As we work toward a transparent materials economy, communication is key—not just within the supply chain but among our peers as well. Meeting the Living Building Challenge and achieving net zero are differentiators right now, but if we are truly working toward sustainability, we need to start building on our efforts, not continue to reinvent the wheel.
That was the premise for a new initiative coming out of the International Living Future Institute. With plans to launch in the fall, Declare is a platform for project teams and their manufacturers to voluntarily communicate what is in their products. Intentionally simple in scope, Declare is quite literally an ingredients label for building materials that answers three simple questions:
What is it made out of?
Where is it coming from?
Where does it go?
The label’s ingredients list will cover chemicals (including trace elements) already identified in three main programs—Living Building Challenge Red List, the EPA’s list of chemicals of high concern,and the EU’s list of chemicals of very high concern.
In addition to the ingredients list, the label will include the product name and manufacturer, product life expectancy, end-of-life options, as well as the date of issue. You can see a mock-up of the label here
According to Eden Brukman, vice president of the International Living Future Institute, Declare will primarily serve the Living Building Challenge and make it easier for builders to identify products that do not contain Red List items. However, the information will be used to create an online database that is publicly accessible. “Declare is a way for us to help our project teams source products based on the efforts of other project teams, which otherwise would just be in our vault or in their documentation requirements,” Brukman explains.
Declare also aims to push the industry forward by providing a clear and transparent methodology for removing a temporary exception from the Living Building Challenge. “If a manufacturer claims that its product meets the Red List when others in the same product class haven’t, we need some assurance that the option is viable before removing a temporary exception,” Brukman says. “If a manufacturer of that product would fill in a Declare label, the temporary exception for that particular product class would be gone, and it would push all the business to that product.”
This, Brukman feels, will encourage more manufacturers to participate and gives them a fairly simple way to show their leadership.
The program is voluntary, and there is no independent testing to verify claims. However, Brukman says that taking a manufacturer’s word is about the same level of research a project team has today when attempting to meet the Living Building Challenge or earn LEED points. “They are getting a lot of information from the manufacturer, not necessarily second- or third-party verified claims,” she says. “Rather than keep their research in their own internal library, we want to have a way to provide this level of detail to other project teams.”