Ask green building professionals what their biggest challenge is, and they’ll probably point to the difficulty in making product selections. Given the shear volume of introductions that tout green attributes, and the less-than-standardized range of claims manufacturers can make about them, specifying category selections is tricky, to say the least. A number of green building product and spec guides are emerging to address this issue, but one deeply ambitious effort in particular—the Pharos Project—has everyone waiting anxiously for its rollout within the year. Pharos (www.pharoslens.net) is an online system that rates green building products on a scale of 1 to 10, based on 16 key attributes that fall within three sections of a circular lens: Environment and Resource, Health and Pollution, and Social and Community. These include elusive factors like embodied energy, indoor air quality, water usage, toxic materials, solid waste, global warming, and even corporate commitment to sustainability. As you conduct your online search by CSI category, the Pharos lens graphically displays a product’s green strengths and weaknesses, making pro-versus-con selections much easier.
A Pharos rating also includes a “data confidence score” that weighs the quality of information considered in reaching a rating, such as the credibility of manufacturer’s data or third-party product certification, for example.
Pharos is the brainchild of Jack Geibig of the University of Tennessee’s Center for Clean Products and Clean Technologies, and Tom Lent from the Healthy Building Network, working in collaboration with the Cascadia Region Green Building Council.