The Easy Way To Get Specified On LEED v4 Projects: How Health Product Declarations (HPDs) Increase Opportunities

What’s the easiest way to be considered for specification on a LEED v4 project? Develop a LEED v4 compliant Health Product Declaration (HPD). Developing a LEED v4 compliant HPD is not only the easiest way to be considered for specification but also one of the most cost-effective strategies. While not all building products are created the same, most products can obtain a LEED v4 compliant HPD or even the new Supplier HPD.

HPDs are required on nearly every LEED v4 project these days. Building product manufacturers who don’t develop HPDs, do so at their own risk as their competition increases their specification opportunities.

HPDs are required on nearly every LEED v4 project these days. Building product manufacturers who don’t develop HPDs, do so at their own risk as their competition increases their specification opportunities. We will discuss why HPDs are the easiest and most cost-effective way for building product manufacturers and how the development process is streamlined and manageable. We will also explain why several LEED credits can be difficult or expensive compared to developing an HPD.

There are several LEED v4 credits available to building product manufacturers. However, depending on your product type or category, you may be limited to only a few LEED credits compared to other product types. For example, if your company manufactures FSC certified wood doors, you probably won’t be contributing any LEED points in the Energy and Atmosphere category.

LEED v4 MR Credits

However, the majority of building product manufacturers can contribute to several LEED v4 BD+C Material and Resources credits. The MR credit category focuses on minimizing the embodied energy and environmental impacts associated with the extraction, processing, transport, maintenance, and disposal of building materials. The MR credit requirements are designed to support a life-cycle approach that improves performance and promotes resource efficiency.

There are several MR credits such as Building Product Disclosure and Optimization – Sourcing of Raw Materials which may be achievable if you have recycled content in your products, use FSC certified wood to manufacture your products, or have developed a third-party verified corporate sustainability report. Some of the Sourcing of Raw Materials requirements for Option 1 can be difficult to achieve such as developing the following:

  • Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Sustainability Report
  • Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises
  • U.N. Global Compact: Communication of Progress
  • ISO 26000: 2010 Guidance on Social Responsibility

Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs)

Another popular acronym thrown around with HPDs and often time confused with HPDs are Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs). The easiest way to differentiate EPDs and HPDs is that EPDs document environmental impacts and HPDs document product ingredients and potential hazards. Furthermore, EPDs are significantly more expensive to develop and labor intensive than HPDs. Large product manufacturers and those hailing from Europe have a less strenuous time developing EPDs than smaller manufacturers in North America.

EPDs are created according to internationally harmonized standards and are third- party verified, ensuring that the results for the product are valid, and ideally allowing direct comparisons to be made between products in the marketplace. An EPD is like a nutrition label for foods, serving to effectively communicate the environmental performance of a building product to customers. As we start 2020, EPDs are still not a common disclosure tool for many small to medium sized manufacturers due to their cost and complexity.

 LEED v4 Low-Emitting Materials Credit

The LEED v4 IEQ Credit Low-Emitting Materials attempts to minimize volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, in the indoor environment. Prolonged exposure to high concentrations of some VOCs has been linked to a wide range of chronic health problems such as asthma and cancer. covers VOC emissions into indoor air and the VOC content of materials, as well as the testing methods by which indoor VOC emissions are determined. Different materials must meet different requirements to be considered compliant for this credit.

Products such as interior paints, sealants, flooring, composite wood, and others are affected. Products that are inherently non-emitting sources of VOCs – including stone, ceramic, powder-coated metals, plated or anodized metal, glass, concrete, clay brick, and unfinished or untreated solid wood flooring – are considered fully compliant without any VOC emissions testing if they do not include integral organic- based surface coatings, binders, or sealants.

For all other indoor products, the General emissions evaluation applies. Building products must be tested and determined compliant in accordance with California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Standard Method v1.1–2010. The default scenario is the private office scenario. Additional VOC content requirements for wet-applied products can be found on the USGBC website. Depending on your product type, this might be a LEED credit to pursue. However, your product may not fit into the product categories or fail to meet the requirements. That leads us to the credit that offers the most bang for buck.

LEED v4 BD+C MR Building Product Disclosure and Optimization – material ingredients

This LEED credit has become one of the most popular MR credits and the one credit where nearly every building product manufacturer can contribute. HPDs are the most popular way to achieve this LEED credit and manufacturers may contribute 1-2 points for LEED v4. In LEED v4.1, manufacturers will be able to contribute 1.5 points for a verified HPD. Verification isn’t mandatory to achieve the LEED credit.

The intent of this LEED v4 credit is “To encourage the use of products and materials for which life-cycle information is available and that have environmentally, economically, and socially preferable life-cycle impacts. To reward project teams for selecting products for which the chemical ingredients in the product are inventoried using an accepted methodology and for selecting products verified to minimize the use and generation of harmful substances. To reward raw material manufacturers who produce products verified to have improved life-cycle impacts.”

We will explore the two options that may affect product manufacturers the most. Option 1 is Material Ingredient Reporting. Project teams must Use at least 20 different permanently installed products from at least five different manufacturers that use any of the USGBC approved programs to demonstrate the chemical inventory of the product to at least 0.1% (1000 ppm).

For an HPD to meet the LEED credit requirements for Option2:  Material Ingredient Optimization, under version 2.2, the HPD must meet all requirements of Option 1, ingredients must be reported down to at least 0.01% (100 ppm), and no GreenScreen scores of BM-1 or LT-1. In the GreenScreen® for Safer Chemicals system, Benchmark scores are based on a comprehensive toxicological assessment. GreenScreen’s system also offers List Translator (LT) scores, which are based on screening of a substance against authoritative hazard lists. The BM-1 score means that an ingredient is a chemical of high concern, whereas Benchmark-4 substances are safer and preferred, and BM-2 and BM-3 are in the middle.

HPD Open Standard

The HPD was created and is maintained by the Health Product Declaration Collaborative (HPDC); a not-for-profit, member association with over 200 organizational members, representing the full spectrum of the building industry: architects, designers, building owners, manufacturers, suppliers, consultants, and others who all share a common purpose to improve the transparency of information and the material health of the built environment.

HPDs and Supply Chain Issues

How does a strong demand for HPDs affect building product manufacturers? When LEED v4 was launched in 2013, product manufacturers scrambled to meet the new LEED v4 HPD requirements. One of the most significant issues was the supply chain. It’s still a major issue in 2020.  Product manufacturers who obtain product ingredients from multiple suppliers and vendors around the world have struggled to obtain the information they need to develop LEED compliant HPDs. Building product manufacturers need the help of suppliers to develop HPDs and ensure a successful program. Often, a supplier may contribute an adhesive, pigment, or important chemical to the formulation of an end-product.

Suppliers may not want to divulge their product’s ingredients for several reasons. A supplier may be concerned about their product being deemed hazardous, potentially harmful, or carcinogenic. In addition, a supplier may not want the end-user to be aware of proprietary information, trade secrets, or special formulations. The supplier may also be concerned that once the end-user knows the ingredient, the manufacturer may purchase it from another supplier for a cheaper price. These are all valid concerns which can be addressed. Solutions include hiring a third-party consultant who can sign an NDA and obtain the information. Also, the new Supplier HPD can help manufacturers obtain critical data.

HPDs versus Certifications

The HPD is not a certification or label, it is a standard for how to report information about product contents and associated health information. The HPD does not assess or certify products, materials, or substances. It doesn’t identify whether a product is good or bad. The HPD Open Standard can protect proprietary information and secret formulations. At the end of the day, project teams will base their decisions on many factors that may include transparency, sustainability, cost, maintenance, availability, performance attributes, warranties, and other concerns. However, HPDs are becoming critical for product specification for LEED v4 projects.

The Paths To Meet The LEED V4 BPDO – Material Ingredients Credit

There are several ways to meet the requirements of the LEED V4 BPDO – Material Ingredients Credit. The most popular path is a LEED v4 compliant HPD. Other popular methods are a Declare Label and Cradle to Cradle certification. Both of these latter methods are excellent but cost more and are more labor intensive. The ANSI/BIFMA e3 Furniture Sustainability Standard can be used by furniture manufacturers to meet the requirements. The UL Product Lens Certification is rarely used and not a popular path.

For an HPD to meet the LEED credit requirements for Option 1- Material Ingredient Reporting under version 2.2, the HPD must achieve the following:

  • Ingredients reported down to at least 0.1% (1,000 ppm)
  • Substance role/ function, amount, and health hazards reported for all listed ingredients, including those that are not “Identified”
  • Indication of whether residuals and impurities were considered with explanation as required in the HPD Open Standard

HPDs can use either of the formats described in the Standard: either the Basic Inventory method or the Nested Materials method. Basic Inventory method must report all substances to at least 1,000 ppm in the product; Nested Materials method can report all substances to at least 1,000 ppm in either the product or in each material. To be LEED compliant, an HPD must be “complete” as defined by the HPD Open Standard, and it must be published and available to public via the HPD Public Repository.

Overall, HPDs are the most effective and straightforward path to meet Option 1 of the LEED credit. There are over 5,000 HPDs published and significantly less Declare Labels and Cradle to Cradle Certifications available. The market has chosen HPDs as the default document to meet these LEED credit requirements.

HPD Development Process

The HPC has made available many free resources for product manufacturers to develop HPDs. Manufacturers are highly encouraged to develop and publish HPDs to meet LEED v4, WELL, LBC, and other green building rating requirements. Here are resources for product manufacturers to effectively develop a LEED compliant HPD.

HPD Manufacturer User Guide – The HPD Manufacturer User Guide provides manufacturers with advice for developing HPDs. The guide offers information about the HPD Open Standard, what an HPD report contains, and how manufacturers can successfully gather and report information.

The Empowered Design Professional – A free AIA online course that teaches professionals about the HPD Open Standard. The course discusses how HPDs can contribute to LEED certification, including how to determine if an HPD meets the criteria set by the LEED v4 rating system.

HPD: How To Complete The Health Product Declaration – An introductory video that explains how to complete the Health Product Declaration.

Increasing Specifications with EPDs, HPDs, and LCAs – A webinar that discuss how LCAs, EPDs, and HPDs contribute to increased product specifications for projects.

Some building product manufacturers think that HPDs might go away. They believe that they don’t have to disclose what’s in their products or don’t have the expertise to develop HPDs. With the advent of LEED v4, designers are asking for more product transparency documentation. HPDs, EPDs, and Declare Labels are all becoming common tools used by AEC firms to help with product specification. Architects are tired of greenwashing claims and now rely on documentation like HPDs to review the health hazards associated with a building product.

Innovative companies will respond to architects seeking healthier products and will offer alternatives. What challenges have you faced in the marketplace by not having an HPD? If you have published an HPD, has this made responding to LEED submittals easier? ▪

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: