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Perkins+Will Pushes for Transparency in Building Materials' Impacts

Two years ago, Perkins+Will made a splash with its Precautionary List of 25 substances commonly found in construction materials that could potentially harm human health and the environment.

Today, the sustainable design firm builds on that information with its launch of an expanded database called the Transparency Site.

"The Precautionary List and the transparency website are all about being a catalyst for change," said Peter Syrett, an associate principal at Perkins+Will. "We have to start rethinking about the material we use and how it affects us and environment."

The site and the list that preceded it were developed by Syrett and his colleague, Chris Youssef, the company's expert on healthy materials, as a part of a broad effort to help designers choose materials that are better for people and the environment. That movement, which applies to building materials and a range of other products, includes a push for credible environmental labeling and green chemistry.

Syrett and Youssef said their idea isn't to proscribe materials as much as it is to inform architects, designers and builders about the content of materials, provoke discussion and, ideally, prompt development of safer and more sustainable products.

"We just want to help change the industry for the best," Youssef said.

The Transparency Site at includes a list of substances that are known to trigger asthma or are suspected of doing so, information on flame retardants and a white paper on fly ash in concrete.

In addition to providing the new information, the Transparency Site also is more colorful and simpler to navigate than the original Precautionary List.

"We made it much more intuitive, and an easier tool to use and understand," said Syrett.

"The industry spoke and we listened," Youssef added. "We always saw it as a living document."

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