A Healthy Building Materials History Lesson

Caution tape describing lead-based paint hazard. Source: CA DPH

With the onset of the industrial revolution in the 19th century, lead became a widely used material not only in the workplace, but in the form of house paint as well. It became a public health disaster. Reaching pandemic proportions, lead exposure caused brain damage, kidney failure, anemia and, not uncommonly, death. Fetal exposure caused stillbirths, miscarriages and neurological developmental stunting. While the harmful effects of lead were widespread, those at particular risk were children and manual labor workers, for children are adversely affected at lower levels of exposure, and those in the lead-saturated industries were exposed in higher levels and over a longer period of time.

The 20th century saw an increase in lead exposure on a global scale due to metal-manufacturing practices, as well as the use of lead as a staple additive to gasoline. These levels have taken a steep dive since the 1980s, when leaded gasoline began to be phased out, but exhaust from this era left its mark in the form of tainted soil and building dust.

In spite of the far-reaching effects of lead, it wasn’t until the early 1970s that the United States passed a ban on the use of lead in house paint, and even then there was a seven-year delay until it was phased out of the market entirely. The tale of lead paint illustrates how using harmful chemicals can easily become standard practice in manufacturing. It also shows how reactive legislation–initiatives that strive for damage control after the fact–fail to alleviate the persisting health and environmental hazards even after the materials are removed from circulation in the market.

Proactive Approach à la Living Building Challenge Materials Petal

This phenomenon is not exclusive to lead; today there is a comprehensive list of harmful chemicals called the “Red List.” Developed the the International Living Future Institute (ILFI), it comprises chemicals that have been found to threaten human health and well-being and should not be included in buildings attempting to meet materials criteria of ILFI’s Living Building Challenge (LBC) certification process. The Red List also encompasses established chemical lists such as RoHS, REACH, Pharos, Healthy Product Declaration, Green Ideas Green Action, Building Green and Declare. The aim of the LBC “materials petal” is to promote a more dynamic and preventative approach, to reduce and eliminate the circulation of harmful Red List chemicals in the building market, before they can begin to do lasting damage our bodies and our world.

Creating Demand for Healthy Products

Frightening examples are abound of the dangers of toxic chemicals in building materials. Sustainable design and eco-friendly building materials may leave a hopeful gleam in the eyes of environmentalists, and indeed other green building standards like LEED and Passive House have advanced the cause. However, what’s been sorely lacking is a solid framework that transforms the built environment and the building materials industry at the same time.

Declare is a product ‘nutrition label’, offering a clear and informative method to disclose 100% of chemical ingredients. Declare provides a marketing advantage, because such products enjoy preferential access to Living Building projects. Every Living Building must contain at least one Declare product per 500 square meters of building area. Since the inception of the Living Building Challenge, there have been more than 70 interactions between Integrated Eco Strategy and manufacturers that have prompted a change in company products or policies. Responses from manufacturers have included implementing new policies regarding ingredient transparency and reformulations of products to remove Red List chemicals. Along with this, four manufacturers made the decision to list their products in the Declare Program after our outreach to them.

By selecting only Red List-compliant products in Living Building Challenge projects, design teams become engines of market change by motivating manufacturers to make healthier products, and educating a growing sector of the building industry about the dangers of Red List chemicals. A key component of the Living Building Challenge standard is to drive manufacturers to produce products that both preserve and protect the environment, and do not negatively impact human health. Our aim as members of the International Living Future Institute is to help raise the bar in the built environment with Living Buildings and make healthy building materials more accessible to the public; one product, one phone call at a time.

Building Without Toxins: Educating for a Healthy Material World
Hitchcock Center for the Environment Amherst, MA / 1 – 4 pm

Join materials, toxics, and living building experts for a conversation on toxins in the built environment and how making toxic-free choices in materials is possible.

Featured panelists:
Jennifer Atlee, Sustainable Materials Consultant, PROSOCO
Julie Johnson, Executive DirectorHitchcock Center
Kath McCusker, Senior Sustainability ManagerIntegrated Eco-Strategy
Emily Monosson, Toxicologist and Author, UMass Amherst
Andrew Solem, Living Building Challenge Materials ConsultantWright Builders
Jonathan Wright, PrincipalWright Builders

Making buildings even greener: Integrated Eco Strategy develops online tool to aid in green building construction

by Tony Dobrowolski

Photo credit: Gillian Jones, The Berkshire Eagle

Integrated Eco Strategy recently launched Red2Green, a new healthy building materials selection tool that is modeled after the requirements of the Living Building Challenge, a green certification program and design framework developed by the nonprofit International Living Future Institute of Seattle.

Read whole article here.

Letter to Editor, of the Standard Times: Leaders Educators & Innovators
By: Kathryn Duff, studio2sustain inc, Lloyd Center for the Environment, Board of Directors
8 May 2017

The Standard Times recently featured an article about the partnership between the Lloyd Center for the Environment (LCE) and the Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School (GNB-VOC) relative to the construction of the LCE Welcome Center, and the pursuit of a “Living Building Challenge” certification. As the Architect of this project I wanted to highlight both the Lloyd Center and GNBVOC, in particular the extraordinary leadership by both organizations, resulting in exceptional educational opportunities for students.

The LCE is pursuing a “Living Building Challenge” (LBC) certification on this project – the first in Southeastern, MA, and among very few worldwide. An LBC certification is considered the most rigorous environmental achievement for buildings; there are only twelve fully certified buildings worldwide. It is an honor to work with LCE Executive Director Rachel Stronach and her team on this impactful, rigorous and visionary project, and with GNB-VOC Superintendent James O’Brien and his team, including students.


GNB Voc-Tech teams up with Lloyd Center for Living Building Challenge

South Coast Today / Wesley Sykes / April 27, 2017

NEW BEDFORD — Students from Greater New Bedford Regional-Technical High School, in collaboration with Studio2Sustain, will be faced with a unique challenge when it comes to designing the Lloyd Center for the Environment’s new welcome center.

The building project is designed to pursue the rigorous green building standards of the “Living Building Challenge” (LBC) certification of the International Living Future Institute. The goal is that when completed, the 960-square-foot building will become one of a handful of LBC buildings in the world.


Matt Root Bolsters Integrated Eco Strategy’s Northeast Presence (Our Press Release)

NORTH ADAMS, MA—Matt Root has been named senior project manager for Integrated Eco Strategy, a consulting firm facilitating sustainable and regenerative building design, renovation and construction. In his new position, Root will manage healthy materials and energy related projects in the Boston region, as well as develop new projects, consult with clients and represent Integrated Eco Strategy at regional and national conferences.

Root comes to Integrated Eco Strategy from CLEAResult, an energy efficiency consulting firm, where he led a multi-disciplinary team of mechanical engineers, building-enclosure experts and building scientists. His experience includes serving as a Home Energy Rating System rater and then as a LEED for Homes Quality Assurance Designee.


Integrated Eco Strategy Relocates, Expands Workforce and Launches Database Program (Our Press Release)

NORTH ADAMS, MA—As anyone with a seven-year-old will tell you, that age is an important milestone. Integrated Eco Strategy, a North Adams-based consulting firm is now seven, and hitting many significant markers of its own—including a relocation of the company’s main office to accommodate the most rapid growth in the company’s history, launch of a unique healthy materials database and certification as a “Just” organization.

Founded in 2010 to provide client-focused, high-value green building services, Integrated Eco Strategy recently moved from Williamstown into a new headquarters at 85 Main St. The larger facility was needed to accommodate more than a dozen new employees, including a Boston region senior project manager. The staff has grown in response to new and ongoing projects, and an expansion of the firm’s Northeast presence.


Getting to Yes: Winning and Making Your Next Project Net-Zero, LBC, or ?

Living Future unConference / Seattle WA / May 19, 2017

Charley Stevenson, Principal, Integrated Eco Strategy
Bill Maclay, Principal, Maclay Architects
Bungane Mehlomakulu, Principal, Integral Group

“We know how to create Living Buildings that are healthy, responsible, beautiful and long-lasting. We know how to design and construct net zero buildings that are sound investments. So why aren’t clients demanding these? How can we convince clients that net-zero and Living Building Challenge buildings are in their best interest? This interactive dialogue extends beyond technical skills and provides insight into the marketing conversations that can make these projects commonplace. Three building industry leaders will share lessons learned and their experiences developing project goals with clients through the pursuit of these high performing buildings. ”


Building Energy / Spring 2017 / Jonathan A. Wright

“Fundamentally, the vetting process is a continuous, three-way collaboration between architect, construction manager and materials consultant. Early on, I asked Charley Stevenson of Integrated Eco Strategy, who would actually be accountable for securing materials documentation, and he said we
would collaborate. Hmmm. Who, and how, exactly? The process evolved through months of weekly calls, hot lists and dead ends. Together with Kern Center architects Bruner/Cott and the Hitchcock Center’s DesignLab, we all lent significant effort and creativity to the process. Charley was so right – everyone has to get under the weight of it to avoid wasting time and resources.”

Read the whole article.

Architectural Record / March 1, 2017 / Joann Gonchar

Some regions seem especially receptive to the LBC and its water-conservation imperative. In Western Massachusetts, there are four completed projects pursuing certification or already certified: Smith College’s off-campus Bechtel Environmental Classroom, in West Whately; the Class of 1966 Environmental Center, at Williams College in Williamstown; and the Hitchcock Center for the Environment and the R.W. Kern Center, both on the campus of Hampshire College in Amherst. Each building benefited from the regulatory successes of the previous project. “By the third one, the permitting process was almost routine,” says Christopher Chamberland, a civil engineer with the Northampton, Massachusetts–based Berkshire Design Group, which has been involved in some aspect of the water systems of all the area’s projects.

Read the whole article.

High-performance construction products manufacturer Prosoco, explains the significance of helping create a Living Building the R.W. Kern Center at Hampshire College, Amherst, MA. IES managed all imperatives of the Materials Petals for this building, which is open and currently in its performance period.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) named the Kern Center at Hampshire College a winners of its Committee on the Environment (COTE) 2017 Top Ten Awards. This award honors buildings that “highlight projects that exemplify the integration of great design and great performance.” For this project  (more…)

What’s that Green Stuff? Lessons from Operating a Rain Water Collection and Treatment System
Living Future unConference / Seattle WA / May 16-19, 2017

Charley Stevenson, Principal, Integrated Eco Strategy
Amy Johns, Director, Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives, Williams College

“Williams College’s Class of 1966 Environmental Center is operating the first licensed rainwater collection and treatment system in the state of Massachusetts. We had no idea what we were getting in to, and we’re making up procedures, experiments, and solutions as we go. We’ve struggled with unidentified green goo, higher than expected operational costs, and a UV filtration system designed for a system 100 times larger than ours. And yet, clean water comes of the faucet and we’re on track for net-zero water performance. We will share our experience and hope to help future projects plan better for operational challenges.”


Happy Earth Day!

By Nick Noyes, Shavon Prophet

As an industry, green building is on pace to double every three years in large part due to the growing adoption of green building standards such as LEED, Living Building Challenge and Well. This year’s Earth Day campaign theme is “Environmental & Climate Literacy,” and Integrated Eco Strategy is on the case to shatter a myth or two in the interest of improving understanding of how choosing healthy building materials benefit not only our environment, but can contribute immensely to the well-being of people. (more…)

One of our Healthy Building Materials Specialists wrote this piece to answer the question. Here is a description of material vetting work – a knight’s tale if you will:

In a field that is constantly changing, no two correspondences are the same. There are a host of factors that influence the vetting process. Manufacturers’ familiarity with Living Building Challenge (LBC) requirements, their level of skepticism towards green building, and the stringency of proprietary confidentiality are just a few of the aspects that color a vetter’s interaction with the maker of a potential LBC product, not to mention the fact that an individual’s workload dictates where on a priority list filling out a never-before-seen Integrated Eco Strategy disclosure form falls. (more…)

Our first LBC project, The Class of 1966 Environmental Center at Williams College, has achieved Petal Certification.

The project successfully completed 3 audits and proved Net Zero water for 12 months. This project achieved certification in these six petals: site, water, materials, equity, beauty & health.

We couldn’t be more proud to have been the LBC consultant on the project. Congratulations Team!

Meet Matt Root. He will be our Boston based project manager.

Matt Root. Senior Project Manager.

Matt comes to IES from CLEAResult, an Austin, Texas-based energy efficiency consulting firm, where he led a multi-disciplinary team of mechanical engineers, building-enclosure experts and building scientists. His experience includes serving as a Home Energy Rating System rater and then as a LEED for Homes Quality Assurance Designee.

Welcome, Matt.

IES is a “Just.” company, providing transparency in our overall operations and a commitment to our employees and community. Just. is managed by the International Living Future Institute.

MASS Live / April 15, 2016 / Dave Roback

Hampshire designed the building with the goal of becoming only the ninth building worldwide certified under the most advanced green building standard, the Living Building Challenge (LBC). The standard aims to break society’s dependence on environmentally harmful practices, to protect not only the
environment but also the workers who make the building materials, the tradespeople who install them, and the people who use the building. It aims to compel improvements in the building and construction sector.

Read the whole article.

Greener Than Green: The Class of 1966 Environmental Center is working to meet the Living Building Challenge / Williams Magazine / Summer 2015

“In fact, it’s possible Williams won’t meet the standards initially. “LBC is a learning process as much as it’s about living within our means,” says Mike Evans, assistant director of the Zilkha Center. “There are risks involved, but we’ll learn from our mistakes, make adjustments and, if need be, start the clock

It’s a risk worth taking, says Charley Stevenson ’93, who, as principal of the Williamstown consulting firm Integrated Eco Strategy, worked closely with the college and Black River Design Architects on the project and was named a 2015 Living Building Challenge Hero in April. “I think it’s really important from a leadership perspective,” he says. “What Williams does, other institutions take note of.””

Read the whole article.