By Tristan Roberts, HPDC, Director of Technical and Education Programs

The following was originally published as a comment in response to the January 2019 BuildingGreen article, LEED and WELL Product Labels: A Guide and Analysis. That article, written by BuildingGreen’s Paul Melton, focuses on specific uses of the HPD report for ingredient disclosure. However, as discussed below, the role of the HPD Open Standard is much bigger than that! Here’s the comment…

Thank you Paula Melton and BuildingGreen for this valuable reference to key programs.

Here at the Health Product Declaration Collaborative (HPDC), we appreciate your recognition of the HPD as “the gold standard” for disclosure. However, the HPD Open Standard is doing a lot more to support what we refer to as the “ecosystem” of product data than meets the eye here.

When the conveners of the HPD Open Standard came together in 2011—why did they develop an open standard? Let’s look at Ethernet—another open standard—as an analogy. Ethernet provides a single, widely accepted specification for how computers communicate with each other. This underpinning specification enables applications to be built to a Standard, confident that they can pass data back and forth with no need to decode or interpret data from one system into another. Standardization of this networking technology enables a low-cost, interoperable solution for basic Internet connectivity for all kinds of devices, all over the world. Companies can rely on Ethernet without having to solve this basic connectivity problem over and over, or navigate and interpret competing standards. Those companies can in turn solve more complex, specialized problems.

In the building products industry, the industry consensus behind the HPD Open Standard ensures that the data for all products reported with the Standard is consistent. This enables participants to report their data with confidence that it can be reused in all harmonized applications. It also ensures that there will not be variances in reporting methods that in turn would affect how a product is rated.

The ecosystem of participants benefiting from this includes not only manufacturers reporting data, but also certifications, rating systems, product selection tools and databases, researchers, and ultimately, designers selecting products.

Harmonization around the HPD Open Standard includes Declare, Cradle to Cradle, GreenScreen, BIFMA and others. HPDC and now over 250 member organizations represent this growing ecosystem of partners.

Q: Is the HPD Open Standard difficult for manufacturers to navigate, as suggested by BuildingGreen as a “Con” of the HPD?

A: The transparency journey is precisely hard as the industry consensus asks for it to be. In good faith to those manufacturers on the journey, HPDC makes it as easy as possible and helps deliver the highest possible ROI—with the harmonization benefits explored above.

Manufacturers, particularly those new to transparency reporting, do have a learning curve as they dive in. And frankly, they should. If the work were easy and already accomplished, we wouldn’t be just learning now, through this process, which of the 84,000 chemicals used in commerce are in our building materials. But the HPD Open Standard offers clear instructions and a straightforward HPD Builder that walks manufacturers through the process with a complete online system for creating and publishing HPDs. HPDC also offers free support to anyone through its online portal.

The information gathered by the HPD is what designers and product certifiers are asking for, and manufacturers are providing it: there are currently over 4,300 published HPDs from over 600 manufacturers in the HPD Public Repository.

Your article notes that GreenScreen scores are unfamiliar to many, which is true. Even though GreenScreen has become widely adopted for hazard screening in the building products industry, many are just now beginning to learn about transparency and material health. This is one reason why the HPD includes a second form of hazard information, one that is immediately clear to the reader: hazard warnings such as cancer risk, development toxicity risk, and 15 other hazard types.

Our third-party verification program is new and growing rapidly, and we expect more uptake as LEED v4.1 now incentivizes verified HPDs.

The HPD Open Standard is updated on an annual basis, to ensure it is reflecting the learning of our industry and the consensus of stakeholders. Our Technical Committee, composed of 17 industry leaders, oversees this revision process, and invites comments and feedback from all.

Tristan Roberts is Director of Technical and Education Programs for HPDC. You can reach him with comments and feedback at troberts@hpd-collaborative.org.