Learning The Redlist

Currently Thoughtful Balance is working on the drawings for Hilltop Community Healthcare Center. We are working with a number of really dedicated people who have been operating a health clinic for underserved populations for ten years out of a double-wide trailer. That's right...people drawing blood, giving exams, and scheduling appointments all in the tiny space of a trailer. The grant that made Hilltop's space possible wanted the design to include as many green features as possible. The team has committed to achieve a LEED CI rating but we wanted to achieve more. The Living Building Challenge red list seemed like a natural next step. We were inspired by KMD architects of the Bertschi School, who we saw at the INSPIRE Speaker Series hosted by the Green Building Alliance. Our office does not have a deep knowledge of red list materials but with the help of an intern we are trying to set a goal that we will learn about a small set of finish materials that will be in contact with those using the clinic. It is our way of dipping a toe into the Living Building Challenge without having a project that could warrant such an investigation. We have no idea how successful we will be.

The effort has resulted in our wondering if it doesn't make sense to have a central database for the red list. Little did we know that the Living Building Challenge had already accomplished just this. We found their website Declare which is a great resource for all designers to see if their products are red list compliant. In addition many of the architects that we have spoken with that have accomplished a red list for their projects and seem eager to share their research. Lists are available online from Perkins and Will. Creating a list like this for a project is challenging but once a material is completed why should this task be repeated by architects all over the country.... and why shouldn't we have a database that informs us about individual materials even if we cannot be 100% compliant with the entire list? It is unlikely that Hilltop will achieve the goals of the red list but at least we will have scratched the surface and begun to learn the lessons that will make our practice and knowledge a little bit deeper. Additional useful resources that we have been informed about from our friends at Phipps are Pharos and Healthy Products Collaborative.

Working on this project has made us realize that architects need not wait for the next rating system to cover new ground in protecting the environment through building design. There are so many lessons to learn in the groundswell of information that is out there... so many areas of expertise to conquer that it is really up to us to push forward with the next steps. Change always comes from within.