Design firm Perkins+Will has launched a new, free research database called the Transparency Site, designed to raise awareness about the materials in building products used in places like schools, hospitals and offices that can have an adverse effect on our health. The new site features a Precautionary Materials list, an asthma list and a flame retardants list along with a white paper on fly ash and other resources.
Perkins+Will most recently released a new on-product ingredient label designed to address these same concerns.
The database is the result of over two years of review of governmentally published scientific papers, which identify "precautionary" substances that are known or suspected to cause harm to humans and the environment. This research is based on the Precautionary Principle, the idea that in the absence of scientific consensus, an action merits precautionary treatment if it has a suspected risk of causing harm to humans or to the environment. The intent of the list is to encourage the building product marketplace to become more transparent from extraction to end of life for all points of contact, from manufacturers to de-constructors, so that people are further empowered make informed decisions about specifying, maintaining and disposing of the products in their buildings.
“We hope the Transparency Site will open some people’s eyes and help them to realize the health effects of these substances,” says Chris Youssef, associate interior designer and healthy materials designer with Perkins+Will. “Ideally, we hope this shock will cause consumers—architects, designers, clients and end-users—to start pushing for manufacturers and their supply chains to not only be more transparent, but to change their networks of production, sourcing and manufacturing. Our goal is to create complete market transformation. We’re still a long way from that, unfortunately.”
"Many of the materials we address in the Transparency Site have been opaque to the industry," adds Peter Syrett, associate principal at Perkins+Will. "As architects, we should thoughtfully consider the social and environmental impact of our professional activities, and while there are no perfect building materials, we hope this Transparency Site will aid the building product marketplace in making choices that support the highest ethical intentions."
North Americans spend 90 percent of their time indoors, according to the EPA, and many indoor environments have higher pollutant levels of two to five times higher, and occasionally more than 100 times higher than outdoors levels due to occupant activities, building materials, and ambient conditions, according to the CDC. In addition, every day in the United States, 11 people die from asthma, 1,000 people are admitted to hospital, 5,000 people visit a hospital, and 30,000 people have asthma attacks.
View the new site at www.transparency.perkinswill.com.