Update! HEALTHY BUILDING NETWORK IS NOW HABITABLE.
Update! HEALTHY BUILDING NETWORK IS NOW HABITABLE.
Update! HEALTHY BUILDING NETWORK IS NOW HABITABLE.
Update! HEALTHY BUILDING NETWORK IS NOW HABITABLE.
Update! HEALTHY BUILDING NETWORK IS NOW HABITABLE.
Update! HEALTHY BUILDING NETWORK IS NOW HABITABLE.

Habitable’s report, “Advancing Health and Equity through Better Building Products,” reveals the current state of building materials used, with nearly 70% of typical products in the categories analyzed containing or relying on the most hazardous chemicals.

The results, based on data for Minnesota affordable housing, are consistent with products used in other building types and geographic regions. The report highlights examples of leaders within and beyond Minnesota’s built environment who are already taking action toward safer material choices. It also provides guidance on how the real estate industry can begin working toward a healthier future by “stepping up from red-ranked products”—the most polluting and harmful throughout their life cycle based on Habitable’s research and Informed™ product guidance.

The Equitable and Just National Climate Platform is a collaborative effort between environmental justice and national environmental groups to develop inclusive and equitable national climate policy ideas and advocate for shared policy goals.

The Environmental Justice Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform is a national network of grassroots organizations advocating for safer chemicals and a pollution-free economy, focusing on communities disproportionately impacted by toxic chemicals and pollution.

Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE) advocates for a future free from the impacts of toxic chemicals with a focus on gender justice and intersectional solidarity, using expertise in research, advocacy, and organizing.

Learn about the United Nations’ General Comment No. 26, which provides guidance on implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child regarding children’s rights and the environment, focusing on the impact of toxic substances.

The Lower Sioux nation are pioneering a first-of-it’s-kind green experiment with a manufacturing campus that integrates vertical hemp growing, hempcrete insulation processing, and healthy home construction, aiming to address housing and job shortages while reclaiming sovereignty.

Overwhelming evidence suggests our health and well-being are significantly impacted by the conditions in the environment where we are born, live, learn, work, and play, with some suggesting that our zip codes are better predictors of health than our genetic code.

Also referred to as social determinants of health , these conditions range from access to and quality of education, transport, and health care services to housing conditions and the toxics and pollutants we are exposed to in the neighborhoods we live in. 

While definitions may vary around what these conditions are and which should be prioritized, there is general consensus that: 

  • These conditions exist because of decision-making processes, policies, structures, and practices designed and implemented by humans;
  • These conditions create inequities in health, disproportionately impacting low-income families, families living with incomes below the federal poverty level, and people of color, and; 
  • Cross-sector collaboration is needed to deliver the highest standards of health for all, with special attention given to the needs of those who are at greatest risk.

In alignment with efforts tackling the root causes of health inequities, Healthy Building Network (HBN) entered into a partnership with United Renters for Justice (IX), a nonprofit working to transform the Minneapolis housing system, to reduce tenant exposures to toxic chemicals used in building products. Funded through an Environmental Assistance grant by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), this collaborative project prioritized toxic exposure reduction in areas designated to be of environmental justice (EJ) concern by the MPCA. EJ concern areas include tribal land and census tracts with higher concentrations of low-income residents and people of color – communities that are disproportionately impacted by toxic chemical exposures and other forms of pollution. 

This collaboration provided the unique opportunity to embrace the perspective of tenants in the co-creation of resources to help them make informed decisions about the products used in their housing units and common areas. Specifically, this meant designing resources that would leverage IX’s organization and mobilization skills as well as the structure of a recently established tenant cooperative, “A Sky Without Limits.” Also, it meant increasing information accessibility, for example, through the use of non-technical language and making the resources available in both English and Spanish.

Tenant organizations and other stakeholders can access HBN’s healthier building product guidance at informed.habitablefuture.org and by watching this 10-minute seminar video: 

Watch the Seminar (English)
Ver el Seminario (Español)

This high-level, 10-minute recording can be used to educate the general public (e.g., tenant meetings) about the importance of avoiding toxic products. It begins by breaking down myths and misconceptions around the perceived hazards and safety of natural and synthetic chemicals and discusses how toxic products impact individuals and families, especially children, along the lifecycle of products.

By empowering the people most affected by toxic chemical exposures to advocate for and create change in their living conditions, this project creates avenues for creating a safer environment for all. Anyone who influences product purchasing decisions – including manufacturers, building owners, managers, developers, architects, investors, policy makers, and consumers – has the power and responsibility to reduce health inequities for those using or exposed to those products every day. This includes residents, workers, installers, and the communities that surround the facilities where these materials are processed and disposed of. By making material health a priority in your decision-making processes, you’ll be joining efforts to tackle the root causes of health inequities in communities around the world. Visit informed.habitablefuture.org to learn how our building product guidance can help you make better material choices.

In this case study, Healthy Building Network and Energy Efficiency for All teamed up to apply a framework for considering life cycle chemical and environmental justice impacts to the primary component of fiberglass insulation: glass fibers.

The case study explores the chemical hazards associated with the manufacture of glass fibers and the localized impacts that facilities have on communities and workers. It includes an example of chemical movements within the supply chain and highlights end of life scenarios for fiberglass insulation. Overall findings are coupled with specific recommendations for policymakers and for manufacturers throughout the supply chain.

Supporting Documents: 

In this case study, Healthy Building Network and Energy Efficiency for All teamed up to apply a framework for considering life cycle chemical and environmental justice impacts to the primary component of spray polyurethane foam insulation: isocyanates.

The case study explores the chemical hazards associated with the manufacture of isocyanates and the localized impacts that facilities have on communities and workers. It includes an example of chemical movements within the supply chain and highlights end of life scenarios for SPF. Overall findings are coupled with specific recommendations for policymakers and for manufacturers throughout the supply chain.

Supporting Documents: 

Product manufacturers, policymakers, and professionals in the building industry are paying more attention to the potential health and environmental impacts of building products during installation and use, but there has been less consideration of the important chemical impacts, including contributions to environmental injustice or environmental racism, that may occur during other life cycle stages. 

Healthy Building Network (HBN) teamed up with Energy Efficiency for All (EEFA) to expand understanding of products’ life cycle health and environmental justice impacts. Together, the two organizations developed a framework based on the principles of green chemistry and the principles of environmental justice, and applied this framework to two widely-used insulation materials: fiberglass and spray polyurethane foam (SPF) insulation. 

Supporting Documents: 

  • Case study on Isocyanates in Spray Polyurethane Foam
  • Case study on Glass Fibers in Fiberglass Insulation