Declare LabelSustainabilityThe Red ListA2P1035: The Red List – Uncovering the Hidden Chemicals in Your Building Materials

January 31, 2023

With years spent working with owners, architects, and contractors, we understand the importance of incorporating green and sustainable building materials into designs. However, without proper research and knowledge about their composition, certain products could contain hazardous chemicals that harm us and the environment. This article will discuss a list of potentially dangerous substances compiled by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI), explaining why they should be avoided.

Finally, we’ll examine how, working with architects, we can go beyond just knowing what building materials contain certain chemicals to understanding why they should be avoided to create healthier spaces for everyone.

Living Building Challenge (LBC) Red List

The Living Building Challenge (LBC) Red List is an essential tool for owners, architects, designers, and specifiers to consider when specifying materials for a project. The list is an inventory of hazardous chemicals and materials used in the building industry known to have potential health or environmental impacts. This list, compiled by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI), serves as a guide for architects, designers, builders, and specifiers to make informed decisions about which materials should be avoided in their projects.

The Red List has been developed over several years of research and contains information on potentially hazardous substances found in common building materials. Examples include asbestos, formaldehyde, lead, mercury, certain phthalates, flame retardants, PVCs and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and other hazardous chemicals such as arsenic and cadmium. In addition to these materials being dangerous to people’s health in various ways, they can also harm the environment due to their release into the atmosphere or leaching into groundwater sources.

It is crucial for architects, designers, and specifiers to understand the content of the Red List because it provides them with essential knowledge about what materials should be avoided when designing buildings. Architects should use this information when selecting components from product manufacturers certified “Living Building Challenge Compliant” by ILFI or any other third-party assessment system. By avoiding substances on The Red List when designing projects, architects can create healthier living spaces while reducing human and environmental exposure to hazardous chemicals.

What is Included on the Living Building Challenge (LBC) Red List

The Red List identifies hazardous chemicals and their potential health risks. The list is used by governments, industries, and regulatory authorities to identify and assess hazardous chemicals and to support the development of policies and regulations to protect humans and the environment.

The list includes a range of information about each chemical, including its chemical name, physical and chemical properties, potential health risks, and any associated warning labels and precautionary measures. It also provides guidance on how to safely handle and dispose of these chemicals and the potential environmental impacts of their use. Additionally, the list outlines risk management measures to reduce or eliminate exposure to the chemical.

The Red List is regularly updated to include newly identified hazardous chemicals and to reflect the latest scientific knowledge and research. The list is also used to inform the development of safety standards and regulations to protect humans and the environment. The list is widely used by industries and regulatory authorities around the world to help identify and manage the risks of hazardous chemicals. For example, the construction industry uses the Red List to identify building materials that contain harmful chemicals. Pipes, flooring, roof membranes, and pultruded fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP) sub-framing, are a few examples of building materials that contain Red List chemicals.

How The Red List Can Help Owners, Architects, Specifiers, and Contractors Choose Building Materials

The Red List was created in response to the increasing use of potentially hazardous substances in building products. It provides an easy way for architects to avoid these toxic materials when designing healthy spaces. The Red List is a rating system that evaluates construction material health and then assigns them a Green, Yellow, or Red designation based on their potential impacts on humans and the environment. Materials labeled Green are generally considered safe, while those labeled Yellow have some degree of concern and require further research. Materials labeled Red are considered highly toxic and should be avoided whenever possible.

When architects and designers use the Red List during their design process, they can be assured that they are avoiding potentially harmful materials that could negatively impact the occupants of their buildings. In addition to avoiding materials known to be hazardous, The Red List also encourages architects to incorporate healthier alternatives into their designs. By doing this, architects can create healthier spaces for people without sacrificing quality or performance.

As a bonus, using eco-friendly materials can also help reduce a building’s overall environmental footprint. Using The Red List is a simple yet effective way for architects to ensure that the spaces they design are as healthy as possible for everyone who uses them.

Examples of Dangerous Chemicals on the Red List Materials Commonly Found in Building Components

Red List chemicals include various substances, from industrial solvents and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) to residential cleaning products and weed killers. Exposure to these materials can have profound health implications and adverse effects on humans and the environment. For example, PCBs have been a known human carcinogen, while many industrial solvents are neurotoxins that can damage our brains and nervous systems.

Decabromodiphenyl Ethane (DBDPE)
  • Decabromodiphenyl Ethane (DBDPE) is an example of a Red List chemical found in some building materials. DBDPE is used in halogenated flame retardants and is known to leach into the environment through industrial waste and wastewater plants. Studies have shown that exposure to this chemical can cause endocrine disruption and reproductive and thyroid damage.
  • Additionally, it has been found to be toxic to aquatic organisms, leading to mortality in some cases. As it is highly resistant to degradation, it has the potential to persist in the environment for long periods of time, leading to bioaccumulation in organisms and further exacerbating the risks posed.
Antimony Oxide
  • Another example of dangerous Red List chemicals is antimony oxide. Antimony oxide is a chemical compound that is used in some flame retardants and has been linked to a number of health concerns. Studies have shown that high concentrations of antimony can be toxic to humans and can cause adverse health effects, including skin and eye irritation, respiratory complications, and neurological symptoms. Furthermore, antimony oxide has been found to be toxic to aquatic organisms, leading to mortality in some cases. Therefore, antimony oxide is not a safe chemical and should be handled with caution.
  • Formaldehyde is another example of a Red List chemical that is commonly used in building components, such as pressed wood products. It is classified as a volatile organic compound (VOC) and can be hazardous to humans when emitted in large quantities. Formaldehyde has been linked various human health issues including to respiratory irritation, eye irritation, skin rashes, headaches, fatigue, and even cancer. It can also have a negative effect on indoor air quality and make it difficult for people to breathe.
  • Similar to antimony oxide, formaldehyde has also been found to be toxic to aquatic organisms, leading to mortality in some cases. As such, it is important that architects pay attention to the amount of formaldehyde present in their components and take steps to reduce or eliminate it.
Halogenated Flame Retardants
  • Halogenated flame retardants are a class of Red List chemicals used in many building materials and products, such as insulation and furniture. These chemicals are designed to suppress the spread of fire by forming an insulating barrier around combustible components. However, halogenated flame retardants have been linked to serious health risks, including hormone disrupting potential and reproductive toxicity. This has made them a major concern for both human health and the environment, leading to their inclusion on the Red List of chemicals.
  • The best way to ensure human and environmental health safety, is utilizing components and building materials that don’t contain halogenated flame retardants whenever possible. Additionally, it is important to minimize the amount of halogenated flame retardants used in any building materials and products. Doing so will help ensure that people and the environment are not exposed to unhealthy levels of these chemicals.
  • For this reason, people must take extra precautions when dealing with any potentially hazardous chemicals on the Red List. Taking proper safety precautions when using any building products containing chemicals on the Red List is essential to protect your health and the environment around us. As such, it is important that architects pay attention to Red List ingredients and material health, and take steps to reduce or eliminate it.


The Living Building Challenge (LBC) Red List has become an essential tool for owners and architects looking to reduce their environmental impact during the design process and beyond. By utilizing this list as part of their research, architects can better understand how certain components may be more detrimental than others in terms of their environmental effects. In addition, using this data can allow for more thoughtful decisions when selecting building materials and construction methods, ensuring that all projects are designed with sustainability in mind.

Identifying which building components contain Red List chemicals allows them to prioritize those that have been deemed Red List-free. Knowing what components need to be avoided or substituted will enable architects to select those with minimal environmental impact and ultimately ensure a successful project outcome.

Being familiar with The Living Building Challenge Red List is essential for any architect designing sustainable buildings and minimizing their environmental footprint. In addition, it is a crucial resource when making decisions regarding material selection and project implementation strategies, allowing them to make more informed choices that will result in greener outcomes for both their clients and the environment.


When selecting building materials for a project, it is vital to utilize components that have received a Declare label and are Red List-free. Declare labels promotes ingredient transparency and provides information about the materials’ ingredients, material health, and their origins and can quickly identify Red List-free certified products.

Red List-free components have been verified not to contain any of the chemicals, toxins, and other materials listed in the Living Building Challenge Red List of unacceptable materials.

Additionally, these materials have been tested to meet the highest health and safety standards. By selecting building components with these labels, you can be sure that your project uses safe, healthy, and sustainable materials.

Red List-Free – GreenGirt® Composite Metal Hybrid (CMH™) Sub-Framing and SMARTci™ Continuous Insulation Systems

GreenGirt® composite metal hybrid (CMH™) is a Red List-free building material that provides an excellent continuous insulation solution. GreenGirt is pultruded CMH sub-framing and is the primary component of SMARTci™ systems, and offers a more sustainable continuous insulation solution. The system utilizes an innovative composite metal hybrid (CMH) sub-framing system that interlocks with insulated panels to create a continuous insulation envelope. This prevents thermal bridging, reducing energy demands and providing a more comfortable living environment.

GreenGirt CMH sub-framing provides architects with an engineered, innovative, sustainable, and Red List-free continuous insulation solution. The system’s interlocking sub-framing components and insulated panels create an effective thermal envelope that reduces energy demands and provides a comfortable environment for occupants. With its excellent performance, GreenGirt CMH is the ideal choice for owners and architects looking to design

sustainable buildings.

Additional Resources

To see the latest Living Building Challenge Red List materials, compiled by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI), click here.

Contact Us Today!

If you are interested in learning more about LBC Red List-free GreenGirt CMH and SMARTci continuous insulation systems, visit or website or contact us today and our building envelope experts will be in touch as soon as possible!

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