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Green Architecture & Building Products



Please submit products and materials for this section by using the "submit an item" link at top right of page.

For engineers, materials scientists, architects and inventors who need detailed information on the properties of materials, please visit MatWeb, a searchable database of material properties with more than 93,000 entries.

Material or Product

Red List Materials

Source

The materials Red List was originally compiled by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI) as part of its Living Building Challenge, intended to promote human health. The list includes materials and products that are considered to be harmful to humans. Products that contain chemicals on the Red List are usually not included in Living Buildings, with some exceptions or exemptions.

The Red List focuses on materials that purportedly have the most adverse effects on human health, although there are other products and materials on the market that also are damaging. The following list is subject to change based on emerging scientific knowledge:

Asbestos

Cadmium

Chlorinated Polyethylene

Chlorosulfonated Polyethlene

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)

Chloroprene (Neoprene)

Formaldehyde (added)

Halogenated Flame Retardants

Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs)

Lead (added)

Mercury

Petrochemical Fertilizers

Petrochemical Pesticides

Phthalates

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

Wood Treatments containing Creosote, Arsenic or Pentachlorophenol

ALTERNATIVES TO RED LIST MATERIALS

PVC - PVC is a widely used plastic found in piping, electrical wire sheaths, and window frames. It contains phthalates, which are also components of flexible vinyl products, sealants, and finishes. There is not a useful alternative to PVC wire sheaths. Metal-sheathed wiring (“armored” cable) can be used, but it is harder to work with and more expensive. There are a few alternatives to PVC pipes. Metal (copper, steel or ductile iron) pipes, which can be used for some purposes, are heavier, susceptible to corrosion, and typically more expensive to buy and install. Cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) is used to make flexible, convenient, and cheap pipes that do not contain PVC. However, PEX is not recyclable and its health effects are not fully understood. PEX degrades in sun exposure and may be more permeable to chemicals than other types of piping. Alternatives to PVC window frames include wood, aluminum, and fiberglass. Wood requires ongoing maintenance, while aluminum frames require thermal breaks to insulate the window and prevent condensation. The environmental impact of manufacturing is a consideration. Vinyl flooring, cords and hoses, shower curtains, artificial leather, pool liners, or paints made with phthalates should also be avoided - the good news is that there are many alternative plasticizers.

CFCs and HCFCs - CFCs and HCFCs are refrigerants used for refrigerators, air conditioning and heating systems, foams and aerosols. There are two cheaper refrigerants with low global warming potential: Hydrofluoro-olefin can replace these materials as both a refrigerant and a foam/aerosol for window sealing. Carbon dioxide is also an alternative refrigerant, but requires a high-pressure system.

HALOGENATED FLAME RETARDANTS - Found in upholstery, cloth window shades and insulation, halogenated flame retardants can be replaced with non-halogenated ones without loss of function. Foam insulation that is installed to avoid mold formation can be used as an alternative to fiberglass insulation that often contains halogenated flame retardants.

FORMALDEHYDE (added) - Formaldehyde is found in laminates, glues and wood products, and is often used as a binding agent in fiberglass insulation. Foam insulation can be used as an alternative to avoid chemicals found in fiberglass insulation. Some fiberglass insulation is manufactured with acrylic or rapidly renewable materials as a binding agent instead of formaldehyde. Recycled cotton insulation typically is not made with formaldehyde.

OTHERS - Also watch for the following potentially harmful red list chemicals on product labels: Chloroprene, a synthetic rubber used in water seals, gaskets, and geomembranes. Chlorinated polyethylene and chlorosulfonated polyethylene, found in geomembranes, roof membranes, and electrical sheaths and connections. Mercury, found in various types of light bulbs.

Lead, found in paint, solders and roofing.

BULLITT CENTER LIVING BUILDING MATERIALS - The Bullitt Center compiled its own list of as-built materials that went into construction of its forward-thinking, ultra-green, urban Living Building in Seattle. Please see the attachment below.

PRODUCT DIRECTORIES - Green, healthy, product directories are available, including the free DECLARE product database that lists building products that have declared their ingredients, source and manufacturing locations. Be prepared to pay a subscription fee for the following: Health Product Declaration Collaborative, Pharos Building Product Library, and GreenSpec by Building Green.

LIVING BUILDING CHALLENGE EXCEPTIONS - Based on available market materials and products, the International Living Futures Institute makes exceptions for Living Buildings on a case-by-case basis. If an exception is granted, the builder of a Living Building must send a letter to the manufacturer of the red list material in question to explain that their purchase is not an endorsement and express a preference for the production of sustainable, non-toxic materials. Additionally, there is a “small component” clause that allows red list chemicals to be present in trace amounts. However, under most circumstances, builders must seek out alternative products if their project is to meet Living Building standards.

 

Red List Symbol

Red List Symbol


Documents

  Bullitt Center As Built Product List JANUARY 2014 (246 kb)