Seeing Red…

One of the biggest prerequisites of the Living Building Challenge is the Materials Red List – materials that are deemed toxic, persistent (in the environment) and otherwise unsavory to all involved and cannot be used on a Living Building. Upon first blush I didn’t assume this to be too difficult, but, to put it bluntly (my friends expect nothing else), it’s damn hard.

My latest bout with the red list has been fought over formaldehyde (both urea and phenol based). I assumed since formaldehyde is most famous for its usage in the preservation of all things dead and stored in coffins and big clear glass jars that it wouldn’t be too hard, in this era of green building, to spec. something without it. Wrong, dead wrong. All structural grade plywood, that I could find, contains formaldehyde… The exception came with Columbia Forest Products – who makes hardwood plywood, (for cabinets, etc.) which is free of formaldehyde, but of course it’s not an appropriate product for structural plywood. I thought I was going to face the same difficulty with Glulams, but good news -John Parr from Certified Forest Products can get me FSC glulams with PVAC (polyvinyl acetate) glue – the same stuff used, for over 20 years, in Elmer’s. So I’ve got to check with Cascadia to see if PVAC will fly, it doesn’t sound good, what with polyvinyl, but if it’s in Elmer’s glue it couldn’t be too bad, right? Right? The cynic in me is worried…

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