INHABITAT: Construction Specialties recently achieved Cradle to Cradle Gold certification due in part to the elimination of PVC and PBTs in their interior wall products - can we talk a little bit about the dangers of PVC’s and PTB’s?
Howard Willams: The interesting thing is that within the USGBC there was a furor over giving a negative credit for using it - if anyone uses PVC, they should lose a couple of points in LEED. As the debate went on, I wrote two letters to the USGBC saying that they either need to have negative credits or that they need to take a clear stand on PVC.
I think there will be a decision, because PVC raises just one issue, but there is the greater picture of persistent bio-cumulatives in toxins. If they had stopped at PVC, they would have stopped short - absolutely short. There needs to be an awareness created that PVCs exist in building materials, and that they can be taken out. And they should be taken out, not only for building and the people in the building, but also for the people who make the stuff. Because with just a piece of PVC pipe, I can handle that all day long - it’s rigid, there is very little going to be coming off of that pipe and it’s not going to off-gas, but if I trace that back into the community where the vinyl chloride is made a whole other set of issues arise. This involves the people that are working in that factory and the people that are living adjacent to that factory. To me this is also a stewardship issue, but the great part is that it reaches beyond construction - it touches on health care, education and wanting to make a building healthy.
Right now it is a differentiator for us. The beauty too is there is is a business model for it. It works, you can do this and you can make money. There is not one environmentalist or NGO that I’ve yet encountered that says you shouldn't be making your money off of this. They want money to be made on this, because they know that it is going to accelerate the change.