As we’ve shared in several blogs throughout 2016, Belden’s products are being awarded with environmental product declarations (EPDs), material health assessments (MHAs) and health product declarations (HPDs) to help customers reach LEED certification goals. LEED v4 launched in late 2013, and is the most current version of the certification. It applies to all building types.

In LEED v4, an emphasis is placed on the importance of product lifecycle impacts and transparency of product ingredients. In order for manufacturers and their products to earn LEED points, manufacturers can provide (EPDs) and either (HPDs) or material health assessments (MHAs).

These sustainability documents provide transparency and verified information about lifecycle, environmental impacts of products and chemical ingredients used.

When Belden decided to qualify our products to contribute to LEED points, we targeted copper and fiber data cable, as well as safety, sound and security cable for transparency documentation. Additional Belden product lines are also being reviewed.

Several data cable HPDs were released in May 2015; other cable products will be released throughout the remainder of 2016. Publishing these HPDs was the only first step in our process, however; since then, EPDs and MHAs have been published as well. 

The next step in our process is to improve upon the transparency of the documents we used for LEED v4 Materials & Resources credits for material ingredients. The HPDs we have in place get the point, so to speak, but we decided to take the information to the next level by following UL Environment’s Product Lens program. The documents created as part of the Product Lens philosophy are much more transparent – and here’s why.

cabling and leed bannerMoving Beyond Hazards

Material health assessment methodology is outlined by MBDC LLC’s (McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry) Cradle to Cradle CertifiedCM Product Standard, Version 3.1.    

Material health assessments are a deep dive into a product’s material ingredients. The process begins with breaking down products into their component CAS numbers down to 100 ppm (0.01%). CAS (or CASRN) stands for Chemical Abstracts Service Registry Number. Some materials are reviewed regardless of weight percent, including finishes like coatings, plating and paints; blowing agents; and plating chemistry. 

Chemical hazard profiling is assessed using 24 human health, environmental health and chemical class endpoints as the basis of chemical evaluation. A sampling of profiled hazards includes carcinogenicity, mutagenicity, reproductive toxicity, aquatic toxicity, toxic metals and ozone-depleting potential. Each receives a hazard color-coded rating.

hazard assessment table

Source: Material Health Assessment Methodology, 2013

Next, an exposure assessment is done relating to possible relevant routes of exposure, including inhalation, oral and dermal/membranes. The chemical hazard and exposure assessment are combined into a single chemical risk assessment, again color coded.

single chemical risk assessment table

Source: Material Health Assessment Methodology, 2013

An overall risk assessment is performed for the material, which equals the worst assessment for all single chemicals in the material. In the previous version of Cradle to Cradle CertifiedCM Product Standard, Version 3.0, the material was also assessed for its biodegradable rate and ability to be recycled. This “cyclability” assessment has been removed as of version 3.1. The overall risk assessment is color coded.

overall risk assessment for material

Source: Material Health Assessment Methodology, 2013

There are several chemicals banned from the Cradle to Cradle® Certified program. A sampling of banned chemicals includes mercury, cadmium, lead, PVC and PTFE. Lead and PTFE are not banned as technical nutrients (recyclable), just as biological nutrients2 (biodegradable). All banned chemicals can be reviewed in MDBC’s Cradle to Cradle CertifiedCM Product Standard, Version 3.1, tables 29 and 30.

How is Belden Raising the Bar on Transparency?

Belden selected UL Environment as its program operator for EPDs. We also selected UL Environment’s Product Lens program to complete our material health assessments. Product Lens is our way of improving transparency by providing the material health assessment in combination with exposure indicators. Product Lens will contribute to LEED v4 Materials & Resources credits for material ingredients. Product Lens is unique because it meets the A&D community’s need to achieve points while also refining material health assessment transparency and information disclosure. 

This leads to an improvement compared to other methods, like HPDs, in two important ways:

  1. LEED v4 and the HPD standard allow 1000 ppm (or 0.1% by weight). Even though HPDs have a stated ideal of 100 ppm (0.01%), HPDs created by cable manufacturers tend to take the path of least resistance (or 1000 ppm). This is done to save time and avoid convincing suppliers to revealing their recipes. HPDs count toward a point, but are less transparent. Why is this important? HPDs sometimes select “yes” for “Full Disclosure of Known Hazards,” but are only measured to 1000 ppm. At 1000 ppm, there are lots of ingredients that a manufacturer does not know about inside the product. If an ingredient is unknown, then is it reasonable to assume that potential hazards aren’t known, either? Wire and cable colorants and tape adhesives are good examples: 100 ppm picks up ingredients when 1000 ppm does not.
  2. Material health assessments are more transparent because they show health hazards throughout the supply chain (manufacturing, installation, use and end of life) and reveal relevant routes of exposure. HPDs only identify the hazard; material health assessments provide relevant context.

Here is an example of Belden’s 10GXS12 Product Lens documentation:

example product lens documentation

Click here to see the full-sized example

UL Environment has partnered with MBDC and the Cradle to Cradle Product Innovation Institute to harmonize the Product Lens report by basing its materials health assessment methodology from the Cradle to Cradle Certified™ Products program; however, Product Lens isn’t a certified C2C certification program. (To qualify for LEED points, it doesn’t have to be.)

As seen in the above illustration, the Product Lens format takes a complicated material health assessment analysis and summarizes it in a visual fashion, telling the story across the life of the product. Easy-to-interpret legends are provided for routes of exposure; on subsequent pages of the report, details about each chemical are highlighted. Notice that chemicals aren’t rolled up into a material; from a transparency perspective, you see more of the product’s contents. 

Belden’s material health assessments, created through the Product Lens program, are third-party certified to give you a trustworthy, highly transparent sustainability document. 

Getting to the Point

Belden’s premise cable and security cable products now contribute to one LEED point through “building product disclosure and optimization – material ingredients” in the Materials & Resources credit. Fiber optic cables will have them soon as well. 

Visit www.belden.com/leed for more specific, up-to-date Product Lens offerings from Belden as they become available. And you won’t want to miss next week’s blog, where we reveal just how many LEED points you may be able to earn by using Belden cable in your building projects.