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Contribute to a Safe, Healthy Built Environment

5. Products That Contribute to a Safe, Healthy Built Environment

These criteria used for defining green products was excerpted from "Building Materials: What Makes a Product Green?" as featured by Environmental Building News.

Buildings should be healthy to live or work in and around, and product selection is a significant determinant of indoor environment quality. Green building products that help to ensure a healthy built environment can be separated into several categories:

5a. Products that do not release significant pollutants into the building

Included here are zero- and low-VOC paints, caulks, and adhesives, as well as products with very low emissions, such as nonformaldehyde manufactured wood products. Just how low the VOC level needs to be for a given product to qualify for inclusion in GreenSpec depends on the product category. Ideally those standards should be based not on simple VOC content, but on resultant VOC concentrations in the space after a given period of time. The EPA is working on such data for paints (including a way to factor in higher impacts for more toxic VOCs), but this information is not yet available.

5b. Products that block the introduction, development, or spread of indoor contaminants

Certain materials and products are green because they prevent the generation or introduction of pollutants, especially biological contaminants, into occupied space. Duct mastic, for example, can block the entry of mold-laden air or insulation fibers into a duct system. "Track-off" systems for entryways help to remove pollutants from the shoes of people entering. Coated ductboard, compared with standard rigid fiberglass ductboard, prevents fiber shedding and helps control mold growth. And linoleum helps to control microbial growth because of the ongoing process of linoleic acid oxidation.

5c. Products that remove indoor pollutants

Qualifying for inclusion here are certain ventilation products, filters, radon mitigation equipment, and other equipment and devices that help to remove pollutants or introduce fresh air. Because ventilation equipment is now fairly standard, only products that are particularly efficient or quiet, or that have other environmental benefits are included.

5d. Products that warn occupants of health hazards in the building

Included here are carbon monoxide (CO) detectors, lead paint test kits, and other IAQ test kits. Because CO detectors are so common, other features are needed to qualify such products for GreenSpec, such as evidence of superb performance.

5e. Products that improve light quality

There is a growing body of evidence that natural daylight is beneficial to our health and productivity (see EBN Vol. 8, No. 9). Products that enable us to bring daylight into a building, including tubular skylights, specialized commercial skylights, and fiber-optic daylighting systems, are included in GreenSpec. Some other products, such as full-spectrum lighting systems and highly reflective ceiling panels, could also be included in GreenSpec under this criterion.

5f. Products that help control noise

Noise, both from indoor and outside sources, adds to stress and discomfort. A wide range of products are available to help absorb noise, prevent it from spreading, masking it, and even reducing it with sound-cancellation technologies.

5g. Products that enhance community well-being

Looking beyond the walls of a building, many products can contribute to safer neighborhoods, increasing walkability and making high-density communities appealing.

BuildingGreen, Inc. is publisher of Environmental Building News, GreenSpec, EBN Archives, and Green Building Advisor.