A free list of healthy materials used

Camp Glenorchy Eco Retreat

Construction materials that avoid the use of toxic products create healthier indoor environments (reducing, for example, the risk of allergies and asthma in children¹) and are better for the natural environment. They are also safer for the people who manufacture and install them, as the risks associated with long-term or direct exposure to toxins are eliminated.

With the natural surroundings, the construction team and future guests in mind, Camp Glenorchy embarked on a journey to source healthy materials and products using the Living Building Challenge (LBC) criteria, specifically its Red List, as a guide. The research process was a great learning experience, but required a lot of dedication and time – resources many projects don’t have. The outcome of this journey was a materials list containing all the products that were used in the construction of Camp Glenorchy.

Camp Glenorchy’s materials list can become a useful resource for individuals and project teams in New Zealand and around the world looking to choose better materials. The decision to share this information aligns with the project’s educational aim of inspiring and empowering others to build the next generation of green buildings by helping others to:

  • Find reliable information to speed up the material selection process in their own projects, reducing time spent on research.
  • ask the right questions of suppliers and manufacturers.

This article summarises Camp Glenorchy’s journey, shines a light on the positive outcomes of a more informed material selection process, and provides information on how to use the materials list, available on Camp Glenorchy’s website.

Camp Glenorchy’s quest for healthier materials

Tricia Love Consultants (TLC) were involved in the project since its inception, defining the sustainability goals and leading the LBC process for Camp Glenorchy. One of their key roles during construction was to research and approve every material used onsite, a task that required time and patience. Tricia and her team not only had to find the right products, but also explain to manufacturers and suppliers what the Red List was, and why the project was looking for materials that were free from the chemicals included in it. TLC found many manufacturers striving to make healthier products and to be transparent, and many others that were open to new ideas and receptive to change.

‘It’s quite nice to learn that there are alternatives,’ says Peter Bobby, Director of Insitu GRC, which provided precast concrete vanities for the Camp Glenorchy cabins.

After learning about Camp Glenorchy’s vision, Insitu GRC altered the concrete mix so it would be as compliant with the LBC requirements as possible, omitting a defoaming agent, and replacing the plasticiser for one that didn’t have Red List products in it. He even offered to connect TLC with the sealant manufacturers to encourage them to make their formula compliant as well.

TLC’s role was one of advocacy and education as much as a research one. From workshops with the design team in the early stages of the project to talks with construction workers on site, Tricia made sure everyone who had been involved in bringing Camp Glenorchy to life was included in the process and understood the importance of using healthier construction materials. In Tricia’s words: ‘You’ve got to make it personally relevant to people if they’re going to understand the true impact of what we’re trying to do. If you just read off the names of chemicals, it’s going to mean nothing.’

TLC’s advocacy efforts also payed off with suppliers. After their involvement in Camp Glenorchy, Fireshield, a company manufacturing environmentally friendly intumescent coatings for interior timber, decided to get the Declare label for its products. By doing so they’ve disclosed the ingredients in their coatings and have become the only product of its type to have Declare approval.

For Fireshield’s Managing Director Per Olsson, the decision was a no-brainer: ‘We’ve got nothing to hide – the product already meets the highest ratings in Europe prior to the Living Building Challenge, so we were quite confident it would pass those tests as well.’ Olsson also anticipates a business benefit: ‘We certainly see a commercial advantage, more so as a consequence [of having a Declare label].’

Inspiring and enabling positive change

Bedrooms at Camp Glenorchy use healthy products as indoor finishes

Camp Glenorchy aims to inspire and enable guests – and people all over the world – to champion positive change in their own homes, workplaces and cities. Sharing the materials list is an important step towards achieving this aim.

Through their extensive research, Tricia and her team were able to find products that were not only good for people and the planet, but also met the aesthetic and performance requirements of the project.  However, Camp Glenorchy is aware that not all project teams have the resources to follow this same path. Sharing the information that was gathered during its design and construction will hopefully make it easier for others to choose healthier materials too.

Resources like Camp Glenorchy’s materials database can play an important role in shifting the market towards supplying healthier materials. ‘If there’s only a few of us doing this,’ says Tricia, ‘the manufacturers aren’t going to take any notice. But if we can do something to increase pressure from consumers for this information then it creates more motivation [amongst suppliers] to change.’

Tricia’s vision is that the list could be the beginning of a bigger resource: ‘A database that we could add to, that could grow in size and impact.’ As a pioneering first step, Camp Glenorchy’s materials list is designed to inspire others to help us realise Tricia’s vision.

Camp Glenorchy’s LBC Materials Register can be found here. The list allows products to be filtered by Category, Material Type, Manufacturer Name or Red List Compliance to make it easier for project teams to find information relevant to their specific needs.

Footnotes
  1. ‍Lung Foundation Australia, ‘Indoor environment & lung health’.
Footnotes

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