Feature Article

What's New in Multi-Attribute Environmental Certifications

By Jennifer Atlee

The Hum. Minds at Work furniture from Kimball Office is BIFMA Level 1 and SCS Indoor Advantage Gold certified. According to the company, it is free of PVC and chrome and is designed for disassembly for end-of-life recycling. This installation is at the WXIX, Fox 19 studio in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Photo: Courtesy Kimball Office
The goal of multi-attribute certifications is to recognize products that score well across a comprehensive battery of environmental, health, and even social measures. Some of these include full analysis of a product’s life cycle, while others simply use life-cycle thinking to identify the top issues to cover in the certification.

While the field of green building product certifications is awash in single-attribute certifications that address focused issues from product emissions to forestry practices, the industry is increasingly recognizing the need for a more comprehensive review of products.

Like others in the industry,

EBN has supported more effective and appropriate use of green product certifications. To that end BuildingGreen has published a special report on certifications, which, among other things, includes a frank analysis of every certification we could find for green building products

(see EBN Editors Help Untangle Green Certifications).

In this article we focus specifically on the

multi-attribute certifications covered in that report, with additional details from the marketplace.

We’ll say right up front that we’d love to see multi-attribute certifications that combine robust threshold requirements at multiple levels of performance with points to allow flexibility. We’d like to see publicly displayed scorecards of all products certified under a given program revealing where a company and its product excel and where they need improvement. And that’s just for starters: standardized reporting of environmental data would spur even more product improvement.

We’re not there yet, but in the meantime, the closer the scrutiny given to these schemes, the better they will become. This article provides some scrutiny, but it is market demand that will determine what kind of improvement manufacturers and certification organizations consider worthwhile.

Published November 24, 2010