Why Transparency Matters

Uniting our voices for change

Why Transparency Matters

What is transparency?
People can mean different things when they talk about transparency. When Healthy Building Network (HBN) talks about transparency, we mean the full and public disclosure of the contents of a product. The Health Product Declaration (HPD) Open Standard is the industry standard specification for accurate, reliable and consistent reporting of product content and associated health information. HBN defines full public disclosure as a public HPD that has all contents characterized, screened, and identified to 100 ppm (parts per million).

Why transparency?
We believe you have a right to know what’s in the materials in your buildings. As do all of those responsible for the design, construction, and operation of buildings have a right to know, and a responsibility to avoid, known and potential hazards to building occupants, workers, and fenceline communities. 
The right to know gives you the power to decide. A fundamental principle of free market economics is the importance of access to complete information about transactions. Through their market choices, occupants and those responsible for the design, construction, and operation of buildings, have the right to make informed decisions on what chemicals and what health hazards they want to avoid. 

Ask for and prefer products that have a public Health Product Declaration (HPD). Doing this is important even if you use other tools such as product certifications and/or “red lists” to evaluate products. The data provided by HPDs improves all of these tools, and manufacturers have greater incentive to participate in this voluntary system when more of their customers ask for the information. 
Learn more about why transparency matters in our blog post, here.

Pathways to Action

There are multiple pathways to meaningfully action. 

  • Encourage project teams to review HomeFree and sign up for free online education content on the HomeFree Campus to learn about why transparency is important.
    • Advocate for public disclosure by educating your project teams on what transparency means, why it is important, and how to use the information.
    • Include a requirement to review the HomeFree product categories and disclosure preferences in the RFQ/RFP process.
  • Include in your specifications a preference for products with public disclosure of product content (e.g. Health Product Declaration, Declare Label). Further, prefer products with public HPDs that have all contents characterized, screened, and identified to 100 ppm (parts per million). Further, prefer products that have full public disclosure and have had their contents verified through the HPD or Declare Label third-party verification program. 
    • Prioritize updating specifications for the nine product categories on HomeFree. Start with the HomeFree Paint and Flooring Specifications found here.
    • Expand the request to other product categories.
  • Send individual and joint letters to manufacturers voicing your demand for materials transparency.    
  • Pursue optional credits for materials transparency in green building certifications such as Enterprise Green Communities (EGC) 2020 and LEED v4.

Definitions and Resources

HBN’s HomeFree is committed to the continued development of tools and resources to support leaders in affordable housing who are improving human health by using less toxic building materials. Below is a link to a template letter that can be used to request content transparency from manufacturers. In addition, below are some definitions and resources from organizations (many collaborating with HBN) working on transparency in building materials.

Resource Description Tags
Manufacturer Product Disclosure Request Template An email and letter template formatted with the information needed to make a disclosure request from a manufacturer. Tool
Quick Guide to Transparency This document was created to assist architects and developers pursuing Enterprise Green Communities Criterion 6.1: Ingredient Transparency for Material Health. It reviews the relevant transparency documents, where to find them, and how to interpret them. Guide
Health Product Declaration Collaborative The Health Product Declaration® (HPD) Collaborative is a customer-led, member organization committed to the continuous improvement of the building industry’s performance through transparency, openness, and innovation in the product supply chain. Assessment Tool
Health Product Declarations (HPDs) HPDs use a standard reporting format for disclosing a product’s contents and associated health hazards. They are an inventory tool and do not provide explicit judgement on safer products. Assessment Tool
Health Product Declaration Public Repository The Health Product Declaration (HPD) Public Repository is the authoritative source for published HPDs. HPDs are searchable and available to be downloaded by users – architects, designers, project teams, property owners, or any interested party. Assessment Tool
Declare Declare™ is a material certification program from ILFI. It is a transparency platform and product database that addresses where a product comes from, what it is made of, and where it goes at the end of its useful life. Certification Program
Declare Labels Declare Labels are building material “nutrition labels” which identify whether products contain any of a subset of hazardous chemicals that are included on the Living Building Challenge Red List. Certification Program
Prescription for Healthier Building Materials: A Design and Implementation Protocol A Prescription for Healthier Building Materials from the AIA and ARUP is described by the AIA as a stepwise method for: setting healthier material goals and defining criteria, selecting products, tracking, and specification. Guide
The Empowered Design Professional: Using HPDs to Make Healthier Material Choices Online course sponsored by HPDC that describes why HPDs are needed, what they are and what they aren’t, and the type of information included in an HPD. It also discusses how HPDs can contribute to LEED certification. Webinar