The Signal: News and Notes from the Pharos Team

published in Healthy Building News, 4/2/12

Mud season has just passed in Vermont. That is the time of year when our pastoral dirt roads, frozen since last November, begin to thaw, from the top down. The frozen underlayer traps the water above, creating mud. Deep, sticky, Prius-swallowing mud. To traverse our "dirt" roads in March you need the right equipment: a four-wheel drive vehicle and high rubber boots, just in case. Otherwise, you will get stuck, wreck your car, and probably your shoes too.

This year's annual slog got me thinking that as the long freeze on information about the ingredients in our building products lifts, we might face the paradox of a muddy road to transparency. Initially, it could be tough going for those who are not prepared for the disruptive impact this newly disclosed information will have on the...

Pharos has evaluated a wide range of flooring products, from wood to vinyl, rubber, and cork.  Now we add another layer of analysis to help architects and designers choose flooring systems that maximize renewable material content and minimize environmental and human heath impacts: Flooring Finishes.

Flooring finishes form a film on or in the surface of floors.  There are many types of finishes, and their composition and application vary widely.   Some flooring comes into the marketplace with the finishes already in place. Other floors’ warranties require on-site installation of particular finishes.   

These finishes can have a considerable impact, as they typically cover the entire surface area of uncarpeted square footage in buildings. As a National Institute of Building Science report notes, “Hard floor finishing is often a process that...

Since we launched Pharos in November of 2009, we have met in person with hundreds of architects, specifiers, building owners and manufacturers.  In almost every discussion, one question has been consistently asked: "How do you ensure the data in Pharos is accurate and the best available?"  We found ourselves spending a lot of time laying out our data quality assurance process in these meetings.  And, we never left one of those conversations without answering the question effectively and leaving the other party entirely satisfied with our processes.  So, as part of our yearlong project to build Pharos Version 2, we decided to codify our quality management processes and seek ISO 9001 certification.  Since we believe it is important to be just as transparent as we expect our manufacturers to be, allow me to introduce you to the cornerstones of our quality management procedures:

It starts with foundational research......

Those of you who have been with us for a while may notice that our carpet browsing has changed in Pharos v2.  We used to require users to select which fiber and which backing they wanted to see for a carpet style before they could view the final product profile and score.  But this approach made comparing carpet styles time-consuming.

In the new Pharos, carpet styles appear in product search results the same as for any product category.  If there are multiple options for backings and/or fibers for a given style, a default option has been selected for the purpose of browsing and comparing.  But we still let you select different carpet component options within the product profile.  How, you ask?   It’s really cool, and super fast….

In the Material Contents listing for a carpet style, if there are alternate options available for components,...

EPA Actions Offer More Support for LEED 2012 Approach to Chemicals of Concern: Comment Period Ends 3/20/12

Two actions from the US EPA last month reaffirm the serious and unique negative health impacts of the polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic lifecycle. For the green building community, the Agency's latest evaluations of PVC and dioxin affirm both the US Green Building Council's 2007 conclusion that PVC is not a healthy building material, and lend further support for a proposed LEED credit that would reward the avoidance of chemicals of concern, including halogenated plastics. It is clearer than ever why halogenated plastics such as PVC should be avoided in green buildings, and we urge your support for the draft "Chemicals of Concern" credit in LEED 2012. [You can read my colleague Tom Lent's comments on LEED 2012 and add your own here in ...