The Signal: News and Notes from the Pharos Team

(updated 12/09/12)

The USGBC has taken a huge step forward to address toxics in building materials in the most recent draft LEED standard that is now in public comment. The credit called “MRc4 - Building product disclosure and optimization - material ingredients” rewards product  transparency to inform product selection and encourages avoidance of toxics in building materials.

The credit rewards use of the Health Product Declaration (HPD) for product disclosure and avoidance of products containing GreenScreen Benchmark 1 chemicals. It also allows an alternative path that utilizes the Cradle to Cradle program. This credit is part of a suite of three new materials credits. The other two address use of EPDs and responsible sourcing.

DEADLINE: Comments must be submitted to the USGBC by Monday, Dec 10th. The full credit text...

Late yesterday, NSF International issued a statement retracting its recent change in position on fly ash:

“NSF International, an independent organization that writes standards, and tests and certifies products for the building, food, water and consumer goods industries, has retracted verification of the claim that Boral Material Technologies fly ash is a post-consumer material.  Historically fly ash has been classified as a pre-consumer waste.”

The retraction is the latest setback for a fly ash industry that faces increased marketplace resistance and regulatory inquiry. Boral and Headwaters Resources, the two dominant fly ash marketers, are suing the US Environmental Protection Agency.  In October 2012, the EPA filed a motion to dismiss the Boral and Headwaters suits.

Once a cheerleader for the “beneficial reuse” of coal power plant waste, the EPA is considering quite the opposite...

Susan Sabella October 25th, 2012

Today, our production and research teams reached an important milestone in the expansion of the Pharos Building Product Library.  The Pharos Project now evaluates 1,000 building materials.  These materials range from massive sheets of plastic (roofing membranes) to nano-scale additives in paints and adhesives.

Pharos provides users with an unequalled depth and quality of information about most of the major types of interior building materials.  Our latest batch of products -- plywood, OSB, and engineered wood floors -- provide more points of comparison with other composite woods as well as floorings like carpet, solid wood, and resilient flooring.

We appreciate our subscribers' support and use of the Pharos system.  We hope you will join us in celebrating this landmark in our mission to transform the building materials market to advance the best possible environmental, health and social practices.

*** Nov. 20, 2012 update:  NSF International Retracts Post-Consumer Fly Ash Designation. Click here to read. ***

Should fly ash from coal fired power plants be considered post-consumer recycled material?  Amazingly, NSF International, the certification and standards institution, thinks so.  Two recent decisions added fuel to the debate about the use of coal-fired power plant waste in building materials:  First, NSF designated “Celceram” -- coal fly ash marketed by Boral Material Technologies -- as a 100% post-consumer product.  Then, by a 14-4 vote, an NSF Standards Committee decided to ...

Some publicly traded building product manufacturers, beginning in 2013, will be required to report on the presence of tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold in their products.   In a 3-2 vote last week, the US Securities and Exchange Commission adopted final rules that implement disclosure requirements for “conflict minerals.” These rules are required under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

Public companies will have to take certain actions if these metals are “necessary to the functionality or production of a product.”  The final rule says companies must conduct an inquiry to determine whether the metals originated in the covered countries (the Democratic Republic of the Congo and adjoining countries). If the materials are not recycled or scrap, and the origin was either the covered region or can not be determined, the company...

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