Chemicals of Concern: Cut through the Controversy

04/30/2013 | By Janelle Penny

Strategies to avoid the hype and make optimal decisions for your facility

The debate over safe building materials shows no signs of stopping as LEED v4 draws closer to its official release. It’s clear that the certification system will include credits for optimizing building material ingredients and the supply chain in some form, but what does that optimization actually mean?

Not surprisingly, the answer isn’t black or white. In fact, it’s more gray than green. That’s why a smart manager weighs the evidence to make optimal material choices, minimize potentially harmful chemicals, and ensure top building performance.

But what’s an FM to do when even that evidence is a matter of interpretation? For example, if you’re trying to eliminate chemicals of concern from your facility, can you still use Neoprene for its tough, tear-resistant qualities in waterproofing membranes, or should you find an alternative because hazardous gases can be released when it’s produced or burned?

Develop a solid strategy to dodge the rhetoric from all sides – if you don’t, your purchasing policy will be stuck in a gray area.

Develop a Game Plan
First, understand and develop specifics regarding greening your organization’s material purchases. What product attributes matter most to your company’s decision-makers? Is a product permissible if its manufacturing process has a negative environmental impact, or can it be used as long as it poses no risk to building occupants? There are two major schools of thought seeking to answer that question:

The Precautionary Principle: This way of thinking acknowledges that there is still much to learn about the effects of various chemicals found in building products. Rather than risk exposure to a health hazard due to a lack of available knowledge, practitioners of the Precautionary Principle refrain from using the chemical of concern until it’s proven to be safe without a doubt.

“We know that a lot of these substances have long-term effects,” says Jerry Yudelson, leader of Yudelson Associates’ consulting team, LEED Fellow, and founder of the first regional USGBC chapter. “The concern is that we may be creating long-term unhealthy environments even while we’re doing all of these green upgrades. The overarching principle is that we ought to err on the side of caution.”

The Risk Assessment Approach: Instead of avoiding chemicals of concern altogether, this principle examines how the chemical is used in a specific application and determines the risk of hazard exposure. A chemical that causes adverse health impacts on its own may behave differently when it’s combined with dozens of other substances.

“This approach says that there are thresholds of concern, and depending upon where a particular chemical is used, you may or may not eliminate it,” explains Steve Baer, chair of USGBC’s Technical Advisory Group for the Materials & Resources (MR) category, which will likely include materials restrictions and/or supply chain credits when the final version of LEED v4 is released.

Neither practice is wrong or right, but knowing where your organization stands is critical to wading through the contradicting claims from proponents of both principles.


Pages: 1  2  3  View All  

Connectrac® wireways are the new standard for bringing power & communications cable management to all interior applications. Free yourself from core drilling!

Surpass State Energy Requirements with Dual-Cooling Data Center CRAC Technology

See how professionals like you are taking advantage of the highest performing precision cooling system for their computer rooms and data centers, and why Data Aire is fast-becoming the number one choice for facility managers and building owners looking to decrease their energy consumption. 

Data Aire understands how digital technology and data gravity is rapidly impacting and transforming businesses. That’s why they developed ultra-efficient cooling technology to support the most modern (and not-so-modern) data centers.  Learn how One Wilshire in Los Angeles, one of the most advanced carrier hotels today, is surpassing California's strict energy efficiency requirements with Data Aire’s purpose-built system, which provide full-economization for 260 days – almost 72% of the year. That’s a measurable savings! Furthermore, the projected PUE on an annual basis for a full load is at or below 1.2.

Connectrac® wireways are the new standard for bringing power & communications cable management to all interior applications. Free yourself from core drilling!

Surpass State Energy Requirements with Dual-Cooling Data Center CRAC Technology

See how professionals like you are taking advantage of the highest performing precision cooling system for their computer rooms and data centers, and why Data Aire is fast-becoming the number one choice for facility managers and building owners looking to decrease their energy consumption. 

Data Aire understands how digital technology and data gravity is rapidly impacting and transforming businesses. That’s why they developed ultra-efficient cooling technology to support the most modern (and not-so-modern) data centers.  Learn how One Wilshire in Los Angeles, one of the most advanced carrier hotels today, is surpassing California's strict energy efficiency requirements with Data Aire’s purpose-built system, which provide full-economization for 260 days – almost 72% of the year. That’s a measurable savings! Furthermore, the projected PUE on an annual basis for a full load is at or below 1.2.


Related Coverage