For those of you who think that last week’s Greenbuild Conference was all about grass roofs and composting toilets, think again. One of the more diverse sessions was led by a group of chemists from the Green Chemistry Institute. Their concepts are not far from those advocated by the design community, such as Biomimicry and Cradle-to Cradle. However, these chemists are working to enhance human health and the environment by changing products at a molecular level.

Just think about the possibilities: Smog Eating Concrete!

Yes, you read that correctly – by embedding titanium dioxide into paving materials, there is potential to reduce toxic emissions levels in the air. Through molecular modification, these chemists hope to increase the performance and value of materials we already use, while protecting and bettering human health and the environment. What else are they working on? Pigment-free colors, non-chemical adhesives, self-healing skins, and corn-based “plastic,” for starters.

In addition, a collective of these professionals introduced the Pharos Project last week at Greenbuild. Pharos is an open-source evaluation system for products and materials. Rather than relying on subjective information to determine the “greenness” of a particular product, the Pharos system would provide a comprehensive summary of material composition, embodied energy, and other criteria such as whether a product is biodegradable, recyclable, rapidly renewable, or tested on animals.

For more information, visit the Pharos Project website.

+ Pharos Project
+ Green Chemistry Institute