Our interview with LEED expert Josée Lupien, of Vertima Environmental Certification Experts
Green building standards such as LEED v4.1 and WELL are increasingly important in today’s world. Building professionals need to understand how to develop projects which meet these standards, as part of a larger move toward a sustainable and healthy built environment. Health Product Declarations®, or HPD®, are an integral piece of the puzzle. We asked Josée Lupien, LEED fellow and president of Vertima: Environmental Certification Experts, what you need to know about HPD®. Here’s what she had to say.
Walker Glass – Josée, thank you for sitting down with us today. Let’s start with the basics.
1. What is an HPD®?
Josée Lupien – An HPD®, or Health Product Declaration®, is a report which discloses a material’s ingredients at the chemical level. It is based on a standard developed by the Health Product Declaration® Collaborative (HPDC). This gives manufacturers a well-established procedure for technical reporting, and it gives users standardized readings on a manufacturer’s product. So it makes sure that everyone has access to the same methodology.
WG – That seems like an important first step. It means we can all speak the same language when it comes to product data disclosure.
2. Why should architects choose products with HPD® documentation?
JL – It’s important to look at HPD® as a tool for transparency. The HPD® doesn’t necessarily mean a product is environmentally friendly. However, by disclosing health product data in an HPD®, manufacturers show that they are acting in good faith and give architects the opportunity to make informed choices. That’s why we talk a lot about transparency, to start.
Let’s look at this in the context of green building certifications, such as LEED. When architects look at manufacturers and assess their HPD®, it’s a first step. However, they’ll expect the manufacturers to try to improve their results moving forward. HPD® reports are valid for three years, and those three years give manufacturers a window of opportunity to optimize their materials and processes. By doing so, they can expect better ratings, which means their products can help a project earn more LEED points.
WG – So the next time a manufacturer goes through the HPD® process, the results may be better, because they’ve made some changes to their manufacturing processes.
JL – Exactly.
3. What should architects look for when they’re reviewing an HPD®?
JL –There are a few key things to look at.
- First, check to see if the report is complete.
- See whether the HPD® is still valid. You’ll find publication and expiry dates at the foot of the first page.
- Check the disclosure threshold in Section 1: Summary. Some reports disclose ingredients at a threshold of 100 parts per million (ppm). Others use 1,000ppm.
- Make sure that the product covered by the HPD® is the same one that you’ll be using in your building project. That’s really important.
Finally, check to see whether the declaration is self-declared or prepared by a third party. Since it’s an open standard, manufacturers can prepare the HPD® themselves. However, in that case the documents will be marked “self-declared”. Since we’re looking for transparency, this isn’t the ideal method.
4. What can manufacturers do to be as transparent as possible?
JL – In the last few years, the HPD® Collaborative has identified a group of experts recognized by the HPDC, who are approved to prepare HPD® reports as unbiased third parties. There are two levels. You can have an HPD® prepared by a third partly, and/or you can have one verified by a third party. When Vertima prepares an HPD® for a company, it is marked “Prepared by independent certifier approved by HPDC.”
“Health Product Declarations® are a commitment to transparency and improvement. It’s not something you do for marketing cachet. It needs to become part of the company’s DNA.”
- Josée Lupien
WG – Is it better to have a third party like Vertima prepare the HPD®, or for the manufacturer to prepare it and send it to you for verification?
JL – It’s better if we prepare it, but we can go even further. Even if we prepared it, was there an approved third party who verified it afterward, to challenge the results? That’s something we always do when working on Environmental Product Declarations (EPD). We are qualified experts to prepare EPDs, but we also send these documents to a third party for peer review. This additional step challenges our results and our interpretations, which adds credibility to the data.
This extra step is an obligatory part of the EPD process, but it’s optional when preparing an HPD®. It’s a “nice to have”. However, when you take the additional step to verify your HPD® with a third party approved by HPDC, it adds value under LEED v4.1.
WG – Okay, so you would go through this additional validation and it would contribute more value toward LEED points. Does it cost more?
JL – Yes, there is an additional cost because there’s another party involved, but it is still affordable. The manufacturer may not see an immediate return on the investment, but the users will benefit. A third-party verified HPD® delivers one and a half times the value of an unverified HPD®.
“It’s important to manage the raw materials and processes involved, from the manufacturer all the way to installation. An HPD® helps manufacturing companies, but also architects and users. In my opinion, that’s the most important thing to remember.”
- Josée Lupien
5. Other than earning LEED points, what are the benefits of having an HPD®?
JL – There are two benefits. The declarations can give confidence to architects and other users, by showing that a manufacturer has been transparent and disclosed a product’s information. They can also know if there are materials in the product that may be harmful to people’s health. All of that information is detailed in the report.
WG – If the product is going to be used in a hospital, or a school, for example, it seems like it would be important to know that the materials are safe.
JL – Yes, but it’s not only about the end use. We have to take into account that the analysis is based on the raw materials. Even if a product is perfectly safe in its final setting, that’s not the whole picture. We want to know if it’s safe for the workers who make it, and for the people installing it. An HPD® helps us choose the best products for everyone’s health, from start to finish.
WG – Okay, that makes a lot of sense. That also explains why an HPD® is important for fabricators, contractors, and for the entire construction industry. It’s to protect the health of everyone involved in the process.
JL – Exactly. It’s important to manage the raw materials and processes involved, from the manufacturer all the way to installation. Basically, we take the product, the material in the raw state, into consideration to assess the impact on people’s health. An HPD® helps manufacturing companies, but also architects and users. In my opinion, that’s the most important thing to remember.
Points to remember
- Health Product Declarations® demonstrate to users that the manufacturer is committed to transparency and full disclosure.
- It helps builders to choose one product over another, based on industry-standard criteria.
- Architects and building owners can use the HPD® to help products contribute more toward LEED or WELL qualification.
- Manufacturers gain a detailed overview of their products’ effects on people’s health. They can use the information from one HPD® to optimize their results on future HPD®.
- The HPD® process helps everyone in the building industry make better choices for human health, from raw product manufacturing all the way to final installation.
Recognized for their leading-edge expertise in green building and LEED certification, Josée Lupien, LEED Fellow, BD+C & ID+C, WELL AP, President, and Jean DesRosiers , LEED AP BD+C, Vice-President, have brought together a team of experts with in-depth knowledge of environmental analyses of construction materials, as well as extensive experience in the implementation of green building projects.
With more than 30 years of experience in the manufacturing industry and having worked with numerous architects, engineers and building contractors, Ms. Lupien and Mr. DesRosiers decided to invest in the green building sector by establishing Vertima in 2008.
Today, thanks to its team of experienced and specialized professionals, Vertima actively supports manufacturers and stakeholders involved in green building and sustainable construction projects and, more specifically, LEED certification.