New Guidance Streamlines Use of Cradle to Cradle Certified Products in Living Building Challenge

Tags: built environment (757)

New guidance released from the International Living Future Institute (ILFI) allows architects and designers pursuing the Living Building Challenge (LBC) to incorporate Cradle to Cradle Certified™ Products and Material Health Certificate products into their projects. The move increases the number of products available to contribute to the LBC Materials Petal, simplifies documentation for project teams, and could lead to health benefits for occupants. 

The Cradle to Cradle Certified methodology is widely regarded as the most rigorous third-party optimization program on the market (and recently recognized by the EPA at its highest level). Cradle to Cradle is different from other material health tools in that it helps manufacturers through a deep analysis and continuous improvement process. These steps include:

  1. Inventory: What’s in it? The manufacturer first needs to understand what is in their product. They work with their assessor and supply chain to identify all materials present at 100 ppm and further look at all chemicals in each material present at 100 ppm.
  2. Screening: What’s not in it? This step is helpful to check against a list or lists of known, bad chemicals to confirm whether some of that bad stuff is NOT in the product. However, it can’t tell you whether a product is safe because no list is exhaustive. To truly understand the human and environmental impacts of the chemicals in a product, full chemical assessments need to be conducted by a chemist or toxicologist.
  3. Assessment: What hazards and risks do the materials pose? In this stage, the assessor judges each chemical’s potential risk across 24 different human and environmental endpoints. On the human health side, endpoints include things such as carcinogenicity, endocrine disruption, and mutagenicity. On the environmental side, they look into things such as aquatic toxicity, terrestrial toxicity, and climatic relevance. Once the hazard profiles across all these endpoints have been filled in for a chemical, exposure analysis begins. This is an important step, because while hazards are inherent chemical properties, they may or may not manifest as risks for workers, users, or the environment, depending on their material and product context.
  4. Optimization: Safe for humans and the environment. The material health attribute achievement level indicates the level of optimization that has been achieved.

For products that are not fully optimized, manufacturers are required to put a strategy in place for the eventual phase-out or optimization of any X assessed materials. Every two years, manufacturers must demonstrate efforts to improve their products in order to have their products recertified.

The Cradle to Cradle Material Health attribute achievement level can be referenced by project teams to provide quality assurance for material health. Product scorecards, accessible through a searchable online database, outline each product’s overall rating as well as its ranking in each of the five categories. This presentation allows users to specify products accomplishing sustainability in the areas most important to the individual or project.

Now these optimized products are easier to include in your LBC project. Find more than 6,000 Cradle to Cradle Certified products at and look for Material Health Certificates at

With the alignment between the Living Building Challenge Red List and the C2C Banned list, ILFI has created streamlined pathways, as outlined below by ILFI, for accepting Cradle to Cradle Certified products and Material Health Certificates for LBC Projects.

C2C Certified Bronze: Certified Products and Material Health Certificates
Project teams must ask manufacturers to review and confirm in writing, that the seven chemical groups that are on the LBC Red List, but not on the C2C Banned List, are not present in the product. (Note: Though not on the C2C Banned List, the chemicals listed below are addressed in the full Assessment phase of Cradle to Cradle Certified outlined above; because they are not on the Banned List, documentation from the assessment phase is required for verification.)

  • Asbestos
  • Chlorinated Polyethylene
  • Chlorosulfonated Polyethylene
  • Creosote
  • Formaldehyde*
  • HCFCs
  • CFCs

*If formaldehyde is present above 100 ppm, the team must show that it falls under an existing LBC exception or request consideration of a new exception.

C2C Certified Silver, Gold, and Platinum: Certified Products and Material Health Certificates
Project teams must ask manufacturers only about the presence of formaldehyde in the product.

If formaldehyde is present above 100 ppm, manufacturers must show that it falls under an existing LBC exception or request consideration of a new exception.

For all C2C Certified and Material Health Certificate products, project teams must still advocate to manufacturers for greater transparency unless there is published documentation of 100 percent of ingredients. Project teams should give preference to products that have ingredient disclosure either through HPD, Portico, or Declare over less transparent assessments.

For more information contact Alex Muller at ILFI: [email protected].