May 18, 2016

Field Notes: Innovative Collaboration: New School and The Healthy Building Network

By Hilary Noll, Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellow

The current Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellows share their ideas, inspirations, and photos from the field on our blog. Learn more about the Fellowship.

Over the past six months, First Community Housing has been participating as a case study subject for The Healthy Affordable Materials Project. This is the first initiative of the newly formed Healthy Materials Lab.  The Project aims to improve the lives of residents living in affordable housing by dramatically reducing the use of toxins in the building product supply chain. Reducing the use of toxic chemicals in the home, on construction sites and in the emissions from manufacturing facilities directly contributes to creating healthy and resilient communities.

The case-study video found here  highlights First Community Housing’s approach to and leadership in the healthy materials movement was recently completed, with an in depth written report to follow later this year.  Our participation in this research project is helping us to further evaluate our own design processes and standards, identifying areas of improvement and barriers to innovation. It is also helping to frame the work in a larger national context, which is both an internal learning tool and a platform to share and disseminate our accumulated knowledge over the past 15 years with other community developers.

Ultimately, this initiative aims to transform the way that building products are manufactured, eliminate avoidable toxics and support the creation of new materials. Through optimizing the health and transparency of building materials in the entire supply chain, the lives of all people will become healthier.

The Healthy Materials Lab formed in 2014 through an innovative collaboration between The New School and the Healthy Building Network. The lab combines the experienced leadership in toxic reduction strategies from the Healthy Building Network with the administrative design and research competencies of Parsons School of Design. Together with the Health Product Declaration Collaborative and the Green Science Policy Institute, the Healthy Affordable Materials Project is positioned to create radical change in the building sector to improve human health.  Healthier homes will positively transform the lives of families living in poverty, to pursue healthier and more successful lives.  These efforts are made possible through the generous support of the JPB Foundation.

About the Author: Hilary is hosted by First Community Housing in San Jose, Calif. Since 1986, FCH has created housing for more than 3,200 low-income residents in 16 affordable rental housing developments throughout the San Francisco Bay region. Hilary supports FCH’s efforts to develop and build affordable housing that emphasizes sustainability.  She works with FCH to raise standards and practices for design excellence, assist in building the first Living Building Challenge-certified affordable housing and create compelling graphics to illustrate building features which can be used to educate the public and the profession. 

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