How Firstplanit evaluates the health performance of a product

Firstplanit provides data analysis to enhance the sustainability of building projects. Among its features are product scores that evaluate the potential sustainability of construction materials based on their Environmental, Social, Health, and Monetary (ESHM) impacts. At Firstplanit, we assess 18 unique impact attributes that correspond to one or more ESHM benefits. The Product Scores’ value is calculated based on the product performance on the relevant impact attributes.

This series of articles will delve into the definition and evaluation of each attribute and the specific environmental, social, health, and monetary impacts they align with. This article will concentrate on the health impact; 7 of the 18 attributes influence the health score of the product.

The Health Score reflects the impact of choosing this product on the health of the building occupants. This includes mitigating diseases caused by carcinogenic substances, respiratory diseases, cold-related illnesses and mental health issues. 

  • Products that are biodegradable or have an end-of-life plan do not contribute to the pollution of groundwater through landfill sites, reducing the risk of potential chronic diseases. 
  • Products with low toxic content improve the indoor air quality of a building reducing the risk of respiratory and other chronic diseases. 
  • Moisture-balancing products reduce the build-up of moisture and mould indoors, preventing respiratory diseases.
  • Products with good acoustic regulation limit the transmission of outdoor noise to indoor spaces and/or absorb indoor noise mitigating mental health issues for the occupants. 
  • Products with good thermal performance result in more efficient heating, reducing cold-related illnesses for the occupants. 
  • Products with fire-resistant properties provide safety measures for occupants. 

Rapidly degradable

Definition: Products that can be quickly broken down into biomass or simpler molecules by biological organisms and processes are considered rapidly degradable. Everything is biodegradable, but chemical treatments and coatings used to increase durability will often resist degradation, hanging around as waste for hundreds of years beyond their intended use timeframe.

Cut-off Criteria: 75% of the product mass must biodegrade rapidly, i.e. within 40 years. The process of biodegradation must not create harmful and toxic residues.

End of life plan

Definition: The product’s manufacturer has a plan for the material at the end of the product’s first use. This could be a take-back policy or collaborative programs with the local government or 3rd parties to ensure the collection of discarded products for recycling, refurbishment. Note that recyclability is not an end-of-life plan, but a plan in place to collect and send the product for recycling is an end-of-life plan.

Cut-off Criteria: The manufacturer independently or collaboratively has:

(a) laid out a plan for responsible reuse or recycling of the material at the end of life and shared it with the user and
(b) made provisions for collecting products at the end of their life, followed by, recycling or refurbishment, declaring how much and what is done.

Low toxic content

Definition: Products that demonstrate minimal or no Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) emissions have no carcinogens, reproductive toxicants, or irritants that make indoor environments unhealthy are considered low toxic. Not all toxicity is regulated and minimised by the government.

Cut-off Criteria: If the product has a certification (full list on website) it gets a yes. If not compare manufacture information against cut off values for chemicals (full list on website)

Moisture balancing

Definition: Products that resist moisture in or on the fabric of a building are considered moisture-balancing. Dampness caused by water vapour condensation results in staining, bacteria, fungi, mould growth, mildew, causing multiple respiratory diseases and weakening building fabric. How a product responds to moisture depends on its specific set of physical properties.
Products must prevent steam from entering walls during construction, use or repair, but allow water vapour to evaporate quickly from the external surface without creating condensation inside a building.

Cut-off Criteria: Check for the following breathability cut off values for moisture performance in manufacturer declaration for a Yes.

Acoustic regulator

Definition: Products that reduce noise transmission from the outdoor to indoor or absorb or disperse noise indoors are considered acoustics regulating. Products fall into 3 categories:

a) Airborne sound insulation for walls, windows, roofs to prevent outside noise penetration.
(b) Impact sound insulation for floor finishes to prevent sound transfer between floors.
(c) Noise absorption for walls, floors and ceilings to reduce noise indoors.

Cut-off Criteria: Declaration by the manufacturer that the product has superior acoustic properties.

(a) 45 dB reduction target. This is for the entire wall/floor unit rather than for an individual material. Windows and doors, reduction > 35 dB.
(b) Impact absorption > 17 dB, or declaration of acoustic felt/underlayment.
(c) Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC)>= 0.4.

Thermal barrier

Definition: Products that resist heat transfer with a high R-value (inverse of the thermal conductivity or U-value) are considered a thermal barrier. The higher the R-value, the more effective it is as an insulator. A product must resist air transmission, heat loss, and heat gain between the inside and outside environment to assist with comfortable temperature indoors at low energy consumption.

Cut-off Criteria: Different products will declare different values like thermal conductivity, R-value or U value. Established formulas translate one into another for a like-for-like comparison of Thermal Conductivity.

Fire resistance

Definition: Products that can do one or more of the following in case of fire are considered fire resistant:

A) Resist collapse (load-bearing capacity), which applies to load-bearing elements only, denoted R in the European classification of the resistance to fire performance.
B) Resist fire penetration (integrity), denoted E in the European classification of the resistance to fire performance.
C) Resist the transfer of excessive heat (insulation), denoted in the European classification of the resistance to fire performance.

Cut-off Criteria: Euroclass B for all building materials.
Euroclass C for fabrics and fabric-like materials.

Product scores are intended to give a holistic understanding of complex interrelated sustainability impacts for each material on our database. These scores are available from the product evaluation page. To learn how to navigate and interpret this feature check out our how to guide for this feature.

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