We expect the buildings we work, live and socialise in to be safe and free from materials that would be harmful to us and the world around us.
For the past almost two decades, the International Living Future Institute (ILFI) has been working towards this goal with the development of the Living Building Challenge (LBC) Red List.
What is the Red List
Developed by the ILFI, in collaboration with the Healthy Building Network and the Pharos Project in 2006, the LBC Red List represents the materials, chemicals and elements used in the building products industry, that are known to be a risk to human and environmental health.
The ILFI believe the following materials should be phased out of production, with the Red List continuously being added to as each new version of the LBC Standard is released:
Bisphenol A (BPA)
Chlorosulfonated polyethlene (CSPE)
Chlorinated Polyvinyl Chloride (CPVC)
Halogenated flame retardants (HFRs)
Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)
Perfluorinated Compounds (PFCs)
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
Polyvinylidene Chloride (PVDC)
Short Chain Chlorinated Paraffins
Wood treatments containing creosote, arsenic or pentachlorophenol
Wood, being the only other building material that is an alternative to concrete, needs certain treatments to make it more durable and suitable to be used as such. One such treatment is with creosote, a compound that preserves wood and prevents rotting. Unfortunately, it is also a lung irritant when inhaled, and direct exposure could cause skin blistering, peeling, and reddening.
Arsenic is another substance used to treat wood for use as a building material. Immensely toxic, it is used to treat the wood to deter wood-eating insects, although the toxicity does not limit itself only to insects, as it also affects humans as well.
Pentachlorophenol is a compound used in wood preservation as it also deters wood-eating insects from degrading the wood. It also happens to be highly toxic, and even short-term exposure through inhalation is dangerous. This compound affects the kidney, blood, liver, immune system, and the respiratory tract. It is even being eyed as a possible carcinogen.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in wet applied products
Exceptions to the Red List
There are, however, specific exceptions to some of the items in this list, as they could be found in minute traces in complex products, mostly those that have compounds of several chemicals mixed in.
Declaring Red List items
As the chemicals and compounds in the Red List are of varying levels of toxicity, there have been material evaluation programs created to ensure building materials containing any of the items on this list are properly identified.
This includes declaration, which requires a manufacturer to disclose all of their product's constituent chemicals and materials, including the amount present (to the designated 100 parts per million of PPM). The manufacturer is required to report the extent that their product is compliant with the Red List. Compliance to the Red List typically comes in three levels:
- Free: The product is completely devoid of any of the items that appear in the Red List
- Compliant: The product may contain some chemicals that has been designated as temporary Red List exceptions for one reason or another
- Declared: Products in this level are not compliant at all with the Red List or any specified temporary exceptions
At NBS, we request all manufacturers listing their products on NBS Source to declare any Red List items, so specifiers can be confident that they have all the information they need to make informed decisions when specifying products and systems.
NBS Source integrates directly with our specification writing software, NBS Chorus, making it easy for specifiers to find, select and specify manufacturer products at the click of a button.