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Avoiding Toxic Chemicals in Commercial Building Projects

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Toxicity, the ability of a substance to poison living things, is no simple thing to define or measure. A chemical can be toxic to one species but not another: think of goats blithely eating poison ivy. A chemical may be harmful to eat but not to touch. Unlike with poison ivy, you can brush past the deadly belladonna plant without risk: you have to eat part of the plant in order to be harmed. Socially acceptable drugs like alcohol and even vital nutrients, including water, can be fatal if we have too much.

Toxic substances come in different forms and have different toxic effects, but certain forms of toxic chemicals tend to be a higher priority for green building decisions—and it is these chemicals that are discussed in depth in a new BuildingGreen handbook, Avoiding Toxic Chemicals in Commercial Building Projects.

The handbook divides this complex and daunting issue into easily digestible parts, providing an introduction for those new to the topic, a deeper dive for those ready for more information, and an easy reference guide for those who already know the ropes. The handbook includes:

• Rule-of-thumb guidance on what to spec—and what not to

• A reality check about cost, availability, and tradeoffs

• Links to standout products from the GreenSpec guide

• Clear guidance on which chemicals matter most and why the alternatives aren’t always better

• Help with navigating red lists and certification programs

• Case studies of several projects, including interviews with architects, consultants, and other experts from Turner Construction, HOK, Perkins+Will, and Google

Click here to get your report, which includes one month of free trial access to BuildingGreen Suite. (EBN subscribers who are logged in will automatically get a reduced price.) See below for continuing education information for report buyers who also subscribe to EBN or BuildingGreen Suite.

Continuing Education

Download the handbook and take the quiz to receive continuing education credit. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has approved this course for 8 HSW Learning Units. The Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) has approved this course for 8 GBCI CE hours towards the LEED Credential Maintenance Program.

Learning Objectives

Upon completing this course, participants will be able to:

  1. List the most common toxic hazards associated with all types of building materials.
  2. Understand the risks of volatile organic compounds and persistent toxic substances.
  3. Recognize the shortcomings of available alternatives.
  4. Make informed decisions about toxic chemicals in building projects.

To earn credit, download and read the handbook, then make sure you are logged into your personal BuildingGreen account, return here, and take this quiz.

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July 19, 2012