In this series, Healthcare Design magazine asks leading healthcare design professionals, firms, and owners to tell us what’s got their attention and share some ideas on the subject.

Here, Jean Hansen, sustainable interiors manager, senior professional associate, HDR Architecture (San Francisco), talks about some of the regulations and standards on her mind that are influencing materials and products selection for healthcare settings.

1. Better product content disclosure

The Transparency and Health Product Declaration (HPD) is a new standard format for disclosing product content, emissions, and associated health information of building and interior products. It was launched at Greenbuild 2012 after a year-long pilot conducted with 29 manufacturers and 50 reviewers. The HPD allows designers and clients to not only understand general product attributes but to also make informed decisions based on the content and the associated health information. Four (and counting) large design firms have issued letters to manufacturers requiring HPDs to be supplied based on the firm’s own individual specific requirements. The HPD will also support the LEED v4 MR credits.

2. Flame retardant alternatives

Many of the flame retardants that are utilized in the building products and furniture we specify are toxic for human and environmental health. They can filter into the interior environment as they migrate out of the products and may be more problematic as products age/breakdown. There’s been a lot of work going on in California and other states around identifying the issues with these chemicals, finding safer alternatives, and eliminating flame retardant requirements with infant and children products and furniture in general. The standard Technical Bulletin or “TB117” is now being revised (TB117-2013). As the flammability regulations change, we look forward to specifying furniture without these chemicals.

3. Linking material selections to health

Another reason for considering product content and health information is the obesity epidemic in the U.S. New research is pointing fingers at a class of chemicals dubbed obesogens, or endocrine disruptors. These chemicals can influence fat storage, metabolism, or appetite, and are found in a number of building products, including biocides in wood preservatives, stabilizers in PVC, or vinyl self-stick tiles. Similar effects can be caused by Bisphenol-A (BPA), which is used in epoxy resins in a wide range of coatings. Perfluorinated chemicals (PFOA), otherwise known as stain treatments used in fabrics and carpeting, can also activate the receptors that are linked to weight gain in humans and animals.

4. Cradle to Cradle (C2C) Certification

Cradle to Cradle (C2C) Certification  has been replaced by the non-profit C2C Products Innovation Institute, which has begun certifying products using its V3.0  standard. One exciting aspect of the new C2C program is that product content information and achievement levels will be more clear and transparent than in past years. C2C evaluates products and their manufacturers based on achievement in five categories. The Material Health attribute is relevant to today’s desire for transparency and information on chemicals of concern and also stands to support the LEED v4 MR credits.

5. Sustainability in healthcare

The Healthier Hospitals Initiative (HHI), the national, three-year campaign to improve environmental health and sustainability in the healthcare sector, recently released its Milestone Report at CleanMed 2013.  Among the key findings were that more than 50 million pounds of materials were recycled, plus an additional 61.5 million pounds of construction and demolition waste were kept out of landfills through reuse and recycling. Participants also reported about $32 million in savings resulting from single-use medical device reprocessing and almost $19 million spent on PVC/DEHP-free medical products. Currently there are 600 enrollees in the initiatives with a goal to enroll 2,000 hospitals.

Jean Hansen

Want to share your Top Five? Contact senior editor Anne DiNardo at for submission instructions.