finding and specifying products that are compliant with LEED 
V4 will be easier in some instances and more challenging in others. As Fuller points out in her article, we now have Greenguard, Green Label Plus, BIFMA level, FloorScore, Green Seal, Green Squared, facts, Forest Stewardship Council, USDA Certified Biobased, BuildingGreen, Cradle to Cradle, SMaRT, Pharos Project, and SCS Global to evaluate products and materials. That might make your head spin. But, in the big picture, the increased rigor that both manufacturers and designers will require can enable the most accessible and transformative of these standards and programs to become prominent and have a sustaining, long-term impact on both interiors and building design and construction. These are positive steps forward in the evolution of sustainable design as the norm, not the exception.


Sincerely,

John Czarnecki, Assoc. AIA, Hon. IIDA


Editor in Chief

 


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