Two years ago award-winning architectural design firm Perkins+Will, a dominant force in the green building industry, released the Precautionary List. The list was designed to help spur communication between green building professionals about the health and environmental impacts of some of the products they use. Today, the firm has launched a new database that will enhance this dialogue, the Transparency Site.


“The database is the result of over two years of review of governmentally published scientific papers, which identify “precautionary”- substances that are known or suspected to cause harm to humans and the environment. This research is based on the Precautionary Principle, the idea that in the absence of scientific consensus, an action merits precautionary treatment if it has a suspected risk of causing harm to humans or to the environment.” Source Perkins+Will


The Transparency Site can be accessed in its entirety at no charge, making it the first site offering this type of data to the general public without a fee. I asked Chris Youssef, LEED AP BD+C, NCIDQ an Associate and Interior Designer with Perkins+Will about the decision to offer this research to the public for free.


“Perkins+Will purposely made the decision of offering the Transparency Site free to the public to stay within the spirits of transparency. We wanted to lead by example, that you can be transparent without losing work. We hope the Transparency Site will open some people’s eyes and helps them to realize the health effects of these substances. Ideally, we hope this will energize consumers—architects, designers, clients and end-users—to start pushing for manufacturers and their supply chains to not only be more transparent, but to change their networks of production, sourcing and manufacturing. Our goal is to create complete market transformation. We’re still a long way from that, unfortunately.”


The site includes several new features including an Asthma list and a Flame Retardants list. Chris Youssef explains Perkins+Will’s decision to focus on these two topics.


“We have created these lists as part of a larger effort to promote health in the built environment. There is a need for more research on the impact that materials and conditions in the built environment have on occupant health. Existing research data has not been compiled and made available in a form that is readily usable by building professionals for integrating health."


"Asthma, [is] a disease of high, and increasing prevalence and major economic importance. This list should be a valuable resource for identifying asthma triggers and asthmagens, minimizing their use in building materials and furnishings, and contributing to our larger goals of fostering healthier built environments."


"With flame-retardants we use this forum as an opportunity to educate, about the ongoing concerns around flame-retardants.”


As was the case with the original Precautionary List published in 2009, the Transparency Site is also a living document. According to Youssef, “as studies and resources become available we will update the site. In the future we do plan on adding more substances to all the lists and or possibly creating a new list, to expand on something that may be otherwise confusing.”


Learn more about the original Precautionary List, view the Asthma Triggers + Asthmagens list and read more about the dangers of Flame Retardants by visiting the Transparency Site.

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