Parsons-led initiative to improve health and transparency of building materials

Healthy Materials Lab Aims to Reduce Use of Toxics in the Construction Industry

Healthy Materials Lab

Funded by The JPB Foundation, the Healthy Materials Lab aims to optimize the health and transparency of our building materials.

NEW YORK, May 15– The New School’s Parsons School of Design, Healthy Building Network, Green Science Policy Institute and Health Product Declaration Collaborative announce the creation of the Healthy Materials Lab (HML), an initiative funded by The JPB Foundation aimed at optimizing the health and transparency of building materials, particularly those used in the affordable housing industry.

Housed at Parsons Design Lab, the HML will work with partners—industry and corporate leaders, nonprofit organizations and building owners—to eliminate avoidable toxics from building materials, advance less harmful elements and support the creation of new materials for use in the construction sector.

“Our work creates actionable strategies, integrating healthy building protocols, healthy products and green science with design research to directly impact the health of our building materials,” said Alison Mears, dean of the School of Design Strategies at Parsons and director of the HML. “We are particularly focused on the well-being of low-income populations, which, typically, are the most vulnerable to the negative effects of such materials.”

The collaboration combines experienced leadership in toxics reduction strategies from the Healthy Building Network with the design and research skills of Parsons.Consistent with its location at Parsons, the HML will foster the creation of new educational models for practicing designers in the building industry.

“This partnership, with its focus on designing building products to improve human health, is unprecedented in the building materials industry,” said Bill Walsh, founder and executive director of Healthy Building Network. “We are excited to partner with Parsons, a leader in the socially engaged design movement, to confront this pressing issue.”

The first project of the HML is the Healthy Affordable Materials Project. A three-year, four-partner collaborative funded by The JPB Foundation, the project adopts a systems-based approach to reducing everyday human exposure to toxic chemicals in building products. The HML will work with manufacturers, building owners and developers to replace existing materials with safer, affordable alternatives.

The HML is closely aligned with Building Product Ecosystems. A collaboration between Parsons, The Durst Organization and The City University of New York, the project provides a platform for open discussion and problem solving between a diverse range of New York City entities that normally work in their own fields.

Ultimately, the goal of the Healthy Materials Lab is to use new designs, communications and evaluation capabilities to accelerate the pace of innovation in the building products industry.

“Our aim is to influence the entire housing sector to reduce toxic chemical exposure throughout the entire life cycle of a building material,” Mears said. “Healthier materials options should be available not just to those who can afford them, but to everyone.”

Launch partners include: BPE initiative, Durst Organization

Parsons School of Design at The New School is one of the world’s leading institutions for art and design education. Based in New York but active around the world, the school offers undergraduate and graduate programs in the full spectrum of art and design disciplines. Critical thinking and collaboration are at the heart of a Parsons education. Parsons graduates are leaders in their fields, with a shared commitment to creatively and critically addressing the complexities of life in the 21st century. For more information, visit

The Healthy Building Network was founded in 2000 to reduce the use of hazardous chemicals in building products as a means of improving human health and the environment.For more information, visit

Green Science Policy Institute Facilitates responsible use of chemicals to protect human and ecological health. They educate and build partnerships among scientists, regulators, businesses, and public interest groups to develop innovative solutions for reducing harmful chemicals in products. For more information, visit

Health Product Declaration Collaborative is a customer-led organization committedto the continuous improvement of the building industry’s performance through transparency, openness and innovation in the product supply chain. The Health Product Declaration Collaborative created and supports the Health Product Declaration (HPD), the first open standard format for reporting building product content and related health information. For more information, visit

The JPB Foundation’s mission is to enhance the quality of life in the US through transformational initiatives that promote the health of our communities by creating opportunities for those in poverty, promoting medical research, and enriching and supporting our environment. For more information, visit


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Media Contacts:

Scott Gargan,
The New School
212-229-5667 x 3794

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