Opinion: Sustainable Design Leaders Prefer the HPD

The HPD has emerged as the go-to format for building product ingredient disclosure and hazard screening. We don’t need an alternative.

Perry (l), Manzi (r)

As leaders in our firms in the areas of sustainable design and product selection, we are responsible for guiding our practices into a better understanding of the health issues associated with material choices, and for training our colleagues in the use of new standards and tools.

We are also members of the consensus body that envisioned and created the Health Product Declaration Open Standard (HPD) as well as founding board members of the HPD Collaborative. Along with many other designers, members of the Manufacturers’ Advisory Panel, and numerous others, we have supported the development of the HPD, contributed to its growth, and advocated for its use to meet the need for higher-level conversations in the industry around the hazards inherent in many material ingredients of building products.

Working toward harmonization, together

Our firms are committed to the HPD as the primary inventory and screening tool because it provides comprehensive information about product ingredients that we’ve previously had only partial and inconsistent access to. Evolution of this open standard format is integrated with other well-established disclosure and assessment tools. We are excited about HPD Version 2.0 improvements following engagement with many users of HPDs and the 100 or so members of the Manufacturers’ Advisory Panel.

From its conception, the HPD was developed as a complementary tool to environmental product declarations (EPDs), which already existed to provide disclosure of product life-cycle assessment but do not cover material health. This has defined the scope of the HPD. Developers of the HPD have led harmonization efforts among other materials ecosystem partners, such as Cradle to Cradle, International Living Future Institute, Pharos, BIFMA, and GreenScreen. These various tools now complement, rather than compete with, each other.

Development of the HPD has advanced conversations around how to report complicated materials such as geological and recycled-content materials. Further exploration of these issues is ongoing, with the input of many in the design, construction, and manufacturing community, along with experts in relevant scientific fields and harmonization partners.

We don’t need an alternative to HPDs

It has been suggested that when choosing a standard, a choice needs to be made between hazard assessment and risk assessment. We feel that this is a false choice.

Meaningful risk assessment cannot be understood without first undertaking a complete inventory and full hazard assessment. Due to the limitations of risk analysis, it is critical that assessments of exposure and risk be used to inform prioritization of hazard avoidance, not to mask hazard information. The HPD meets our needs for an inventory and hazard-assessment tool. 

We do not see the need for competing standards in the marketplace, which is how the Product Transparency Declaration (PTD), currently under development by the ASTM International Committee on Sustainability, was presented in its original launch by the Resilient Floor Covering Institute. (Editor’s note: See our coverage of that standard’s origins.)

Perhaps a more useful approach for the ASTM effort would be to create a risk-assessment standard that uses the HPD as the inventory input and initial hazard assessment. We would see value in a complementary effort via ASTM, such as one that addresses exposure and risk, informed by the hazard and screening information provided by the HPD.

Beyond legal requirements

We believe that any worthwhile standard disclosure and screening tool needs to include all ingredients, regardless of assumptions about exposure level. We also feel that health-hazard screening lists need to be more expansive than just those associated with existing regulations.

In both regards, the HPD already addresses these needs to our satisfaction. We look forward to the continued evolution of this tool and the benefits to human and environmental health that it and other harmonized efforts will provide.

Mike Manzi, R.A, is an Associate Principal and Specifications Manager at Boora Architects, founding board member of the Health Product Declaration Collaborative, and served as co-chair of the Technical Committee overseeing evolution to Version 2 of the HPD Open Standard Format.

Russell Perry, FAIA, LEED Fellow, is a member of the HPD Collaborative Board of Directors and co-directs Sustainable Design at SmithGroupJJR, where he has recently published the firm’s HPD Library on the Internet.

Published November 2, 2015

(2015, November 2). Opinion: Sustainable Design Leaders Prefer the HPD. Retrieved from https://www.buildinggreen.com/op-ed/opinion-sustainable-design-leaders-prefer-hpd

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