Healthier Building Materials

• Heather Henriksen
• John Ullman
• Helen Zdybowicz
• Emil Cuevas-Melendez
Faculty Advisor:
• Joe Allen
• John Spengler

Project Overview:
A strong and growing body of research from Harvard faculty and other scientists has shown that some of the most effective interventions for enhancing the health, productivity and well-being of people in the built environment is through healthier building materials and products.

Leading companies including Google, Ikea, Kaiser Permanente and Partners Healthcare are already acting to reduce the use of harmful chemicals, and Harvard’s Sustainability Plan includes a commitment to address these chemicals of concern.

Healthier products are available, often at the same or lower cost, but simple tools and clearer guidance needs to be provided to the project management, project advisors and delivery teams as well as the purchasing community so they can specify these healthier products for Harvard’s projects.

Project Objectives:
The Healthier Building Materials Academy will bring the University’s decentralized project management and purchasing community together with our external vendors to create a pathway for reducing the use of certain chemicals of concern in the University’s capital projects.

Working in partnership with Harvard faculty experts, the Academy will create a structure for better understanding the science, regulatory environment, and market opportunities for addressing chemicals of concern in the built environment.

The framework provided by this pilot aims to scale local innovations and successes across the University, providing valuable lessons that can be applied to a long-term goal of more efficiently integrating new and evolving technologies into future capital projects.

Expected Outcomes:
The Academy will engage participants in three primary ways:

1. Educational Workshops – Science-based educational workshops and trainings will arm participants with a basic understanding of the topic.

2. Implementation Toolkit – Tangible tools and technical assistance, combined with a Harvard Online Training Portal course, will provide clear guidance how to specify and purchase a small subgroup of targeted and high impact products (furniture, fixtures, and finishings) while balancing goals of cost and durability.

3. Online Resource Library – A “one-stop” online resource website for the Harvard community and our project teams will leverage existing resources, case studies, and best practices from leaders in the field.

Expected Impact:
The Academy will result in increased knowledge and understanding of the important role that the construction project management and purchasing communities have in creating and maintaining a healthy indoor environment for students, staff, and faculty at Harvard. It will also provide our community with simple, clear actionable steps they can take to reduce exposure in the workplace or at home.

Success will also be assessed by tracking the number of capital projects that successfully integrate healthier products, and the number and type of healthier products and materials that are used in capital projects as a results of the Academy.