Foreign-Language HPDs: Outreach or Obfuscation?
April 1, 2020
Acme Resilient Flooring thought it had scored a home run with the release of a LEED v4.1-compliant Health Product Declaration (HPD) v2.1.1 for its tire-derived recycled rubber floor tiles. They hoped the HPD, written entirely in Hittite cuneiform, would not only drive international sales but also revive interest in ancient languages. Instead, it was met with skepticism and charges of deceptive marketing.
“We had the best of intentions when we produced a foreign-language HPD,” said Hugo Haupt, Acme’s communications director. “We saw it as a way to further transparency, encourage scholarship, and promote material health in the construction of granaries, ziggurats, and tombs.”
Critics, however, claim Acme’s Hittite HPD is nothing more than an attempt to cover up product hazards. International Living Future Institute materials specialist Julia Oppert said, “Acme’s HPD is the opposite of transparency. No architect or product specifier has the time to translate pages of cuneiform. Sanskrit, maybe, but Hittite? I don’t think so. Furthermore, recycled rubber is inappropriate for indoor applications.”
According to BuildingGreen’s product guide to tire-derived rubber flooring, “Many people consider rubber flooring made with tires to be inherently green due to high recycled content. Some products even meet the emissions criteria of FloorScore. However, these criteria are not designed to account for most of the problematic pollutants that recycled tires can contain. The rubber and its binders or additives may be significant sources of indoor air pollutants, including VOCs and heavy metals.”
Haupt flatly denies the charges of obfuscation. “Acme took great care in producing the HPD. We approached a leading Assyriologist from Harvard University to perform the translation, and we can say with certainty it’s completely accurate.”
He admitted that the first translation attempt, which was outsourced using Fiverr.com, was unsatisfactory. “It turned out to be cut and pasted directly from the Epic of Gilgamesh,” said Haupt, “and it didn’t contain a single reference to highly durable, slip-resistant flooring for gymnasiums, temples, and oracles. That’s how we learned you can’t cut corners when it comes to material transparency or ancient linguistic scholarship.”
According to the HPD Collaborative website, there is currently no approved process for translating HPDs into non-English languages. Furthermore, translated versions must refer to the published English-language version in the HPD Public Repository as the official HPD report. When asked for the English version of the Hittite HPD, Acme sent BuildingGreen a floppy disk containing a WordStar file, which BuildingGreen has not yet been able to open.
Nevertheless, BuildingGreen commends Acme’s attempt to revive dead languages, and has announced plans to convert BuildingGreen.com and LEEDuser exclusively to the Proto-Indo-European language. BuildingGreen president Nadav Malin explained, “The reconstructed Indo-European language encompasses a vast array of modern languages, including English, Russian, German, Hindi, Farsi, and many others. We believe this is the best way to reach customers and promote sustainable architecture and design worldwide.”