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The role of chemistry in sustainable buildings: Greenbuild sessions highlight materials health, safety and innovation

Innovations in chemistry make an important contribution in developing the products and materials that help create attractive, durable, modern buildings. High performance spray foam insulation helps keep heat and cooled air inside a building, lowering energy costs. Vinyl flooring in hospitals and operating rooms is easy to clean and disinfect and can last for many years. Plastic coatings added to metal roofs provide protection for years, making roofs more durable and storm-resistant.

At the same time, there is a growing focus on whether and how building materials may affect the environment and the health of building occupants. Increased interest from the public in healthy buildings, along with desire on the part of building owners to make progress toward attaining green building certification system requirements, means architects and specifiers seek more detailed information about which building materials and products help to meet sustainability goals. Manufacturers also are challenged to meet this demand for green and sustainable materials and work with architects, specifiers and builders to provide them with the products they need.

To address these important issues, the American Chemistry Council has worked with the U.S. Green Building Council to develop content for two sessions focused on materials health and safety in the built environment at the upcoming Greenbuild Conference and Expo, in Los Angeles next week:

  • A two-hour town hall-style session, Materials Health and Safety: A Holistic Approach to Innovation, on Wednesday, October 5, features three panelists with expertise in theories, techniques and assessment tools related to materials health. The speakers will review how to: assess the life-cycle impacts of materials used in construction; understand and meet demand for transparent information about ingredients in building products; and assess opportunities and challenges to applying green chemistry principles to the building and construction sector.
  • At a Materials Think Tank on Thursday, October 6, panelists will review the materials and products used in buildings today and showcase innovative approaches to design, construction and operations, taking into account performance needs and functionality across a whole building. Segmented into two panel discussions, this session will consider the current state of the building materials industry; explore new product innovations and how a product comes to market; and discuss new and existing mechanisms to foster future innovations in order to tackle materials sustainability challenges.

Greenbuild attendees should come away with a greater understanding of these building trends and how LEED Version 4 is taking important steps to move beyond a single attribute approach to evaluation that takes into account the entire life cycle of materials used in buildings.

For more information on these discussions and other topics related to chemistry in the built environment, visit


More information on Greenbuild 2016 educational sessions:

Materials Health and Safety: A Holistic Approach to Innovation

Wednesday, October 5, 3:30 pm – 5:30 pm


  • Bill Shireman, Future 500 (moderator)
  • Paula McEvoy, Perkins + Will
  • David Green, BASF
  • Meg Whittaker, ToxServices

Materials Think Tank at Greenbuild

Thursday, October 6, 3:30 pm – 5:30 pm

Panel 1 Speakers:

Opening remarks by Mahesh Ramanujam, USGBC

  • Wanda Lau, Architect magazine
  • Shawn Hunter, Dow
  • Doug Brown, BASF
  • Brent Trenga, Kingspan
  • Elizabeth Cassin, Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates

Panel 2 Speakers:

  • Scot Horst, USGBC
  • Bob Skoglund, Covestro
  • Stacy Glass, Cradle to Cradle
  • Mikhail Davis, Interface
  • Philip Ivey, Milliken

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