Advancing Sustainability: LEED v5 and Health Product Declarations (HPDs)

As the world’s focus on environmental sustainability intensifies, the construction industry plays a crucial role in driving positive change. Among the leading sustainability certifications for buildings, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) stands tall, promoting green practices, reducing environmental impact, and enhancing occupant health and well-being.

The Importance of HPDs

With the release of LEED v4 in 2013, the significance of Health Product Declarations (HPDs) has grown exponentially for building product manufacturers. LEED v4 represented a significant evolution in the LEED rating system, with heightened focus on human health and material transparency. For manufacturers, this meant providing more comprehensive information about the chemical composition and potential health impacts of their products. This emphasis on material transparency seeks to promote the use of healthier and environmentally friendly materials in building construction, benefiting both occupants and the environment.

HPDs have become a critical tool for design professionals working on LEED, WELL, CHPS, and other green building projects. In addition, HPDs have become the most requested product transparency documentation in the industry, eclipsing other transparency documentation such as Declare Labels, Cradle2 Cradle, and UL Product Lens. In fact, HPDs have become the default tool to meet LEED requirements for material transparency.

Why Do Manufacturers Develop HPDs?

Transparency and Trust: HPDs demonstrate a commitment to transparency and openness about a product’s ingredients and potential health impacts. This level of disclosure builds trust between manufacturers and their customers, including architects, builders, and specifiers, who increasingly seek environmentally responsible and health-conscious products.

Meeting Green Building Standards: Many green building certifications, including LEED v4 and v4.1, require or reward the use of products with HPDs. By developing HPDs, manufacturers position their products to meet the stringent sustainability criteria set forth by these certifications, expanding their market reach to eco-conscious projects.

Competitive Edge: As sustainability becomes a key differentiator in the construction industry, manufacturers with HPDs gain a competitive advantage over those without. In a market where green building practices are on the rise, products with clear and comprehensive HPDs are more likely to be specified and selected over alternatives.

Addressing Health and Environmental Concerns: HPDs help manufacturers identify and disclose potential health hazards associated with their products’ ingredients. By doing so, they can take proactive measures to improve product formulations, eliminate harmful substances, and prioritize the health and well-being of building occupants.

Healthier Indoor Environments: Building professionals, such as architects and designers, rely on HPDs to make informed decisions when selecting materials. HPDs enable them to choose products that have lower health risks, contributing to the creation of healthier indoor environments for occupants.

Regulatory Compliance: As environmental regulations and standards continue to evolve, having HPDs readily available ensures that manufacturers stay compliant with the latest requirements. HPDs provide a standardized format for disclosing product information, making it easier to meet various reporting obligations.

Improved Product Innovation: Developing HPDs encourages manufacturers to critically examine their products’ compositions. This process often leads to research and innovation focused on creating more sustainable and healthier alternatives, driving positive change in the industry.

Supply Chain Transparency: HPDs also encourage manufacturers to assess their supply chains and gain a deeper understanding of the raw materials used. This fosters transparency throughout the supply chain and can lead to more responsible sourcing practices.

Public Health Advocacy: By providing clear information about potential health hazards, manufacturers play a part in promoting public health. HPDs help consumers and building professionals make choices that align with their health and sustainability values.

Long-Term Viability: As sustainability becomes an increasingly crucial aspect of construction projects, manufacturers without HPDs may face reduced demand for their products. Developing HPDs ensures long-term viability and relevance in a market that prioritizes environmental and health concerns.

LEED v5: A Construction Game-Changer

In the ever-evolving world of construction, there exists a whisper of something extraordinary, a mysterious new iteration of LEED that promises to transform the entire industry. This enigmatic endeavor remains shrouded in secrecy, captivating the imaginations of professionals and enthusiasts alike. Though not yet released, the anticipation and speculation surrounding LEED v5 are palpable, with industry insiders touting it as a potential revolution.

LEED v5 entered the development stage in January 2023. The development of LEED v5 has been guided by The Future of LEED report released in June 2022. The report states that “the way forward will include a phased approach. The next version of LEED will be a step in the process that supports the built environment’s alignment with the targets outlined in the Paris Agreement and addresses critical imperatives including equity, health, biodiversity and resilience.”

Furthermore, the document hints at what to expect with the release of LEED v5. It states, “LEED will need to be a tool for transformative and high-performance buildings. It will need to have built-in requirements that support leadership actions at every level. This means establishing resources that function as on-ramps to data reporting and progressive steps that move projects forward in their adoption of strategies that get them to LEED certification at the highest levels.”

The Principles of New LEED Ratings System

The Future of LEED report lists a set of principles that will guide the next iteration of LEED. They include:

• Scale for greatest impact

• Decarbonize the building industry swiftly to reflect the urgency of the climate crisis

• Inspire and recognize adaptive and resilient built environments

• Invest in human health and well-being

• Create environments in which diversity, equity and inclusivity thrive

• Support flourishing ecosystems through regenerative development practices

By reviewing these principles, we can already see that the next version of LEED will take human health and well-being seriously. This more than likely means that HPDs will have a significant role in LEED v5 and perhaps an increased importance for credits and meeting thresholds.

Invest In Human Health and Well-Being

The Future of LEED report devotes two pages to the topic of human health and well-being. The report states, “LEED will continue to motivate investment in healthy materials and quality indoor and outdoor environments. LEED projects will understand their community health needs, shifting from single acts to a holistic approach to mental and physical health promotion. LEED will explore new focus areas while integrating concepts currently in the pilot phase, including active design, water quality testing and addressing health disparities.”

The report outlines four key concepts that will drive the human health and well-being objectives for LEED v5. They include:

• Projects will use multi-attribute optimized products and materials that improve human and ecological health.

• Establish areas of the green building product ecosystems we want to amplify through harmonization and amplify areas we want to lead on.

• Combat existing health disparities. Health focus areas will include climate change impacts on health and health risks associated with construction and worker safety.

• Establish pathways to enhance water stewardship and water quality.

The Future Of HPDs

HPDs have become a critical part of LEED v4 and LEED v4.1. They will continue to gain importance in LEED v5 and help transform the built environment. Embracing transparency documentation like HPDs will empower design professionals to make informed choices, fostering a collective responsibility for the environment. As we envision a greener tomorrow, let us unite in this endeavor, promoting innovation, environmental stewardship, and a harmonious coexistence with our planet for generations to come. Together, we can pave the way for a brighter and more sustainable future.

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