Enterprise Green Communities Criteria

Meeting Green Communities Criteria with HomeFree

HomeFree Resources for 2020 Enterprise Green Communities Criteria

The only national green building standard designed specifically for affordable housing projects, the Enterprise Green Communities Criteria has a major impact on how affordable housing properties are constructed. Currently, 27 states and Washington D.C. require that affordable housing developments receiving public funds comply with the Green Communities Criteria. This guide is designed to help you meet the 2020 Materials Criteria. If you are new to considerations of material health or would like to refresh your memory or learn more, consider exploring HomeFree and taking HomeFree’s Why Materials Matter online course. 

Specify and install products with publicly disclosed content and health hazards.

Use building products that feature recycled content and disclosure about that recycled content.

Specify and install products that minimize human and environmental health hazards.

Avoid key chemicals of concern in specific product categories.

6.1 Ingredient Transparency for Material Health

This criterion calls for projects to specify and install products with publicly disclosed content inventories, Health Product Declarations (HPDs) or Declare Labels, where content is characterized and screened using health hazard lists or restricted substances lists.

We believe you have a right to know what’s in the materials in your buildings. Transparency is the first step to understanding and avoiding hazardous impacts on building occupants, workers, and fenceline communities. Learn more here.

Include language in your specifications preferring products with content transparency. Sample spec language and a list of example products meeting these requirements are available in the HomeFree Paint and Flooring Specifications here. (Example products meeting these transparency requirements are listed in bold.)

Identify products with transparency documents using the HPD Public repository and Declare database.

Need help figuring out if HPDs and Declare labels meet the criteria? Check out our Quick Guide to Transparency where we show you what information to look out for and where you can find it. 

If you can’t find transparency documentation for your product, request an HPD or Declare Label from manufacturers using this information request template.

6.2 Recycled Content and Ingredient Transparency

This criterion calls for projects to use building products that feature recycled content and disclosure about that recycled content.

The use of certain recycled materials can result in the unintentional inclusion of hazardous content into new products. Understanding the source of recycled content and screening for high-priority chemicals is the first step toward ensuring the safe use of recycled materials. Learn more about common recycled materials and potential hazards in HBN’s Optimizing Recycling reports.

Select products with at least 25% post-consumer recycled content. Information about recycled content may be provided in product literature. Products with third-party certified recycled content can be found in databases such as SCS Global Service Certified Green Products Guide.

Request recycled content transparency documentation from manufacturers using this information request template.

6.3 Chemical Hazard Optimization

This criterion calls for projects to use products that minimize human and environmental health hazards as verified by third-party certifications or verified disclosures. More points are awarded for products that meet more rigorous levels of hazard assessment and hazard reduction.

Chemicals used in building products are largely unregulated. Many have been associated with health impacts like cancer and asthma, and thousands more have not been fully studied. This credit incentivizes the use of products that demonstrate steps toward optimization, with the vision of a future where all chemicals used in products have been studied for health impacts and products have been designed to minimize those impacts.

Identify products that meet the different levels of optimization by using our Quick Guide to Optimization, where we show you what information to look out for and where you can find it, including links to disclosure and certification databases. 

A limited number of products are currently certified. When certified products are not an option, avoid key chemicals of concern per Criterion 6.4, and use HomeFree Hazard Spectrums to identify materials that are typically best from a hazard perspective for different product categories.

6.4 Healthier Material Section

Many products have not yet been fully optimized to be free of all hazardous content. But, you can make important steps in your journey to selecting healthier materials by avoiding key chemicals of concern. Browse each product category below to review applicable requirements and resources.

  • Required: Low VOC content for all interior paints, coatings, and primers.
  • Required: Certified low VOC emissions for all wall finish paints. Optional: Certified low VOC emissions for additional coatings or primers.
  • Optional: APE-free paint, coating, or primer.

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) contribute to smog formation and also can be hazardous to health. VOCs are most often reported as content within the product, which is most applicable during and immediately following application of the paint. Some volatile chemicals that may be emitted from paints over time are not captured in VOC content testing but are captured by emissions testing. 

Alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs) are chemicals of concern due to their endocrine-disrupting properties, and many paint products without APEs are available.

Learn more about why these criteria are important and how to vet paint for these criteria with our Paint Hazard Spectrum and online course: Selecting Healthier Paint with HomeFree.

Identify which programs or regulations align with these criteria using our comparison table here.

Request information on these criteria from manufacturers using this information request template

Include language in your specifications limiting VOC content, requiring VOC emission certification, and including APE-free requirements. Sample spec language and a list of example products meeting these requirements are available in the HomeFree Paint Specifications here. Both “green” and “light green” ranked paints meet these requirements.

  • Required: Low VOC content for all interior adhesives and sealants.
  • Optional: Low VOC emissions for adhesives.
  • Optional: Use of sealants that do not contain orthophthalate plasticizers.

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) contribute to smog formation and also can be hazardous to health. VOCs are most often reported as content within the product, which is most applicable during and immediately following application of adhesives and sealants. Some volatile chemicals that may be emitted from products over time are not captured in VOC content testing but are captured by emissions testing. 

Many orthophthalates (often shortened to phthalates) are known endocrine disruptors and have been found to damage reproductive systems and interfere with the normal development of a fetus in the womb. They have also been associated with asthma. 

Learn more about why these criteria are important with our Flooring Installation and Sealants Hazard Spectrums.

Avoid polyurethane and modified polymer sealants, where orthophthalate plasticizers are common, unless identified to be phthalate-free. Include language in your specification requiring sealants to be orthophthalate-free. Sample spec language is available here

Include language in your specifications requiring flooring adhesives have low VOC content and preferring products that have a low-VOC emission certification. Sample spec language is available in the HomeFree Flooring Specifications here.

  • Required: All flooring products have low-VOC emission certification.
  • Required: No vinyl floor with phthalates (either intentionally added or added via recycled content).
  • Optional: Absence of vinyl flooring throughout the project.
  • Optional: If using carpet, specify those that do not use a fluorinated (PFAS) stain repellent.

VOC emission testing does not cover all potential volatile chemicals, but may help weed out some of the worst actors in terms of VOC emissions from floors.

Many orthophthalates (often shortened to phthalates) are known endocrine disruptors and have been found to damage reproductive systems and interfere with the normal development of a fetus in the womb. They have also been associated with asthma.

Vinyl flooring is based on polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which uses toxic processes in its manufacture and can create toxic pollution when it is disposed of.

Per- and poly-fluoroaklyl substances (PFAS) as a class have been identified as chemicals of concern because many have been found to be highly toxic, persist in the environment, and build up in body tissues.

Learn more about why these criteria are important and how to vet flooring products for these criteria with our Flooring Hazard Spectrum and online courses: Selecting Healthier Flooring and Vetting Carpet Products with HomeFree

Include language in your specifications requiring that flooring has low-VOC emission certification and meets restricted content requirements. Sample spec language and a list of example products meeting these requirements are available in the HomeFree Flooring Specifications here

Avoid vinyl flooring when possible. If you must use vinyl flooring, check the product literature for indication it is phthalate-free or use an HPD and the HomeFree Vinyl Cheat Sheet to help identify products that comply.

Request information on this and other HomeFree criteria from manufacturers of carpet using this information request template

  • Required: If fiberglass or mineral wool batts are used, these must be formaldehyde-free.
  • Optional: The project does not include any two-part spray polyurethane foam.
  • Optional: The project uses board insulation that does not contain halogenated flame retardants

Formaldehyde is a carcinogen. Fiberglass batts that don’t use formaldehyde-based materials are widely available and formaldehyde-free mineral wool batts are becoming increasingly available.

Two-part spray polyurethane foam insulation has many chemicals of concern, including asthmagenic isocyanates that are a particular concern during installation, and halogenated flame retardants that can be emitted over time and expose residents.

Halogenated flame retardants are common in all types of plastic foam insulation. They can persist in the environment and have broad-reaching impacts.

Learn more about why these criteria are important with our Insulation Hazard Spectrum and online course: Selecting Healthier Insulation with HomeFree

Choose products ranked highly on the Insulation Hazard Spectrum. If you need board insulation, consider halogen-free polyiso, rigid mineral wool, or expanded cork.

See our report Making Affordable Multifamily Housing More Energy Efficient: A Guide to Healthier Upgrade Materials for a comparison of performance and relative cost for different types of insulation.

Include language in your specifications to avoid halogenated flame retardants. Sample spec language is available here.

  • Required: Plywood, particleboard, MDF, and these materials within other products like cabinets and doors, meet formaldehyde emission limits of CARB Phase 2 and/or TSCA Title VI. 
  • Required: Other composite wood products not covered by CARB/TSCA requirements, but used in interior spaces, must have no added urea formaldehyde.
  • Optional: Use of composite woods that are certified ultra-low emitting formaldehyde (ULEF) or no added formaldehyde (NAF).

Formaldehyde is a carcinogen. Plywood, particleboard, and MDF in interior spaces are legally required to comply with the TSCA Title VI requirements for formaldehyde emissions. Products that meet the ULEF requirement have demonstrated formaldehyde emissions consistently below the TSCA requirements. NAF products use alternative binders that are not based on formaldehyde. 

Urea formaldehyde-based binders can emit greater amounts of formaldehyde than other binder types. For products not covered by regulations, avoiding urea formaldehyde helps to ensure lower formaldehyde emissions.

Learn more about why these criteria are important with our Composite Wood Hazard Spectrum for Cabinetry & Millwork and Doors.

Include language in your specifications to ensure products meet the requirements, with a preference for ULEF- or NAF-compliant products. Sample spec language is available in the HomeFree Flooring Specification for wood flooring.