Only a fool would predict the future with certainty, but we can surmise several possibilities based on the events in 2020. Last year was a difficult time for many AEC firms and building product manufacturers. The COVID-19 pandemic inflicted severe damage to the construction industry and entire economy. How will COVID-19 affect specifications, product transparency, and material databases in 2021? Let’s find out…
COVID-19 will continue to negatively impact the industry in 2021. The pandemic has caused manufacturing job losses, it’s delayed several high dollar projects, it’s resulted in canceled projects, and stricken fear into many AEC firms and manufacturers. However, with vaccines rolling out across the country, one hopes the economy will rebound in 2021 and return the industry to some type of normalcy.
The State of HPDs in 2021
Since the launch of LEED v4 in 2013, there has been a steady stream of Health Product Declarations (HPDs) published by building product manufacturers. However, starting in 2019 and ramping up considerably in 2020, HPD development became at the forefront of product manufacturer’s specification strategies. Many companies who had delayed development of HPDs were now being told by large AEC firms they could no longer deliver their AIA lunch and learns without first submitting a transparency document such as the HPD.
During the downtime of the COVID-19 pandemic, many building product manufacturers turned their attention to projects that have been left on the backburner such as creating a new AIA course, refreshing the company website, or finally developing specification documentation they had postponed for years. 2021 is experiencing a continued surge of HPD development due to AEC firm requirements and a more competitive marketplace.
Currently, the HPD Open Standard is on version 2.2. During the pandemic in 2020, the HPDC launched a new update to the HPD Builder. The Supplier HPD Extension was added as a secure, custom-designed portal that tailors HPD reporting requirements to the subset needed by suppliers. Automated communication enables easy outreach to lower tier suppliers and helps complete this critical documentation.
According to the HPDC, in 2020 HPD growth accelerated versus 2019, as measured by a nearly 300% monthly growth in publishing of HPDs, and also the growth in use of the material ingredient credit in LEED by over 200%. By the beginning of 2021, there were over 7,500 published HPDs representing 20,000+ building products. This is conclusive evidence that HPDs have been widely adopted by the AEC industry and that building product manufacturers should develop them if they have not already done so.
The Future of Material Databases
As transparency documentation has expanded over the past few years, so have material databases. There have been several platforms that have come and gone over the last decade, while a few have risen to the top. Mindful MATERIALS, the Transparency Catalog, UL Spot, Pharos, Rate It Green, and the HPDC Public Repository are a few of the most prominent databases being used by AEC firms.
The mindful MATERIALS platform has become the most popular database for finding products that meet LEED credit requirements. HKS developed mindful MATERIALS, an initiative that made transparency and optimization information easily accessible to designers as they select products. Companies with HPDs, EPDs, VOC emissions testing, etc. are primed for this platform. mindful MATERIALS is an incredible resource for manufacturers and will continue to be a force to be reckoned with in 2021.
Sustainable Minds Transparency Catalog is another materials database widely used by specifiers and project teams. The platform includes material disclosures across multiple CSI divisions and features nearly 1500 brands. The catalog listings are grouped by environmental performance and material ingredients. This is another excellent resource for product manufacturers to list their product declarations, certifications, testing, etc.
The Rate It Green platform is a directory and network for the green building industry. Rate It Green helps design professionals find green building products and services, while also helping product manufacturers and service providers build their reputations and reach new clients. The site tends to focus on residential projects a bit more than commercial.
Overall, material databases will continue to expand and add new features to entice both design professionals and building product manufacturers. LEED v4.1 will add a new fire to HPD development and the importance of material and product databases. 2021 should be a good year for sustainable design.