Perkins + Will Architects Introduces Transparency Site

Perkins + Will/Screen capture

Architects build buildings. Some architects are serious about building green buildings, and collect information and build proprietary materials libraries to back up their work. Two years ago, Perkins + Will surprised me with their precautionary list; I thought they were putting their judgment up against some very big guns in industry and business, warning the public about stuff that is perfectly legal in the USA.

Now they have gone a big step further with Transparency, including significant additions on flame retardants and chemicals causing asthma, making it transparent to the industry and the public. From the press release:

“Many of the materials we address in the Transparency Site have been opaque to the industry,” said Peter Syrett, Associate Principal at Perkins+Will. “As architects, we should thoughtfully consider the social and environmental impact of our professional activities, and while there are no perfect building materials, we hope this Transparency Site will aid the building product marketplace in making choices that support the highest ethical intentions.”

Peter Busby of the Vancouver office, (who I interviewed here) says:

“To design holistically, human and environmental health are top priorities,” said Peter Busby, Managing Director of the Vancouver office of Perkins+Will. “Promoting education and disseminating information about the makeup of construction materials is the right thing to do. By making this research publically available we empower ourselves, our clients and the industry to make informed decisions about the health of our buildings.”

Perkins + Will/Screen capture

Noodling around the site, I checked out my particular cause celebre, brominated flame retardants. It's pretty shocking, to find that the replacement for the pentaBDE that is now in polyurethane foam and juvenile products also bioaccumulates, and is structurally similar to others that cause cancer hand have " reproductive and developmental toxicity."

It is enough to make you think that we need a sort of Michael Pollan's Food Rules for buildings, like Number 7:

Avoid building products containing ingredients that a third-grader cannot pronounce

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There are other sites that give much of the same kind of information, like Pharos Project and Greenspec., but they are not free to the public. Perkins + Will has done a great service at Transparency.

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Tags: Architects | Buildings | Chemicals | Green Building

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