Tom Lent

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Tom Lent, Policy Director, is responsible for defining the Healthy Building Network's guiding philosophy and policies with regard to building materials. Tom has spent over 35 years working on the environmental impact of buildings, materials, and energy in both the private sector and with public interest groups.  Tom helped coordinate development of the Green Guide for Health Care (GGHC), the US Green Building Council's LEED for Healthcare and the Sustainable Bioplastic Guidelines and has co-authored a wide range of studies of the comparative health and environmental impact of floorings, plastics and other building materials and sits on a variety of standards setting committees for indoor air quality and safer materials.

Tom oversees the development of the Pharos rating criteria and the Chemical and Material Library, and provides support in product category development and product scoring review. He headed the HPD Collaborative Pilot Committee that developed and pilot tested the Health Product Declaration Standard.

Tom has been honored with the Leadership in Advocacy Award by the USGBC and the Environmental Award for Outstanding Achievement by the US EPA Region IX for his work transforming the building materials market.

Follow Tom on Twitter (@HBNTom)

Tom's recent blogs in The Signal

Foam board insulation presents one of the tougher challenges for green building. With excellent performance characteristics and high R values - from 4 to 5 per inch or beyond - foam boards have been very popular for insulating foundations, walls and roofs in high performance designs. As we’ve reviewed the chemistry of these foams for the Pharos Project, however, we’ve learned that the chemistry that goes into making the most popular foams - polyisocyanate, such as Thermax, expanded polystyrene (EPS) such as Falcon Foam and extruded polystyrene (XPS) such as Styrofoam - is highly problematic for human...

“Imagine a future where what we build is another part of nature,” neatly sums up the regenerative aspirations of many at the Living Future UnConference last week in Seattle. This annual gathering of building professionals exploring the Living Building Challenge ranged widely over the leading edge of green building design, technologies and activism.

Citing the tremendous purchasing power now wielded by the green building movement, Cascadia ED, Jason McLennan, opened the conference with a strong challenge to the audience to be bold and flex that power for transformation in the industry by taking a united step together on all projects, not just their Living Building Challenge projects. As a first step he called on all firms to just say ‘no’ to specifying PVC backing in carpet anywhere.

The Pharos Project was there joining session topics ranging from water treatment using biomimicry to the role of green building in ending homelessness. Robin Guenther, a principal at...

Have you taken the Living Building Challenge (LBC)?

Launched by our partners at the Cascadia Region Green Building Council, LBC is a set of design criteria for high performance buildings – kind of a LEED Plus – that takes buildings a further step toward truly sustainable design. It shares with the Pharos Project a concern about the toxic properties of the chemicals currently used to make many of our building materials and addresses it in a Red List of chemicals that must be excluded from LBC buildings.

For this reason, Pharos has added the LBC Red List to its suite of filtering options – making life easier for designers and contractors who’ve taken the Living Building Challenge to exclude products containing red-listed chemicals, as well as for anyone trying to eliminate some of the worst carcinogens and endocrine-disrupting chemicals from their buildings.

This month, we are rolling out seven new filters. Two of the filters represent action lists from the...

There is good news from the VOC standard-setting world addressing a big toxic problem in homes. And, the Pharos team has just rolled out new tools to help you take advantage of this development to make all of your buildings healthier.

The problem: VOCs - the volatile organic compounds that offgas from paints, new carpets, wallboard, insulation and many other products - are responsible for a variety of health problems, ranging from asthma to cancer. Readers of HBN News may recall that during our research into formaldehyde insulation binders a couple of years ago, we identified problems with the way VOC standards were being applied in homes. The 01350 Specification standard, which guides the leading VOC certification programs (including CHPS, FloorScore, Indoor Advantage Gold, GreenLabel Plus, Greenguard Children and Schools, and others), determines if any...

Many insulation products do their thermal magic by weaving fibers together to create a multitude of tiny insulating air pockets akin to those in a sweater. A wide range of fibers are now used to create this heat trapping phenomenon. In recent weeks, the Pharos team has added more loose-fill and blown-in insulations to the batts previously displayed. In coming weeks, we’ll add sprayed insulations.

How do the fibers stack up in Pharos? This week we look at the two major players: fiberglass and cellulose. While their R-values per inch are fairly equivalent, recycled content varies widely between the fibers, and formaldehyde and other IAQ questions remain:

Fiberglass has been the standard for blanket batts and is also used in some board, loose-fill/blown and sprayed products. Recycled content is now common in fiberglass product, though mostly in the 20 to 30% range, keeping Pharos scores for Renewable Materials in the 2s and 3s. Anco’s TextraFine is an exception...

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