Pacific Northwest

  • 12 Urban-Large City
  • 9 Non-profit
  • 3 Not provided
  • 10 New Construction
  • 2 Rehab

Cabinetry & Millwork

Cabinetry & Millwork
Data Summary

  • All the projects had requirements for cabinets limiting formaldehyde based binders or formaldehyde emissions.
  • About 20% of the projects specified CA 93120/CARB Phase II compliant.
  • About 65% of projects specified composite wood products that contain no urea formaldehyde.
  • A majority of projects specified cabinet manufacturers, but did not include specific product lines.
  • Nearly all projects specified cabinets with a factory finish.
  • About 20% of projects specified a laminate (HPL or melamine) or thermofoil finish for exterior faces, with an additional 35% specifying laminate only for interior surfaces.
  • All projects specified wood trim/base in at least some part of the units.
  • Most projects specified rubber wall base somewhere. None specified vinyl wall base.
  • About 45% of projects specified MDF for some trim or as an alternative to wood in at least some places.
  • 60% of projects that allowed or specified MDF required that it be free of urea-formaldehyde or formaldehyde-free.

Specification Recommendations

  • Prefer solid wood products over composite.
  • When using composite wood, specify materials that are NAF (No Added Formaldehyde) or ULEF (Ultra Low Emitting Formaldehyde) whenever possible.
  • Prefer products that are factory-finished.
  • For edge-banding, specify products with veneer rather than vinyl.

Doors

Doors
Data Summary

  • About 90% of projects specified doors with a composite core, and about 25% specified hollow core doors with a composite face.
  • About 60% of projects that included wood doors with composite core or facing specified no urea formaldehyde - one project further specified that all components be formaldehyde-free.
  • Only 2 projects specified a particular product or series; the others provided general information about which materials should be used and often included approved manufacturers.
  • Over 80% of projects specified factory finished wood doors with an additional 10% specifying a combination of factory finished and site finished.

Specification Recommendations

  • Prefer solid wood products over composite.
  • When using composite wood, specify core materials that are NAF (No Added Formaldehyde) or ULEF (Ultra Low Emitting Formaldehyde) whenever possible.          
  • Prefer products that are factory-finished.
  • For edge-banding, specify products with veneer rather than vinyl.    

Countertops

Countertops
Data Summary

  • Plastic laminate dominates in the Pacific Northwest affordable housing projects reviewed - it was specified in about 90% of kitchens and about 70% of bathrooms.
  • One project avoided plastic laminate all together, specifying solid surface countertops in both kitchen and bath.
  • 25% specified quartz or solid surface as an alternate countertop to laminate.
  • Almost 65% of projects specified substrates with no urea formaldehyde, and about 10% specified formaldehyde-free materials.

Specification Recommendations

  • Think of countertops as a system of products: the surface itself, an adhesive, and potentially a surface treatment, which may need to be reapplied regularly.  Each of these elements have different health concerns.
  • Sealant products can introduce hazardous chemicals.  Specify countertops that do not need to be sealed after installation, such as engineered stone, cultured marble, or solid surfacing.
  • Plastic laminate is not a top countertop choice, but if used, specify that the substrate be made with NAF (No Added Formaldehyde) or ULEF (Ultra Low Emitting Formaldehyde) resins.

Drywall

Drywall
Data Summary

  • One project had a specific recycled content requirement that called for either 10% post-consumer or 95% pre-consumer content - the latter of which would mean synthetic gypsum was definitely used. The Pacific Northwest is currently unique in their local access to gypsum boards with post-consumer content in the core.
  • No projects specified natural gypsum as a requirement.
  • Almost three quarters of projects specified wall and/or ceiling texture.

Specification Recommendations

  • Specify boards made with natural gypsum.
  • If possible, avoid pre-consumer recycled content (also known as synthetic gypsum or FGD) to avoid the release of mercury in manufacture.

Flooring

Flooring
Data Summary

  • All projects specified vinyl flooring somewhere in the building, with the majority specifying it somewhere in the unit.
  • Over 90% of projects specified carpeting. About 80% of these required Green Label or Green Label Plus certification. (This industry-backed certification only covers some VOC emissions; some hazardous VOC and all non-VOC chemicals are excluded.) One project specified Cradle to Cradle Bronze.
  • Other flooring products specified include ceramic tile, laminate, and linoleum. Polyolefin sheet flooring was listed as an alternate to vinyl sheet in one project.
  • Over 80% of projects set VOC content limits on flooring adhesives consistent with SCAQMD 1168 requirements.
  • A wide variety of carpet pad was specified: 40% of projects specified fiber carpet pad. Other types specified include rubber, prime polyurethane, and rebond.

Specification Recommendations

  • Prefer non-vinyl flooring products.  
  • When vinyl is used: Specify phthalate-free; avoid post-consumer recycled content.
  • For rubber flooring: Avoid postā€consumer recycled content (crumb rubber).
  • For carpets: Look for products that don’t use fluorinated stain-repellent treatments; specify backings that are vinyl-free and polyurethane-free and do not contain fly ash.
  • For ceramic tiles, prefer those made in the USA where most manufacturers have eliminated toxic lead compounds from ceramic tile glazes. Avoid post-consumer recycled content from CRTs (cathode ray tubes) which contain high concentrations of lead.

Insulation

Insulation
Data Summary

  • All projects specified use of fiber glass batt insulation.
  • About 35% of projects specified that fiber glass batts be formaldehyde-free and about 20% specified they have no urea-formaldehyde. As of October 2015, all residential fiber glass batt insulation made in the U.S. is formaldehyde-free.
  • Over 60% of projects specified blown fiber glass insulation for exterior walls.
  • Over 60% of projects list polyurethane spray foam (either 1- or 2-part) for sealing gaps or miscellaneous voids. One project specified a 2-part latex-based spray foam product for air sealing.

Specification Recommendations

  • Specify residential fiber glass batt insulation -- it has been reformulated to be free of formaldehyde -- or formaldehyde-free mineral wool batts. Unfaced batts are most preferable.
  • For blown insulation, prefer cellulose or unbonded fiber glass.
  • Consider alternatives to rigid board insulation whenever possible. If board insulation is required, specify mineral wool boards and look for those that meet the requirements of CDPH (California Department of Public Health) Standard Method for Testing VOC Emissions (01350) for residential scenarios. If plastic foam insulation is used, look for those that are halogen-free. Consider upgrading to expanded cork insulation.
  • Avoid spray polyurethane foam (SPF) insulation whenever possible.
  • For sealing applications, prefer caulking or sealant tapes to spray foams.

Paint

Paint
Data Summary

  • All projects reviewed specified a VOC content requirement.
  • All projects that specified flat paint, specified that it have <50 g/L VOCs. Most of these also specified a VOC limit of 100 g/L, including colorant added at the point of sale.
  • Over 60% of projects specified non-flat paint limited to <50 g/L VOCs. Most of these also  specified a VOC limit of 100 g/L, including colorant added at the point of sale.
  • No specific VOC requirements for tints were indicated except as noted above regarding VOC limits including colorant at point of sale.
  • About 20% of the projects specified paint that meets an older, less strict version of the Green Seal-11 standard.

Specification Recommendations

  • Prefer paints that meet the Green Seal-11 (GS-11) standard from 2010 or later whenever possible or specify paints known to be free of alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs).
  • Specify bases with 10 g/L of VOCs or less and colorants that do not increase the overall VOC content.
  • At a minimum, specify paint bases and colorantss with a VOC content of 50g/L or less.
  • Look for paints that have VOC emission testing and meet the requirements of the CDPH (California Department of Public Health) Standard Method for Testing VOC Emissions (01350).

Loading...

Do you like the information you see here?

Sign up for the HBN newsletter to be the first to know about new updates to the site, and the schedule for workshops and webinars. We promise to keep your information confidential.

If you don't want to sign up, simply close this box and continue browsing.