How new material health standards will impact LTC facilities

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Curt Fessler
Curt Fessler

Clean living environments are essential to long-term health. The more time we stay in a building, the more impact its environment has on our health. Long-term care residents will spend much of their later life indoors and increasingly the focus is put on making these years as healthy as possible. Green building and good indoor air quality enable residents to maintain respiratory health and reduce their risk of disease. Many long-term care facilities recognize the life-changing correlation between healthy buildings and residents, making the conscious decision to invest in non-toxic building products.

Additionally, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is continuing to drive the building industry forward by incorporating new standards in its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Version 4, the latest release of their program. LEED® for Healthcare, one of its rating systems, will help long-term care facilities provide the highest standard of clean and healthy environments. Further addressing the need for safer and healthier building products is yet another step in the ongoing effort to create better environments for us to occupy.

The USGBC recognizes the importance of material health for humans and the environment, and this new commitment establishes a positive framework for manufacturers to innovate. By integrating the Cradle to Cradle CertifiedCM Program and other disclosure and optimization tools into the Materials & Resources category in LEED® Version 4, many long-term care facilities will directly benefit from the increased use of healthy building products.

LEED® Version 4, to be introduced in November 2013, will enable LEED® projects to earn up to two points in Materials & Resources Credit 4, which pertains to building product disclosure and optimization. This major milestone for the building industry will incentivize continuous improvement for material health standards and keep building occupants living happier, healthier lives.  

The Environmental Protection Agency reports that daily exposure to asbestos, PBTs (persistent bioaccumulative toxins), and PVC (polyvinyl chloride) results in poor indoor air quality and can cause cancer and respiratory problems. A 2013 report by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) links creating stronger laws to helping bring safer chemicals to market. Forbes writes, “The regulation of phthalates is a central example of the relationship between regulation and innovation in the CIEL report. Phthalates are plasticizing chemicals and 90 percent of them are used in the production of PVC. Certain phthalates are recognized by regulators all over the world as endocrine disrupting chemicals, and have been linked to everything from genital deformation to cancer, obesity and diabetes.”

In 2008, we received our first C2C® product certification; it was for PVC-free Acrovyn®. Since then, C/S re-engineered its entire Acrovyn® line of products and modified its polyester formula to contain no PBTs, no BPA (bisphenol A) and no halogenated fire-retardants. Today we have over 39 Cradle to Cradle CertifiedCM Gold or Silver models across five product lines and hundreds of options for product variations.

As a manufacturer of building products, we have invested in creating products that have progressively less negative impact on human health and the environment. It's been a major commitment, but it is worth it. Our adoption of the Cradle to Cradle CertifiedCM Products Standard has been instrumental in this journey. It has yielded better building products for the industry and a positive return on our investments. We want other manufacturers to know that it's possible to make non-toxic building products that have less negative impact on human and environmental health, and that this investment will produce positive results for everyone involved. 

Long-term care facilities and hospitals can benefit from the industry's product innovation that LEED® is inspiring. It has the proven power to change the status quo, enriching the health of our lives and environment.

Curt Fessler, LEED® AP BD+C, is the marketing director at Construction Specialties, Inc.

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