Notes from the ASC Sustainability Forum

Posted on 7/28/2014 10:34:42 AM By Paul Bertram

The ASC 2014 Sustainability Forum was the 2nd since its inception in 2011. This year’s Baltimore Forum was a series of well-balanced presentations beginning with a strong message from David Constable, Director—ACS Green Chemistry Institute. He discussed environmentally friendly scientists becoming increasingly conscious about the need to make chemistry more sustainable. David framed a responsible perspective regarding chemistry and its applications in industry. He discussed both the theoretical and practical aspects of green and sustainable chemistry.

I presented “Sustainability Trends in Building & Construction Markets that impact Adhesives and Sealants – A view from an Insulated Panel Manufacturer.”

After a brief definition of Sustainable Design that includes the informed selection of materials and products to reduce product life-cycle environmental impacts, improve performance and optimize occupant health and comfort, I discussed trends seen as insurmountable environmental challenges converging in arbitrary actions as mandatory assessment in whole building design, materials and systems.


 Market Influences

  • NGO’s
  • USGBC, GBI, LBC, UL, NSF, Red Lists, HPDs, C2C, EPDs,
  • AIA Materials Matter
  • Healthy Building network, Green Policy Institute, BIZNGO, others
  • Government – EPA, OSHA (MSDS), FTC (Green Guidelines)
  • Green Codes – IGCC, ASHRAE 189.1
  • Owners, Architects, Contractors
leed, cpa, hbn, cpa red list, hbn red list

EPDs were explained (see previous blog[PB1] ) that included discussion of the “Black Box” of evaluation tools. Quantitative uncertainty analysis is an increasingly accepted component of an LCA outcome.

Requiring EPDs (Environmental Product Declaration) based on LCA’s uncertainties becomes arbitrary action.

It is not well-recognized that randomly varying dependent parameters (as happens in a probabilistic simulation of a “black box” LCA model)  can lead to meaningless results, nor that a probabilistic treatment of uncertainty is not meaningful for all parameters input into an LCA model.

Basically this is telling us that there are “known” uncertainties in the data outputs and this was a key message in my presentation.

What is not currently reported in an EPD

Toxicity, and data related to hazards is not currently reported in an EPD because there are NO reliable data bases that adequately cover Hazards, Risks and Exposures. This became a central them for the rest of my presentation and those that followed.

The HPD (Health Product Declaration) is proposed as a tool to report chemical hazards in materials and components.


Image provided by The HPD Collaborative

My session closed with two key challenges:

  • Who is really qualified to make material selection – deselection decisions?

    • Architect
    • Specifier
    • Material Scientist
    • Biologist/Microbiologist
    • Chemist
    • Toxicologist
    • Industrial Hygienist
    • Clinical Scientist (Doctors)
  • How much weight should be considered on Full Disclosure Hazard based chemistry data with known uncertainties in material evaluation and specification in relationship to all the other criteria?

    • Design rationale
    • Functional Performance
    • Characteristics and uses
    • Comparison with competitive products
    • Limitations
    • Code compliance/standards conformance
    • Test or examinations (substantiated data)
    • How product is manufactured and
      raw materials contained
    • Interface with other products
    • Advantages
    • Delivery time
    • Environmental/Energy concerns
    • Expected useful life
    • Initial Costs
    • Installation methods and installer requirements
    • Location, displays or samples
    • Long-term costs
    • Rated capacity

Shift Focus from Safer to More Informed Choices

Pamela Spencer, Product Sustainability Consulting Director, Dow Chemical Company discussed available tools to identify and qualify “greener” ingredients or to identify chemicals to ban for use in consumer products. 

Key aspects of her presentation included:

  • Shift focus from Safer to More Informed Choices
    • You can’t prove safety – can only reduce risk
    • Options and trade-offs aren’t being discussed
  • Agree and focus on critical, distinguishable hazard criteria
    • CMR (Chemistry and Metallurgy Research) versus Non-CMR
    • Ecotoxicity
    • Sensitization
    • Eye/Skin irritation
    • PBTs
    • Reactive chemistries
  • Use modeling to interpret hazard data – guide “greener” choices
  • Accommodate emerging 21st Century Tox data/methods
  • MoE (Margin of Exposure) as useful to identify “lower risk” vs. “higher risks” products/chemicals
  • Use exposure as basis to identify ingredients of LOW concern
  • Move beyond hazard
  • Leverage current safety assessment methods/advancements to identify priorities
  • Useful data output relies on quality of information

sustainability, sustainability choices

Product Transparency Declaration

Bill Freeman, Technical Director, of the Resilient Floor Covering Institute. He discussed the Product Transparency Declaration that is a developing ASTM standard. This is proposed as an alternative to the HPD.

Key differences between the HPD and PTD include:

  • PTDs do not require disclosure of product formulas by reporting % of each product ingredient


  • HPDs require the % of each ingredient to be disclosed including indication of whether % varies over time HPD uses GreenScreen extensively to identify Benchmark 1 chemicals which have been so designated as “potentially” hazardous

  • PTD  Authoritative  lists:
    • IARC – International Agency on the Research of Cancer Terminology
    • National Toxicology Program – Known Carcinogen and Reasonably Anticipated Carcinogen
    • OSHA – Occupational Safety and Health Administration Carcinogen List
    • Prop 65 – California Proposition 65, Known to Cause Cancer or Reproductive Toxicity
    • REACH – Substances of Very High Concern – Candidate List of Substances of Very High Concern
    • USEPA TRI – Toxic Release Inventory – Persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) chemicals
  • HPD 30+ Hazard issuing agencies

Ingredient Disclosure along the Value Chain

Ann Mason, Senior Director, American Chemistry Council (ACC), spoke about already existing disclosure reporting formats. Her challenge to the current efforts, Like Pam Spenser’s presentation, was to add risk/exposure to the reporting, NOT just hazards. Hazards alone are not enough information.

epd, ansi

Ann ended with these desired outcomes:

hazard tool, chemicals, hpd

These are all important discussions within the architectural, engineering, construction industry as well as the chemical and adhesives and sealants industries. 

If you couldn't attend the Forum, presentations are available here.

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