How the solar eclipse reminded me of the importance of third-party certifications | U.S. Green Building Council
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Published on
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USGBC’s Chief of Engineering, Brendan Owens, shares the importance of third-party certifications after learning the glasses he ordered to view the Aug. 21 solar eclipse could not be verified as safe.

Every once in a while, a piece of your professional life you've come to take for granted collides with your personal life in a curious way.

In my case, it came through an Amazon email, which said the glasses I bought for my family and I to watch the Aug. 21 solar eclipse probably were unsafe. For my order of the glasses, which were labeled as "CE and ISO Certified - Safe Solar Viewing," Amazon's email said:

“Amazon has not received confirmation from the supplier of your order that they sourced the item from a recommended manufacturer.”

Huh? I specifically ordered a certified product, because as you might know from science class or by being outdoors: looking directly at the sun is exceedingly painful and dangerous since it can cause permanent blindness.

Risking your eyesight when protective gear exists seems foolish. Unless I was going to test the UV transmittance of glasses on my own (and I’ve looked into it) buying a certified product didn’t seem optional.

Of course, I wanted someone to have tested and verified that the screen I was putting between my daughter’s baby blues and the brightest thing we'll ever experience was going to perform the way it should. It’s appalling that the short-term financial windfall that comes with an event like a solar eclipse can bring out the worst in people. I wish I could say I was surprised that counterfeit claims were made, ultimately putting people’s health and well-being at risk – but I’m guessing you’re with me in not being surprised.

To their credit (non-cynical) or the credit of their lawyers fearing a lawsuit (cynical), Amazon notified customers of their inability to substantiate a claim that the company selling these glasses sold on their website. They took action accordingly, leaving me high and dry for the moment as far as eclipse glasses go in the process but not blind.

The existence of a credible, third-party system for ensuring the safety of these products backstopped the false claims of disreputable actors in the market. As a result, some very unwelcome outcomes were avoided. If you’re not aware of any of the background of this story, visit NASA's website, and make sure you verify the authenticity of any materials you’re planning to observe the eclipse with. Also, here’s a list of reputable vendors by the American Astronomical Society

How does this intersect with my professional life? Well, in a word, GBCI (although technically that’s four words).

I’ve understood and appreciated the value of credible, third-party certification for a while now. A large reason for this appreciation stems from my personal knowledge of the skill, integrity and professionalism of the people who work at GBCI and the work they do to ensure that LEED certification claims worldwide are both accurate and credible. It’s easy to take the validity of all third-party certification for granted when you interact with such pros on a daily basis.

I’m out of the office all next week with ISO 12312-2 certified glasses already packed for the entire family. Keep LEEDing On, and happy eclipsing!