Take a Pledge for Healthy LEED Buildings

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Perhaps you heard about a report by Environment & Human Health, Inc., which was published earlier this year, LEED Certification: Where Energy Efficiency Collides with Human Health.  In it, to summarize, the authors suggest that the USGBC creates a false impression that buildings are "healthy" when the LEED system doesn't really do much to remove harmful chemicals from products and buildings.  The report started a media frenzy on the topic. 

So, as with the LEED wood revisions, you'd think that proposed indoor environmental quality changes would have something for folks wanting the system to do more to encourage healthy indoors.  Not so, says the GREENGUARD Environmental Institute

As a result, GREENGUARD just launched a public campaign called "I Pledge" urging the USGBC to strengthen its credit requirements for low-emitting interiors.

Supporters of the campaign can visit a specific GREENGUARD landing page, Pledge to Build a Healthier EQc4, to find out how to submit a public comment to the USGBC in support of more stringent product emissions requirements.  The aim of this is to improve the system, which most will likely agree is a positive endeavor. 

Mark Rossolo, director of PR for GREENGUARD, said, "One of the biggest problems with the proposed credit is that it calls for limits on only a fraction of all potentially hazardous compound — those identified by California as having ‘Chronic Reference Exposure Levels,’ or CRELs … [yet] there are hundreds, if not thousands, of other potentially toxic compounds and complex mixtures that don’t have CRELs but that still get released into the air from products.

In addition, the proposed EQc4 credit doesn't account for the total level of all volatile organic compounds (TVOC) combined, according to Rossolo, and it still makes the use of low-emitting products optional — and not mandatory or a prerequisite — when pursuing LEED certification. 

Certainly, this entire topic is an aspect of green building that merits some healthy discussion, no pun intended.  Beyond LEED, green projects in general should consider the ramifications of product and material selection on indoor environmental quality. 

For instance, Passive House projects are ultra-tight and ventilated, but there is no requirement for otherwise low-emitting or healthy indoor materials.  Also, retrofit projects can involve sealing air leaks and adding insulation, but there may or may not be attention to ventilation, potentially exacerbating indoor air quality problems. 

Sound off below if you have experience or a strong opinion on this topic. 


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