A new report questions the legitimacy of the green building rating system.
Environment and Human Health, Inc. (EHHI), a non-profit organization of public health professionals, recently released a report that examines the hazardous chemicals commonly found within building materials- including those in LEED certified facilities. The report titled “LEED Certification: Where Energy Efficiency Collides With Human Health” critiques the tendency of the LEED certification process to omit the consideration of the potential health hazards of the toxic chemicals used in modern building materials. LEED standards require energy conservation methods that restrict the passage of fresh, outdoor air into certified buildings. This can cause a concentration of hazardous, synthetic chemicals to accumulate within buildings, adversely affecting the indoor air quality.
EHHI offers the following recommendations:
1. The Green Building Council (GBC) should simplify the LEED scoring system within categories. Rather than issuing awards of “platinum,” “gold” and so on, the GBC should require performance within each category (health, energy, sites, neighborhoods, etc.) on a 0-100 scale.
2. The Green Building Council should expand its board expertise to include people in the area of human health. The board is now dominated by developers, engineers, chemical and materials manufacturers, and architects.
3. The government should categorize building products to identify: a) those that contain hazardous compounds; b) those that have been tested and found to be safe; and c) those that have been insufficiently tested, making a determination of hazard or safety impossible. This database should be freely available on the internet.
4. The chemical content and country of origin of building materials should be clearly identifiable on building product labels.
5. The Green Building Council should support federal efforts to require the testing of chemicals used in many building products for their toxicity, environmental fate and threat to human health.
This report was released at a critical time in the LEED development trajectory; as LEED standards have been incorporated into multiple federal state and local laws via executive orders, tax credits and legislation. This acceptance and adoption by local governments offers an opportunity space for further requirements and restrictions on the materials and chemicals used in building construction. Designers have the power and the opportunity to not only specify materials that do not emit pollutants, but to facilitate the dialogue between the USGBC, independent organizations like EHHI, and local government bodies.
EHHI is a non-profit organization composed of doctors, public health professionals and policy experts who specialize in research that examines environmental threats to human health. The organization receives no funding from corporations or businesses. To download the full report, visit EHHI.org