Materials and Human Health | U.S. Green Building Council
Please upgrade your browser. This site requires a newer version to work correctly. Read more

LEED, Materials, and Health

We support healthier indoor spaces to live, work and play.

With the objective of making product transparency the norm within one year, this effort uses a new credit within LEED v4 as a starting point to focus more industry attention on building material ingredients, and how those materials affect human health.


  • Improve the indoor environment from a human health perspective
  • Reduce barriers to materials transparency
  • Improve the understanding of health impacts of building materials
  • Bring materials transparency and product optimization into the mainstream


In 2012, USGBC received a grant to explore the effects of materials and increase marketplace awareness and adoption.

The result of this grant is an initiative with three parts:

  • Consistency: Harmonizing product transparency and optimization programs—finding the similarities and differences from one transparency program to the next—provides the clarity manufacturers and suppliers need to do in order to make informed decisions and help advance material health in building products. USGBC's harmonization task group—featuring representatives from three of the nation’s leading programs focused on transparency—was formed to identify the overlap between the programs.  Concerning material ingredient inventory, it’s important to have clear definitions, common understanding and standard reporting.  The task group looked at how the different programs assess products—from inventory, to list-screening and full hazard assessment, and developed the white paper, Material Health Evaluation Programs Harmonization Opportunities Report, which compares five programs and identifies areas for potential data sharing and harmonization of requirements and protocols to support implementation of the material health credit.
  • Research: How do we determine the effects of materials on health? USGBC’s answer is research. We’ve assembled a group of the top minds from various institutions to help create a base of knowledge that will inform LEED, the manufacturing industry and the building community. The Senior Research Fellows have started a robust dialogue that explains more about the science behind hazard assessment and ingredient inventory.
  • Adoption: To help us understand where there are opportunities and challenges to increasing publicly disclosed ingredient profiles, McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC) used the CSI MasterFormat divisions to prioritize industries where little to no certified products exist. The resulting Market Analysis Report lists the top 50 product categories and approximates costs to certify a typical product. MBDC identified ten priority materials—those commonly used ingredients found in more complex building products that have exhibited toxicity to humans and/or the environment.

USGBC challenged both manufacturers and designers to demonstrate their commitment to being ready for LEED v4 by October 2014. These organizations answered the call, and have begun to analyze product lines using Greenscreen Assessed Chemical Ingredients, Health Product Declarations, and Cradle To Cradle Certifications.

Armstrong Commercial Ceilings
Ayers Saint Gross Architects + Planners
InPro Corporation
Kingspan Insulated Panels, North America
Knauf Insulation
Shaw Industries Group, Inc
Stego Industries, LLC
Symmes Maini & McKee Associates
Teknion LLC


Ashley White, PhD
USGBC Senior Research Fellow
U.S. Green Building Council

Ken Geiser, PhD
USGBC Senior Research Fellow
Professor of Work Environment Emeritus, University of Massachusetts Lowell

Joel Tickner, ScD
USGBC Senior Research Fellow
Associate Professor and Program Director, Department of Community Health and Sustainability, University of Massachusetts Lowell

Megan Schwarzman MD, MPH
USGBC Senior Research Fellow
Research scientist at the Center for Occupational and Environmental Health (COEH), UC Berkeley School of Public Health
Associate Director of Health and Environment for the interdisciplinary Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry

Martin Mulvihill, PhD
USGBC Senior Research Fellow
Executive Director of the Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry (BCGC)
Researcher in both Public Health and Environmental Engineering

Charlene Bayer, PhD
USGBC Senior Research Fellow
Chairman and Chief Scientist at Hygieia Sciences, LLC and Principal Research Scientist with the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) at the Georgia Institute of Technology