A Nutrition Label For Building Products

We know what ingredients are in many of the products we buy, but often have no idea what the buildings we spend our lives in are made of. The Building Product Transparency Project is trying to change that.



Transparency is becoming increasingly important for a number of industries; you probably have some idea about the ingredients in your food, and thanks to sites like GoodGuide, your electronics, cleaning products, and clothing. But the building products industry remains disturbingly opaque. You have no idea what your house or office is made of. Since we spend so much of our time indoors, shouldn’t we have a better idea of what, exactly, we’re being exposed to? The Building Product Transparency Project, a partnership between design firm Perkins+Will and architectural product company Construction Specialties, is planning to shed a little light on the industry.

The project, which grew out of Perkins+Will’s Precautionary List (a list of chemicals described as hazardous to human health by government agencies and what classes of building products they are found in), is starting small, with a flooring system from Construction Specialties called the PediTred.

“We really don’t know what our buildings are made out of. We spend
billions of dollars in the construction industry without fully knowing the
history,” explains Peter Syrett, associate
principal at Perkins+Will. “The analogy to a food label is a perfect one. Every morning when you wake up
you can turn your box of Cheerios around and say, I want to eat this or
maybe not. This label is about empowerment.”

The PediTred, found at the entranceways of commercial buildings like airports, hospitals, and grocery stores, will soon feature a label that explains attributes like the contents of the product and the materials used. A link points users to a website that expands on the label with information on warranty info, the percentage of recycled content, whether the product is recyclable, energy intensity used in production, water use, carbon footprint, and more. Think of it as nutrition information for your building.

“We’re trying to make it easy to disclose a lot of complex info in an easy and accessible way,” says Curt Fessler, Construction Specialties’ Marketing and Product
Development Manager.


All of the company’s PediTred G4‘s will go out with the label next year, and eventually, Construction Specialties expects to expand the label to the whole PediTred line. Fessler hopes that other building companies will adapt the label, but we’re guessing companies that don’t have anything to hide will be first on board–the PediTred is Cradle to Cradle certified.

[Image: Flickr user Stuck In Customs]

Reach Ariel Schwartz via Twitter or email.

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more