4 Transparency Documents That Help Specification on Both LEED v4 & WELL Projects

Posted On: 
Jun 14, 2018
4 Transparency Documents That Help Specification on Both LEED v4 & WELL Projects

In a previous blog, we explored the WELL Standard and how it works together with LEED v4. While LEED v4 is concerned with the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of green buildings, homes, and neighborhoods—the outside of the structure—WELL Standard is focused on a holistic view of health.

According to the WELL website, “…human health as not only a state of being free of disease - which is indeed a fundamental component of health - but also of the enjoyment of productive lives from which we derive happiness and satisfaction. Healthy spaces protect us from that which can make us sick, promote practices that can keep us well, and facilitate opportunities for us to connect with one another and live our lives to the fullest.”

So if these two programs are different but the same, how does that affect specification? One aspect of specification that the programs share is the benefit of transparency documents.

Transparency Documents are the Manufacturer's Portfolio

Much like an actor who goes to an audition with their professional portfolio consisting of resume and photos, a product manufacturer’s portfolio should include transparency documents. There are four main documents:

  • Health Product Declarations (HPDs): According to transparency document provider, Elixir Environmental, an “HPD provides a standardized way of reporting the material contents of building products, and the health effects associated with these materials”. A previous blog, 3 Reasons Why a Health Product Declaration (HPD) Increases Specification Opportunities, explains why HPDs are important and how they can be of benefit toward LEED v4 specification.
  • Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs): An EPD is an independently verified and registered document that communicates information about the environmental impact throughout the life-cycle of products. EPDs require a Life Cycle Assessment in the process, but LCAs are a good document to have apart from an EPD.
  • Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs): LCA determine the total environmental impacts of a product or service, from extraction of raw materials all the way through end of life. Two types of LCAs are Cradle to Grave and Cradle to Cradle. Cradle to Grave is the full Life Cycle Assessment from resource extraction ('cradle') to use phase and disposal phase ('grave'). Cradle to Cradle is a form of cradle-to-grave assessment, where the end-of-life disposal step for the product is a recycling process. A great resource for learning about the Cradle to Cradle Certified Product Standard is the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute.
  • Declare Labels: Declare Labels are nutrition labels for products. They answer three questions—where does a product come from, what is it made of, and where does it go when it’s dead.

How These Documents Apply to LEED and WELL

As discussed in a previous post, 3 Ways LEED Product Documentation Leads to Product Specification, there are two categories in LEED v4 that transparency documents can be applied. LEED BD+C v4 Building Product Disclosure and Optimization-material ingredients utilizes HPDs, Declare, and Cradle to Cradle, while LEED BD+C v4 Building Product Disclosure and Optimization-environmental product declarations includes EPDs. For those familiar with LEED v4, this isn’t really new information. What may be new, though, is how transparency documents apply to WELL certification.

One of newly released WELL v2’s ten standards is Materials. Under this category, two sections include transparency documentation:

  • Materials: X13 Enhanced Material Precaution—Up to 2 points can be earned if all newly furnishings, built-in furniture, interior finishes and finish materials comply with some combination of transparency documentation, with Declare and Cradle to Cradle included in this category. This is a new section under the Materials category that wasn’t included in WELL v1.
  • Materials: X14 Material Transparency—Up to 2 points can be earned if all newly installed interior finishes and finish materials, furnishings (including workstations) and built-in furniture have some combination of material descriptions, with ingredients identified and disclosed to 1,000 ppm. This category includes Declare Labels, HPDs, and any screening and hazard disclosure method accepted in USGBC's LEED v4 MR credit: Building Product Disclosure and Optimization - Material Ingredients, Option 1: material ingredient reporting. If you were familiar with WELL v1, this is a change from WELL v1, as previously only 50% of furnishing were required to meet the standard in order to earn points.

Kill Two Birds with One Stone

It is exciting and encouraging to see how LEED v4 and WELL v2 go hand in hand regarding transparency documentation, and how specification opportunities for product manufacturers are increased. Because both standards seek to better the environment, it makes sense that they would overlap and work together. As transparency documentation becomes the norm, architects and designers are going to be requiring them for specification.

You can find more information on by taking the courses offered in our LEED Education Bundle on HPDs, LCAs, EPDs, and LEED v4, among other topics. This can greatly increase your understanding of the benefits of transparency documents. And if you’re looking for assistance in preparing your transparency documentation, Elixir Environmental is a great resource.

Have you been specified on a WELL project yet? How does the process compare to LEED specification?

For more information or to discuss the topic of this blog, please contact Brad Blank