On February 26, 2007, the Technical and Scientific Advisory Committee (TSAC) of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) released its long-awaited report on whether evidence supports an anti-PVC credit in the LEED®
Rating System (proposed seven years ago). The basic conclusion, that available evidence does not support a simple, across-the-board policy of avoiding PVC in building products, hasn’t changed since TSAC’s draft report was issued in 2005 (see
Vol. 14, No. 1
The report’s authors (including
editor Nadav Malin, who serves on TSAC’s PVC task group) used a combination of life-cycle assessment and risk assessment to quantify the environmental and human health impacts of a range of materials. Of the four applications studied, windows, pipe, siding, and resilient flooring, only in the last category were PVC products—vinyl composition tile and sheet vinyl—consistently the worst performers. For example, cast-iron pipe performed worse than PVC pipe in spite of its high recycled content. Its performance was problematic largely due to emissions from converting coal to coke, which is used as a fuel in iron foundries.
“‘Compared to what?’ was an important part of the analysis,” said Malcolm Lewis, P.E., chair of TSAC, noting the task group’s concern that a blanket policy to avoid PVC could steer LEED users to more environmentally damaging products. “This report really honors the concerns of the environmental community and raises to a new level the concept of ‘let’s deal with credits that mitigate against classes of materials, and not a single material’,” Lewis said.
It remains up to USGBC’s LEED committees to decide on the policy implications of the TSAC report, according to Michelle Moore, vice president for communications at USGBC. While evidence suggests that it may not be wise to avoid PVC in favor of just any substitute material, the authors note that it is still advisable to seek alternatives, particularly in areas where PVC performs poorly from an environmental standpoint. Determining which alternatives are preferable remains a challenge. The report contains “a plea for better data from the industry. There’s so much that we don’t know,” said Lewis. “Our hope is that the industry will respond to that,” he said.
Editor’s note: Because the report’s release came at
press time, only USGBC sources familiar with the report could be consulted for this article.
For more information:
Michelle Moore, Vice President for Communications
U.S. Green Building Council
The report and related materials can be found here.
Comments on the first draft report
and other resources can be found at pvc.usgbc.org.
March 1, 2007
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