Living Building's Red List aims to transform materials market
By Christina Williams
Sustainable Business Oregon editor
The items on the Living Building Challenge Red List turn up in hundreds of common building materials. Click through the gallery to see what they're being replaced with in Northwest Living Building projects.
Just more than a decade ago, the U.S. Green Building Council introduced the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standard and LEED proceeded to rock the market for building materials, jacking up the demand for energy efficient, recycled and other green products.
Now, proponents of the Living Building Challenge hope to see the same thing happen for building products that don’t contain harmful chemicals.
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The Materials Red List, published by the International Living Future Institute, identifies just over a dozen chemicals and materials that builders must avoid using if they want to achieve Living Building designation. Everything on the list has been proven to be harmful to humans and the idea behind prohibiting the materials is to make buildings that aren’t only green, but also promote and protect the health of the inhabitants.
The potential is there for market transformation, but the red list is still in its earliest days.
“We’re just at the tipping point of it,” said Amanda Sturgeon, a vice president with the International Living Future Institute who heads up the Living Building program. “It’s at the very beginning.”
The challenge for builders and architects is trying to figure exactly what red list materials are in which products.
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“Architects and engineers are not scientists,” Sturgeon said. “There are so many aliases of the red list chemicals.”
Joe David, project developer for Seattle’s Bullitt Center and associate at Point32, vetted hundreds of products during the high-profile construction project. Once the Bullitt building achieves Living Building certification, David said he plans to publish an exhaustive list of materials used in the project to inform others about red list-free items they may be able to use in their own buildings.
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