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.
As vetters, we reach out to manufacturers incognizant of their knowledge of even basic green building practices, and as such, we must teeter upon the line between condescension, as may happen in the instances when a manufacturer has worked with LBC many times prior and does not need the details spelled out, and presumptuousness, as can happen when a vetter proceeds in the process at full speed, leaving the manufacturer in the dust of our assumption that they are familiar with the work we do. In both cases, frustration mounts and clouds the necessary information that needs to travel between both parties for the process to continue efficiently.
To illustrate some of the disparate vantage points from which manufacturers participate in the approval process, here is some anecdotal illustration:
Here we have a manufacturer that is familiar with LBC, and has an exhaustive list of ingredients in hand, ready to be sent to a vetter in need. This process is often completed in a few email exchanges, sent in quick succession with few questions, beginning with an initial inquiry from the vetter and culminating with a rapid response from the manufacturer. If the product in question is “Red List” free, the product can be entered into Red2Green and marked as pre-approved without further ado.
Here we spin a different, darker tale, one that includes more minute explanation and arduous secondary and tertiary correspondence. It is a harrowing narrative threading through trials of unresponsive contacts, vacationing engineering staff, and suspicious protectiveness of proprietary information. In these cases, we lay bare our green building philosophy before those who hold our desired information in hopes that they may sympathize with our cause. We reassure them that our respect for confidentiality can be compromised by no competitive force. We must hurdle faithfully over the chasms of missing ingredients, and often we must retrace our steps when we find that the information that has been bestowed upon is ambiguous or opaque. And, in the monstrous face of a “Red List” ingredient, we must leave no exception unturned; we work tirelessly with manufacturers to see that their miscellaneous hardware, wire coating, and trace chemicals are allowed through our stringent filters so that these filters do not become road blocks on the path to a greener world. At the end of our journey, we may find ourselves put upon with defeat, left to search the tumultuous hills of products for more LBC-compliant solutions.
However, we may also be lucky enough to see the clouds split and the sun stream through, illuminating an unconventional path to approval, a path that winds all the way to a magical land of healthy building and regenerative design.