When it comes to the health and safety of its workers, concrete producers are familiar with OSHA regulations and MSDSs. But the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) release of version 4 of the LEED rating system (LEED v4) includes new requirements for product declarations related to toxicity and human health effects.

The focus on material ingredient reporting is aimed at improving transparency of the potential human health effects of products used in buildings. Here are highlights of the Materials and Resources (MR) credit in LEED v4 related to material ingredients.

MRc4: Building product disclosure and optimization—material ingredients

The intent of this credit is to address human toxicity, an impact that is not addressed in the LEED v4 LCA requirements. The credit reads: “To encourage the use of products and materials for which life-cycle information is available and that have environmentally, economically, and socially preferable life-cycle impacts. To reward project teams for selecting products for which the chemical ingredients in the product are inventoried using an accepted methodology and for selecting products verified to minimize the use and generation of harmful substances.” There are three options for attaining this credit:

Option 1, Material Ingredient Reporting requires the use of 20 permanently installed products sourced from at least five different manufacturers that:

  • Have an inventory of all ingredients provided by the manufacturer,
  • Have an HPD (health product declaration) with full disclosure of known hazards in compliance with the HPD Collaborative standard,
  • Are certified to the Cradle-to-Cradle v2 Basic Level or the Cradle-to-Cradle v3 Bronze Level, or
  • Conform to a USGBC-approved program.

Products must have chemicals inventoried to 1000 ppm.

For Option 2, Material Ingredient Optimization, 25% of the value of permanently installed products (by cost) must comply with one of the following programs:

  • USGBC-approved program,
  • GreenScreen v1.2 Benchmark,
  • Cradle-to-Cradle Certified, or
  • International Alternative Compliance Path
  • REACH Optimization

Option 3, Supply Chain Optimization, requires that 25% of the value of permanently installed products (by cost) must be from product manufacturers:

  • Who engage in validated and robust safety, health, hazard and risk programs, and
  • Whose programs are verified by an independent third party.

Impact on producers

Given the varying levels of stringency of the programs that comply with this credit, the true impact on concrete producers is unknown. Complying with the Material Ingredient Reporting option by providing a manufacturer’s inventory may seem like the easiest option, but there are risks to the manufacturer because the focus of this credit is on the potential for human health effects. Cradle-to-Cradle certification would likely require a complete reformulation of portland cement concrete, which is not feasible. The best solution for concrete producers may be to meet somewhere in the middle between stringency and risk, and optimize the supply chain or create an HPD.

HPDs are a new tool, and the HPD Collaborative only recently finished the program with a group of manufacturers to pilot the use of the standard. Because the standard did not go through the ANSI process, the quality of the standard and the ease of application are unknown.

Although projects have the option to register under LEED 2009 until June 1, 2015, producers will need to begin instituting supply chain optimization practices or creating HPDs soon. In the meantime, producers should be prepared for inquiries related to health product declarations as projects begin to ramp up adoption of LEED v4. See below for a table that shows the priority hazard lists that comprise the chemicals reported as part of the health product declaration collaborative standard.