Tag Archives: Declare

Building Industry driving toxic Chlorine and PVC production.

This is why we have Red Lists and transparency programmes such as Declare and material verification schemes such as EPD, REACH, Cradle to Cradle etc …

All people and the planet thrive when the environment is free of toxic chemicals (*)

We talk of sustainable procurement, of healthy buildings, of greater transparency in what we specify and procure and of eliminating toxic materials from construction but, as the recently published Healthy Building Network overview of the global Chlorine and PVC markets demonstrates, we have a long way to go – and its scary. (Part One of the HBN report covers North and South America, Africa, and Europe, with Part Two later this year covering Asia and Rest of the World)

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As the HBN notes:

  • Chlorine is inherently highly toxic.
  • Chlorine production uses and releases mercury, asbestos, or other highly toxic pollutants. (Mercury use has significantly declined, but the US still imports 480 tons of asbestos per year for diaphragms, primarily from Russia.)
  • Combining chlorine with carbon-based materials creates environmental health impacts that are difficult if not impossible to solve.

And, it is the the building sector is propping up a ‘toxic’ chlorine and PVC global market … 

Market data indicate that, as many industrial uses of chlorine decline due to environmental health concerns, market de-selection, and stricter regulations, the market share of chlorine used in PVC and certain other products has increased. Today, most of the chlorine produced in the world is used to make four plastics: PVC, epoxies, polycarbonate, and polyurethane.

PVC contains nearly 60% chlorine by weight, and most PVC is manufactured for use in building products. Indeed, chlorine and building industry analysts agree that because building trends drive PVC demand, and PVC demand drives chlorine production, it can fairly be said that the building-products industry drives chlorine production levels and its attendant environmental and human health impacts.

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Chlorine Production Technologies

There are four industrial processes that can be used to create chlorine gas. The oldest technologies use either mercury or asbestos. The two newer technologies (introduced in the 1970s) use diaphragms or membranes coated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

Most chlorine produced in Europe and Africa comes from PFAS-coated membrane technology. The main chlor- alkali producers in Africa do not use mercury cells or asbestos diaphragms. In Europe, exemptions to regulations that otherwise prohibit asbestos and mercury-based technologies allow the largest chlor-alkali plant to continue to use asbestos, and at least five other locations will continue using mercury into the foreseeable future.

Approximately 45% of chlorine production capacity in the Americas, including 8 of the 12 largest plants in operation, use asbestos diaphragms. Seven of these 8 are located on the US Gulf Coast. The other is in Brazil, which is phasing out asbestos mining. The US plants have relied upon Brazilian asbestos and soon will depend upon asbestos mined in Russia.

Chlorine-Based Pollution:

While all petroleum-based products are associated with industrial pollution, the introduction of chlorine and chlorine-based substances adds an additional pollution burden that is uniquely associated with chlorine.

This begins with the manufacturing of the chlorine itself. Over 400 tons of chlorine gas are released per year by chlor-alkali facilities in the US and Canada. Asbestos and mercury releases are well documented from the plants employing those antiquated technologies, which pollute the environment and poison people throughout the lifecycle, from mining, to distribution, to use, and finally, to recycling or disposal operations.

… “forever chemicals”

The more modern technologies employ machinery coated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). PFAS are highly toxic and long-lived chemicals that are coming under increasing scrutiny. The Harvard School of Public Health has issued warnings about these “forever chemicals” as used in consumer products such as Teflon, and as stain and water repellents on carpeting and upholstery. Because PFAS are not regulated at the point of use at chlorine manufacturing plants, there are no reported PFAS emissions or waste. However, PFAS have been detected in the effluent from the main US manufacturer of membranes used in chlorine plants.

… the additional burden of PVC production

The use of chlorine for PVC production creates additional burdens, generating organochlorine waste and by products. These chemicals are not broken down by natural systems, and typically last for generations in the environment. Many of them also build up in the ecosystem, including fish, wildlife, and humans, and are toxic at low doses. In addition to polluting the local environment near the facilities that release them, these chemicals can also be transported around the globe. One of them, carbon tetrachloride, is an ozone-depleting chemical and potent global-warming gas.

Additionally, PVC plastic production plays a role in the growing concern about microplastic ocean pollution through the factory discharge of PVC resins, in the form of small plastic pellets, into waterways.

Moving Forward: “When we know better, we can do better”

While environmentalists, building owners, architects and designers, and building-product manufacturers differ in their opinions on the avoidance of PVC, there is widespread and growing support for the elimination of mercury and asbestos from the supply chain of PVC and other chlorine-based products. A public global inventory of chlorine and VCM producers, and associated documented pollution, is a necessary first step for taking action.

HBN is providing this report, and accompanying online materials, spreadsheets, and map, as full open-access content. This data can help manufacturers to avoid chemicals derived from toxic technologies, scientists to fill gaps in understanding on the material flow of pollutants like PFAS and carbon tetrachloride, and communities to connect with others who, like them, face daily pollution from the chlorine and PVC industry.


(*) HBN Vision: All people and the planet thrive when the environment is free of toxic chemicals

The HBN Report can be downloaded and read from here. 

See also the excellent Lloyd Alter detailed article in TreeHugger:

Report from Healthy Building Network slams PVC production

Making vinyl and other plastics releases dangerous pollutants. Do they belong in green buildings?

PVC, often called vinyl, has long been controversial in the sustainable design and green building worlds. It’s red-listed in the Living Building Challenge and the Cradle to Cradle certification system, and the attempt by the LEED people to limit its use in buildings almost brought down the whole certification system.

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Introducing: Living Future Institute Europe

After many years in discussion and planning, the LIVING FUTURE INSTITUTE EUROPE was launched at a number of events in Berlin and London last week.

In December of 2015, world leaders came together to find a path down the greenhouse gas mountain on which the world continues to climb. Calling for new investments in clean energy and water efficiency, world leaders collaboratively succeeded in establishing a new era of climate awareness. The resulting Paris Accord committed national governments to ask for and accept bold private sector investment and action. Incremental change will not provide the solutions we need in the built environment within the timeframe established in Paris.

The Institute’s mission will hasten the change and provide needed direction towards a regenerative design transition in Europe. It is actively pursuing European market alignment and adaptations of the Living Building Challenge (LBC). This work is unfolding on multiple levels, including:

  • Forming partnerships with sponsors, organizations, and developers aligned with LBC principles
  • Identifying modifications to Declare program components so they meet European product testing and reporting conventions
  • Developing customized European zones for LBC Imperative 13, Living Economy Sourcing – See Example
  • Resolving critical issues in wood certification standards – FSC vs. PEFC
  • Building and supporting local Collaboratives

“Despite the introduction of many sustainability rating systems for green buildings and their development on the market, our progress towards EU goals has been minute and barely recordable, if compared with the rate of change that is required to avoid the worst effects of climate change. Incremental change is no longer sufficient. The Living Building Challenge fosters restorative sustainability and leads building projects to move beyond merely being ‘less bad’ and to become truly regenerative.”
Carlo Battisti, COST Action RESTORE, Italian Ambassador

CARLO BATTISTI
Interim Executive Director, ILFI Europe
Owner, Sustainable Innovations Managements & Consulting

EMMANUEL PAUWELS
Green Building Consultant, Green Living Projects

MARTIN BROWN
Sustainability Provocateur, Fairsnape

 

 

www.https://living-future.org/living-future-institute-europe/

Materials in Buildings: the impact on health of those who work, learn and play within them.

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“the next phase of market transformation for the built environment is going to be led by material performance …” 

Health and wellbeing issues relating to the materials we specify, purchase, build with and dispose of has been increasingly arising in discussions of late. These may be within CSR, Environmental ISO workshops or in events such as the Specifi series (recent London). Indeed it is unusual for wellbeing in relation to materials not to be on the agenda for sustainability events.

In addition, within sustainability related meetings with clients, contractors and facilities management organisations, the issue of material health raises, often in reference to Grenfell, asking the question – do we really know the wider impacts on what we specifi, build with, maintain, replace  or dispose of?

Alongside this there is a rapidly growing interest in health related material standards such as Declare, RedList, Portico Fitwell and Well

A welcome addition to the debate is the (forthcoming) Materials Wellography from the Well Build people at IWBI. Below is an extract from their recent blog release which provides a very useful insight to the importance of materials and products we work with day in and day out.

Materials WELLography; your guide to the connection between the materials and products that make up the built environment, and the effect they have on the health of those who work, learn and play within them.

Materials make up our world. Much of the industrialized world is built from man-made, industrial chemicals. The chemical industry converts raw materials into more than 70,000 different chemical substances that make up our world. As the global population increases and urban centers expand, so do both the demand for manufactured goods and the rate of chemical production, which is projected to grow three times faster than the global population and to double every 25 years.1

The quantity and variety of chemicals on the global market makes the task of tracking chemical hazards both critical and extremely difficult. An estimated 95% of chemicals, used largely in construction, lack sufficient data on human health effects.,2 Although various countries apply their own framework for the management of chemical production and use, these are not harmonized globally, so different chemicals are regulated to different extents in different countries.

Life cycle of building materials and exposure hazards. Exposure to harmful chemicals can happen at various stages in the lifecycle of a commercial material or product. Below is an example of this lifecycle:

  1. Exposure can occur when contaminants are released into the environment during manufacturing or materials extraction.3, 4, 5, 6
  2. Throughout occupancy of a built space, chemicals used in furniture, furnishings, paints, adhesives and coatings can off-gas and end up in indoor dust, compromising air quality. 7,8,9,19 Proper ventilation practices and materials selection can help minimize indoor air contaminants. For more information on the benefits of adequate ventilation, refer to the Air WELLography
  3. Finish, maintenance and renovation work often involve dust-laden contaminants, fumes, solvents and gases. This is especially problematic in the absence of the exposure and ventilation controls typically required in production or construction settings.
  4. Construction and demolition work often include exposure to large amounts of dust (made up or and carrying chemical substances), as well as solvents, and other hazardous substances, for example those  associated with use of diesel-powered heavy equipment 10,20. Fortunately, improved awareness of exposure risks in maintenance, renovation and demolition has prompted additional work safety measures through various voluntary standards.

Environmental and Health Impacts. Chemicals used in building materials and byproducts made during their manufacture can persist in the environment. Even small concentrations of these chemicals can find their way into organisms in high enough doses to cause damage. The accumulation of toxicants in water or soil has implications for human health as these chemicals can advance up the food chain and accumulate in human tissue. 14

Long-term, large-scale biomonitoring studies have helped to show the impact of policy changes on human exposure risks. For example, a Swedish study involving long-term testing of human breast milk for the presence of the pesticide DDT and its residues has shown a significant decrease of the chemical following its restriction and later ban. A gradual decrease in PCB is also evident, likely due to efforts to move away from the chemical across the European Union. In contrast to the decline of these two chemicals over time, concentrations of the flame retardant PBDE was found to increase along the same timeline, consistent with increased across EU states. 21

Market forces at work. As evidence of the environmental hazards and health issues related to chemicals accumulates 15, an increasing number of hazard assessment tools emerge in the building material sector. These evaluation tools are being introduced and used in the marketplace as means to differentiate products and ingredients with lower hazards and to certify greener chemical ingredients in consumer products. Despite gaps in data and regulation, the good news is that we have a growing repository of tools at our disposal that can provide direction in understanding the tradeoffs of materials and products over their life cycle.

Careful evaluation and selection of building materials and products is an important and effective first step to identifying safer materials across installation, use, maintenance and disposal. In the long run, the call for the prioritization and responsibility of advancing safer chemicals and sustainable materials can lead to an improved, data-rich market, comprehensive regulations and policy reforms and a shift towards safer chemicals and investment in green chemistry.

Access the full IWBI article here. And download the excellent Well App for news and articles.

References noted above can be found via the IWBI article.

Blockchain: Explainer and Grenfell relevance.

In relation to transparency and responsibility in the material supply chain we have covered material passport on a few occasions on this blog and in event workshops, (Cradle to Cradle, LBC Declare etc)

 

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Emerging Blockchain technology, the technology of trust is redefining the way we transact. Combining the internet’s openness with cryptography security,  Blockchain can give everyone a faster, safer way to verify supply chain transactions, verify key information and (re)establish trust. 

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Being able to verify everything we specify, procure and install on building projects will go a big way to removing the uncertainty highlighted in the Grenfell Tower materials issue.

 

Blockchain can provide that certainty.

Blockchain is designed to store information in a way that makes it virtually impossible to add, remove or change data without being detected by other users.

 

But what is Blockchain?

This Blockchain explainer from Goldman Sachs is one of the best introductions (despite its clunky format!)

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Image: http://www.goldmansachs.com/our-thinking/pages/blockchain/

REVEALed: a new initiative to showcase and compare the world’s most energy efficient buildings.

REVEALREVEAL – a new building energy performance nutrition label and benchmarking scheme to showcase and compare the world’s most energy efficient buildings. 

Reveal is the latest programme from the International Living Futures Institute (the Institute behind the Living Building Challenge, Living Product Challenge, Declare and JUST) to provide visible and benchmark-able energy data based on real, measurable data. Reveal is aimed at certified Living Buildings, net zero buildings, LEED buildings, BREEAM buildings, Passivehouse projects – or indeed any project with accurate measured energy data. It should be of great interest to the facilities Management and Property sectors

REVEAL taps into performance based reporting – an integral part of the Living Building Challenge and Net Positive Certification to provide a new platform for projects to showcase how efficient they are relative to other buildings.

Evidence for the Reveal using the EUI – Energy Use Intensity index – would be validated from utility provider data and audited by ILFI. Reveal Labels are date stamped and will be renewed on a two-year basis to essentially become ‘nutrition’ labels for building energy performance.

Organisations can use their label on their websites and marketing materials to tout their achievement in being one of the world’s most efficient buildings – and see how their project stacks up to other exemplary projects.

Energy Use Intensity (EUI) indicator: In the absence of a standard or benchmark it is difficult to benchmark energy uses between buildings. Simply measuring the amount of energy used per a chosen time period does not take into account building size, configuration or type of use. The use of an Energy Use Intensity (EUI) indicator provides a means to normalise the way that energy use is compared between various types of buildings, and evaluate the means of reducing overall energy consumption.

When using EUI, energy use is expressed as a function of a building’s total area or “footprint”. For Reveal, as is common in the US, EUI is expressed in energy used per square foot of building footprint per year. It is calculated by dividing the total gross energy consumed in a one-year period (kilowatt-hours or kilo-British Thermal Units) by the total gross square footage of the building ie KbTu/sqft/year  In the UK and elsewhere this would be KWh/m2/year. See Calculating a Building’s EUI

The International Living Future Institute (ILFI) will begin issuing the new energy label, called “Reveal,” in late 2015 according to Eric Corey Freed, vice president for global outreach at ILFI.

Responsible BIM

We are hearing more and more of ‘Responsible Business‘ approaches, generally taken to mean a combination of sustainability and CSR. But what happens when this emergent thinking in Construction meets BIM? Responsible BIM?

Below is the transcript or notes behind my pecha kucha presentation, exploring Responsible BIM, made to the excellent ThinkBIM event on 2 April in Leeds, .

I wanted to inject a balance of current ‘soft issues’ thinking against a prevalent hard technology thinking. I have no  issues with the passion behind the BIM approaches, I am constantly impressed and think it amazing, but sometimes feel BIM technology and language is a runaway train. Unfortunately just about every BIM event I attend I hear at the outset, BIM is about the people not the technology, with the rest of the event focuses on the application of the technology, with very little soft skill content. When was the last time we saw a BIM event focus solely on collaboration without mentioning software? Having said that, its is the balance of views at ThinkBIM events is what sets it apart from other BIM events.

The title ‘Flatland to Wonderland’ comes from a brilliant article and the work of Petra Kuenkel, who we interviewed as part of our Sustainability Leadership Conversation (#sustldrconv) twitter series recently. In short, we need both the flatlands of reality along with the possibilities of the wonderland for a sustainable future

Flatland

3D modelling, and offsite component manufacture with simple on site assembly isn’t new, as illustrated in the Building article that covered the BAA Project Genesis project in 1997. Pre Egan and pre Building Down Barriers we were doing BIM, so why didn’t it take off as the Egan Report did?  (Egan was at BAA and also involved in Project Genesis).  Somehow we lost the 3D collaborative conversation, maybe the Egan agenda itself ,with a focus on KPI’s and customer satisfaction masked some of the brilliant emerging work of that time?

One of the BIM wake up calls for contractors I work with recently has been the inclusion of BIM questions within PQQ’s in particular the PAS 91 BIM options – and the need for bidding contractors to have a BIM Strategy, signed as commitment from the CEO, detailing milestones, training and development, information management and more. “Lets write one quick”

And on the issue of information management – lets start to align to ISO 9000  documentation control requirements. How many BIM users (real and say-they-do’s) have embedded their BIM information and data communication processes into their Quality Systems. I am currently helping a good number of organisations revisit their management systems and inject current information management thinking. Particular so on how and what information is shared with supply chain members. Doing so enables us to audit, and improve information management using the Plan Do Check Act approach

But, yes, we have BIMwash. BIM language is not that difficult to learn, the technology is not that difficult to purchase, and hey presto we are BIM compliant. Not surprising then that contractors sit and wait for a client to insist or require BIM on a project before applying BIM thinking. As a BIM community we need to change the conversation away from BIM being just a design tool or client requirement to a continuous improvement tool with many many benefits.

And on to the wonderland …

If we really want to co-create a sustainable built environment, and isn’t that what BIM is all about?, then we need to have both the harsh reality of the flatlands with the spirituality of the wonderland. This resonates with Lucy Marcus Be2Camp BE2Talks back in 2011 where she described the need for leaders to be both Grounded and Stargazers.

I am impressed with the Collective Leadership approach and model (developed by the Collective Leadership Institute), and the necessity to move beyond collaboration. (How many times have I heard or read a contractor claiming to be collaborative simply because they have a supplier progress meeting once a week)  The Collective Leadership Model provides the scope of elements leadership and collaboration could, should, look like in a modern construction environment. Covering both technicality and people issues of diversity, and mindfulness

Ah mindfulness …

Currently we seem to be struggling with two drivers, on one hand the sustainability agenda of being simple, of realigning with nature. biophilic approaches and natural renewable solutions and on the other the ever increasing complexity of data, be it BIM data or big data and technology.

It is not surprising that one of the most sought after advisors to silicon valley is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, (Thay), seen by many as the the modern guru for mindfulness.  Such practices are seen to be key for business, enabling focus on real innovation, free from clutter of distractions. We will see much more of this in the construction sector I am sure, as we learn to balance people with technology, simplicity with data, well being with efficiency.

US BIM write Randy Deutsch approaches this thinking in a recent blog article for Design Intelligence Beyond BIM Boundaries – “in order to master BIM, we have to do less BIM, we have to do other things” And if we focus on better communications, people skills, listening, empathy and understanding, then BIM will flourish without effort.

Perhaps BIM is now is seen by many as a big hammer, an approach that if not adopted then we are not doing construction correctly, “if the only tool we have is a hammer then every problem is a nail”  BIM practitioners and advocates need more tools in their conversation and offerings covering both technology and soft skills. As Randy commented ‘ go against common wisdom and fortify your soft skills”

We had a brilliant twitter based conversation with Casey Rutland as part of the #EXPOC21 series this week where the conversation led to whether BIM will simplify or complicate sustainability. Many people re-tweeted the question, but with few answers offered, other than when done correctly, BIM will enhance sustainability, done incorrectly it will harm sustainability. Incorrectly here can mean overloading buildings with technology solutions when natural solutions would work (but harder to model perhaps) or by not taken cognisance of where materials are coming from or their health impacts. Casey introduced the concept of SustainaBIMity – the mash up of sustainability thinking with building information management. A far better description than Green BIM

Aligning BIM thinking to progressive sustainability thinking such as the Living Building Challenge is exciting and has huge potential. In the near future we will see BIM objects cover the attributes of health data, justice in production data, carbon and travel data. (Note the dialogue in the US between Autodesk and the Healthy Products Declaration database for example)

And we know that carbon, embodied and transportation will become a key BIM data element, procuring kitchen pods from China for modular construction on the other side of the globe may be a data and cost solution but it is not a restorative sustainability solution. (cf Modular Construction on Souremap)

In our pursuit of designing and creating buildings that work for people, planet and purpose, we perhaps need to address both the higher Maslow needs as well as focusing on basic shelter needs, and in some way build them into data and modelling,  Biophilia at last is opening up a whole new chapter for design, and BIM, and well for the built environment as a whole. In the UK the term Sick Building Syndrome has dropped out of use, but we need to be aware of the dangers of creating buildings through BIM that don’t model or promote health and well being.

There are examples of this, for example by early involvement mind and health charity experts to view and comment on proposed buildings in a 3D environment, advising on the potential enhancement or damage to end user well being. And only yesterday,(01/04/14)  Rick Fedrizzi, President of USGBC writing in EDC called Health the next frontier of green build performance, and more recently calling on the built environment to use medical data for improved building solutions.

My final slide proposed that every BIM project should have an educational element, to inform and motivate the industry and that this should be embedded into PAS1192 or equivalent documentation. No project or organisation should be allowed to claim BIM compliance unless they openly share their approaches and lessons learnt, covering both the flatland BIM and the wonderful healthy buildings that enable people and organisations to flourish.

 

JUST: a social justice label for construction …

Taking built environment sustainability deeper into the responsibility agenda, the International Living Future Institute are launching (Oct 2013) a new and important transparency initiative for the built environment to sit along side the Living Building Challenge and Declare. Just will provide clients, specifiers and procurers with ‘a view of how participating organisations treat their employees and where they invest their profits’

Just will cover the important areas of gender and ethnic diversity, salary equity, gender pay equity, community involvement, responsible investing and more, taking it beyond other programmes in the built environment sector. (And arguably areas that the UK Considerate Constructors Scheme should be addressing?)

The Press Release from ILFI reads:

In today’s global economy, it’s difficult to know what your consumer dollars are really supporting. JUST gives you an insider’s view of how participating organisations treat their employees and where they invest their profits. JUST works seamlessly with the International Living Future Institute’s Declare™ materials label and the next iteration of the Living Building Challenge™ (Version 3.0 — coming spring 2014).

By providing participating companies with a clear, elegant and informative equity ‘nutrition-label’, JUST aims to transform the marketplace through transparency and open communication. It aligns with the Institute’s Declare™ materials label to provide a holistic picture of both the products a company produces and the human story behind those products.
To participate in this voluntary disclosure program, an organization must submit documentation that asks for in-depth information about twenty distinct aspects of workplace equity and justice.
We’ll be launching the JUST label and searchable database FALL 2013. Join us in this critical initiative!
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