Healthier Building Materials

Leader: Heather Henriksen
Team: 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.

Achievements: Healthier Building Materials Academy (HBMA) has allowed for Harvard’s Green Building Standards to be updated to further promote health and well‐being, which will help to standardize the process and expectations for procuring healthier materials. Through Harvard’s new partnership with Google and the Healthy Building Network, project teams working with OFS now do receive access to Google’s online tool called Portico. Portico is a web‐based database repository of thousands of buildings products that have transparent material ingredient lists today, and the next phase is to create a robust scoring system grounded in science and based on a number of health criteria—again, this is where the HBMA (Harvard researchers and the Office for Sustainability) are working with Portico to influence the health optimization scoring.