Moving Towards Materials that Matter - Doo Consulting Blog

Moving towards Materials that Matter

On July 8, HDR, Inc., an 8,000 employee global architectural firm, issued a Press Release declaring that they are giving notice to all product manufacturers with whom they do business that they will be expecting Health Product Declarations (HPD) or Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) for building products and materials. An HPD is a disclosure of information regarding building product content and associated health information, that defines the critical information that is needed by building designers, specifiers, owners and users. A schedule has been set in a letter to the manufacturers, dated June 17, 2013, that these HPDs and EPDs will be provided by January 1, 2014, in order for sales representatives to be able to make presentations to the HDR staff, a common practice in the design industry. Companies who have provided this information by January 1, 2015, will receive preferential consideration for inclusion in project specifications.

While HDR, Inc. has already issued this announcement, a coalition of other large firms are preparing to follow suit. It is my understanding that an announcement by that coalition is due out later this summer. From what I hear, this coalition could represent as much as 30% of global construction.

Why the push for product disclosures? We have known for quite some time that many of the ingredients in the building materials that are used in construction include chemicals that are harmful to human and environmental health either in the manufacturing process or as installed or both. Many of these chemicals are well known to both the building industry and the general public. Chemicals such as mercury, lead and asbestos are already commonly avoided. Others are less familiar such as phthalates, fire retardants, cadmium and formaldehyde. While some of these chemicals are a part of the formula for products for a reason, architects, owners and the general public should be able to decide whether the benefit are worth the risk and whether there are alternatives. The first step to being able to make informed decisions is to be able to have the information in the first place.

There are two primary reasons for this initiative. One is that it is the responsible thing to do to protect the public health. The other is risk mitigation on the part of the design community. That this grassroots initiative, born of a group of design firms getting together to advocate for change, should be happening now is ironic given the hue and cry created by a similar requirement proposed as a part of the next version of LEED. LEED version4, which just passed ballot after a one-year delay and six public comment periods, retained this credit for product ingredient disclosure (which is optional), though it was hard fought.

This initiative is likely to be followed by other entities, large and small. I know of some cities that are considering a similar requirement while companies like Google and others already have chemical restricted material requirements for their buildings. I have contacted several smaller companies that I work with to see if they are aware of this initiative among design firms. When asked what they intend to do, I am impressed with the level of support that I hear. Appropriately cautious, they all intend to watch this carefully.

More than a year ago, while the materials credit debate raged around the early drafts of LEED v4, I predicted that product ingredient transparency would be the next market transformation in the design and construction industry. There was the usual concern about its impact on costs, new product reliability, effects on the building industry in the midst of a recession and so on.

The buildings and environments that we create will now have the opportunity to be healthier and the processes that are employed to create them will be healthier too. These disclosures are going to change what the marketplace will expect and buy. That will, in turn, change how materials are produced and what our products are made of. There will be new jobs in the chemical and manufacturing industries. Demand for healthier interiors in existing buildings will create new opportunities for design and construction. Hats off to the firms that are taking the lead in this important effort.

Another Kind of Reform for Health Care - Doo Consulting Blog

Sustainability: Another Kind Of Reform For Health Care?

Hospital executives, politicians and citizens alike already know that costs and spending on health care are unsustainable. In 2010, more than $2.6 trillion dollars were spent delivering health care in the US, and health care spending is increasing faster than per-capita income. Reform efforts are underway to address the problems, but the challenges are tremendously complex, and require new, creative strategies.

One cost-savings strategy worth talking about is greening health care buildings and operations. Hospital boards, administrators, patients, community residents, politicians, and policy makers could benefit from learning the diverse ways in which these “returns” manifest – particularly when margins for hospitals are so low, and increasingly at risk.


Estimates for construction on new health care facilities range from $15 to $40 billion per year in the coming years. These new buildings may feature state-of-the-art medical technology, but many health care facilities, especially hospitals, are not designed and built using green building methods. In spite of increasingly available evidence of return on investment data that supports green building, there is still far to go before these design strategies become the norm.

What would happen if hospital executives asked the building industry to take a fresh view of what a hospital could and should be? What if green building standards were followed in the design of all health care facilities? The potential savings from improvements in energy and water use, reduced medical errors, reduced waste and improved patient outcomes is in the billions. Let’s take a look at how that potential can be achieved.


Savings are possible through many facets of sustainable design. Energy is one of the greatest expenses for health care facilities. Hospitals are ’24/7′ operations, so they use twice the amount of energy per square foot compared to office buildings. Through early planning, sustainable design strategies can achieve energy reductions of 12 to 20 percent in any facility – medical arts building, hospital, laboratory. Imagine if the health care industry as a whole were to embrace not only energy conservation but energy integration, in which waste heat or energy is recaptured as an energy source for other areas of the building. Building by building, system by system, and nationwide, the savings would grow from the millions…to the billions of dollars.


Water is extensively used in hospitals, and is a precious, costly resource – and potable water is often wasted just for equipment cooling purposes. In fact, process water (for chilling, laundry, boilers, etc.) comprises about 75 percent of hospital water use. Reductions in water usage of 20, 30 or 40 percent are now possible through green building technologies – yielding savings of hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings for each facility. And, of course, less water usage means less energy usage. When health care profit margins are so small, hospital administrators and other decision makers to know about savings of this magnitude.


A green building also means a people-centered building – this means a building that puts a premium on the health, comfort, day lighting and views for the individuals that use the building – either as the employees, visitors or patients. There are an increasing number of studies that can show that avoiding volatile building materials leads to fewer employee sick days, more comfortable environments often result in higher productivity and may even contribute to improvements in patient outcomes, or a sense of “feeling better.”

Using green building techniques and technologies, experienced sustainable design teams can help committed health care organizations to build their facilities affordably, with appropriate sustainability goals. If green building opportunities are discussed, planned and integrated early in the design process, construction costs for building green can be minimized.


There is no argument that health care costs are increasing; energy costs are rising; water scarcity issues are on the horizon; the population is aging and living longer with more chronic diseases. And even if there were a debate about the cause of climate change, few would refute that there are changes in our climate.

Given these new issues and the green building benefits described above, it is time for a discussion about building more cost-effective, efficient, health care facilities that will ultimately make the health care system more sustainable.

The US Green Building Council Maryland Chapter has organized a program to make the connection between ROI and sustainability, and sustainability and health. It takes place on on September 13th, in Baltimore, Maryland.


Healthy Buildings/Healthy Hospitals: The Human + Financial Return on Investment

When: September 13th, 2012, 7:30 AM to 11 AM
Where: 750 E. Pratt Street, Baltimore, MD 21202

Speakers include executives from area hospitals, sharing case studies of LEED Certified and Registered hospitals:

  • Carolyn Core of Anne Arundel Medical Center,
  • David Stokes on behalf of Holy Cross Hospital, and
  • Tony Kelly from Shore Health System
  • Chris Mundell of HKS, author of a program on LEED for Health Care, with national experience designing a variety of LEED certified buildings, including hospitals, will moderate the first panel.

And speakers discussing State and National initiatives for hospitals embracing sustainability:

  • Joan Plisko, Director of Maryland Hospitals for a Healthy Environment discussing the advances in sustainable operations across Maryland hospitals;
  • Seema Wadhwa, Director of the National Healthier Hospitals Initiatives on challenging hospital executives to accept one or more of seven health and sustainability goals in hospitals across the country
  • Rebecca Ruggles from the Maryland Environmental Health Network regarding the impact of environmental issues on health in Baltimore and the wide-scale, collaborative effort in hospitals and schools underway in Baltimore City, and
  • Melissa Gallagher-Rogers from USGBC National discussing LEED for Health Care projects across the country, and the new health initiative at USGBC.

Come participate in this groundbreaking event and be a part of shaping the future of how health care facilities are designed, built and operated.

To register, click here or go to

For more information, contact Lorraine Doo at 410-207-0682 or at lorraine[at]dooconsulting[dot]net.