21 January 2009

Pharos - the future of Material Selection

The Pharos Project acts as a 'nutrition label' for building materials. The mission of the Pharos Project is to establish an evaluation tool used by green building professionals and consumers to weigh product choices based on a uniform rating scale that is balanced in three key areas: Health and pollution, Environment and resources, Social and community. The goal is to harness the power of consumer choice to generate a materials economy that is open, fair, efficient, renewable, non-toxic, and self-reporting.

This type of unbiased knowledge-based assistance in building material selection will help designers and consumers make wise and informed choices. Finally we can easily and graphically look at the life-cycle effects of each product under consideration. Now we can know who the outreaching arm of our products is touching, from material extraction all the way to material disposal. Accountability such as this will help encourage companies to work towards a healthy balance in both environmental and social issues. In turn, this will create product transparency and help hold manufacturers responsible for their actions.

Health + Pollution
-IAQ and User Exposure
-High Hazard Toxics
-Global Warming
-Air Quality
-Water Quality

Environment + Resources
-Renewable Energy
-Embodied Water
-Solid Waste
-Renewable Materials Use
-Embodied Energy

Social + Community
-Occupational Health & Safety
-Consumer Health & Safety
-Fairness & Equity
-Community Relations
-Corporate Leadership

Graphic explanation:
1. The name Pharos has been given to the project for symbolic reasons. Pharos was a technological wonder of its age, the ingenuity of its lens construction inspiring contemporaries with the distance of its signal. Similarly, our Pharos will signal our ideals while providing reliable navigational aids even now while society remains lost at sea on materials policy.
2. The Lens will contain all impact-related information on the product related to the manufacturing or upstream phases of the products lifecycle.
3. The Sliding Bars will cover upstream or usage-phase information related to energy and water use, and allows people to gauge the relative performance of the product compared to others in its class.
4. Products Identifiers will identify the company's name and the specific product or model that is being rated.
5. Signal Issues section will cover a range of topics that are currently hot buttons and important features found in products today.
6. Made In section will state where the product was made, starting with the primary location (city and country) and all secondary (country only).
7. Contains section that lists all ingredients found in the product to be organized by component and in descending quantities.


CatherineWO said...

I am thrilled to see this. One of the biggest problems I have had in finding building products that are chemically safe for me (I have severe chemical sensitivity) is the inability to determine ingredients of products. I hope that the market demand for this will push manufacturers to adopt it.

Ujlapana said...

This doesn't seem like a very active project. Most of the web site seems about a year or more out of date. Only two product categories are on the wiki, one from last May. Wood flooring has been a shell since 2007! Seems like something that will get lost behind LEED and better funded standards such as NAHB.

green mormon architect said...

Me too Catherine - I hope that people will begin to demand this type of information from the products they are buying.

green mormon architect said...

You're right Ujlapana, it doesn't seem to be too active, but I think they are still in process of developing it. This is under the direction of the Cascadia Green Building Council, though, rather than the USGBC. And in many ways they are a step ahead of LEED and the USGBC, so I will be surprised to see it dropped.

Nikki said...

Thank you for a straightforward and visual explanation!