Healthy Materials Requirements

The Charleston East Campus is being built to rigorous sustainability and transparency criteria with a focus on healthy materials to ensure that Charleston East embodies Google’s ongoing mission of creating physical environments that support human and environmental health. The goal: to engage in an open dialogue about material ingredients to drive the building industry toward greater transparency and more resilient practices.

To that end, Charleston East is pursuing a Materials Petal Certification under the Living Building Challenge (LBC) v3.1 with the International Living Future Institute (ILFI).  

Every artwork built for Charleston East Plaza must therefore be built from materials that meet the Red List Free and FSC-certified wood requirements, and support Zero Waste efforts, as follows:

Red List:

The LBC Red List is intended to eliminate worst-in-class materials and chemicals with the greatest impact to human and ecosystem health. This project restricts Red List ingredients from all products used in fabricating artworks.

Pathways to comply with the Red List:

  • Declare Label: Any product that has a Declare Label meets all material requirements. This is the most streamlined path toward fulfilling the Healthy Materials criteria.
  • Living Product Challenge Certified: Like a Declare Label, any product that is Living Product Challenge Certified will also meet all of the material requirements.
  • Health Product Declaration (HPD): A complete HPD with Full Disclosure of Intentional Ingredients is acceptable product documentation if none of the ingredients are on the Red List.
  • Cradle to Cradle (C2C) Silver, Gold and Platinum: Project teams must ask manufacturers only about the presence of formaldehyde in the product rather than full Red List documentation.
  • In addition to leveraging third-party certifications, it is critical that project teams select manufacturers with a strong commitment to health outcomes and a willingness to engage in a transparent dialogue about the ingredient content of their products.

FSC Wood and Salvaged Materials:

All wood must be FSC certified or from salvaged sources. Creative use of salvaged materials is generally encouraged and contributes toward the Petal Certification.

Zero Waste:

The job site has a 100% waste diversion goal, which entails that collaborators should explore means to minimize/eliminate packaging waste.


Healthy Material Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

Q:  I’m concerned about the rules related to using steel.  Do I have to only use recycled and scrap steel? And also, stainless steel has lots of chromium, and hydraulics would also use stainless steel, which would make that not possible either.  Can you help me understand how the healthy materials rules apply?

A:  Metals with a standardized CAS number—such as steel, mild stainless steel and aluminum—do not need to be broken out into their constituent alloys. So for your example, stainless steel would be approved under its own CAS number rather than reviewed for each component in the alloy. The only thing metals must be tracked for is intentionally added lead (i.e. brass) and for any coatings applied to the base metal.

For further clarification, the only restricted chromium is intentionally added hexavalent chromium, which is sometimes used in galvanization processes and in other corrosion resistance coatings.

Q:  How is “manufactured” defined for the purposes of this healthy/local materials certification? For example: If all the components of say a lighting panel are made in circuit plants in China, and they are “assembled to create the panel” in California, are they from California, China, or Africa where the IC elements were mined?

A: Location is based on the “final point of assembly.” So a circuit board assembled in California would be recorded under its California location. The intent of the Living Economy Sourcing imperative is to support local businesses.   Another clarification is that the Living Economy Sourcing imperative is tracked across the whole project—so 20% of the entire material cost of the project must be from within the 500km radius of the project site. In other words, the Living Economy Sourcing imperative should be thought of as a guideline more than a constraint since the materials for the public art scope are added to the overall percentages on the project. Of course, any local sourcing opportunities are encouraged!

Q: How do I comply with avoiding the Red List Materials and use Modern Electronics?  For example: PVC is used as insulation on most common wires, although with a bit of work it is possible to find non-PVC wiring. However, BPA is present in many epoxies and polycarbonate.   Both of these materials are prevalent in electronics. Printed circuit boards are made from epoxy, and polycarbonate is used for many plastic housings, and for LED lenses and diffusers.

A: Yes–it is nearly impossible to find 100% PVC-free electronics. The Living Building Challenge has an exception in place for small electronic components, which only need to be screened for RoHS compliance rather than full Red List. This is generally easy to achieve as most manufacturers are familiar with these restrictions.

Any wiring that is more substantial than internal components of electronic devices may need to be tracked for Red List.  In some cases we would likely have to pursue a due diligence exception by demonstrating there is no compliant wire/cable available on the market.

The BPA question is a bit trickier, the circuit board example wouldn’t be an issue because that is considered a small electrical component and would only need to comply with RoHS (which does not restrict BPA.) The housing elements of hardwired electronics such as light fixtures will need to be tracked for Red List and if there are no alternatives to BPA on the market we might have to pursue an exception in this instance.