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Identifying and reducing “chemical classes of concern” that pose health risks.

Harvard Healthier Building Academy

What is the Harvard Healthier Building Academy?

Launched in 2016, the Harvard Healthier Building Academy (HHBA), is a partnership led by the Office for Sustainability together with researchers from the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and Harvard Medical School. The mission of the HHBA is to identify and reduce “chemical classes of concern” (many derived from petrochemicals) that pose health risks throughout the value chain, the production of which involves significant amounts of carbon emissions. 

Classes of Chemicals 

Harvard has required building project teams to reduce and eliminate the use of harmful classes of chemicals since 2014, leveraging the research of Harvard faculty and other experts through the HHBA. Harvard’s Sustainable Building Standards currently require project teams to avoid multiple classes of chemicals (not lists of individual chemicals), including per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), chemical flame retardants, and antimicrobials, across 14 key interior product categories. Harvard is working with vendors and suppliers, leveraging University purchasing power, to accelerate the transition to healthier building materials and more transparent supply chains. The University is taking responsibility for the impacts of its value chain and sending a signal to markets by creating new standards that prioritize and protect the Harvard community, as well as workers and communities along the value chain.  

HHBA’s Goal: 

Continue removing harmful classes of chemicals, such as PFAS, from Harvard’s value chain and incorporate new classes of chemicals of concern and product categories into the Sustainable Building Standards as new research, third-party certifications, and innovations emerge. Continue to educate project teams and partner with others to innovate, share solutions, and send market signals for a healthier sustainable built environment for all.

Follow some of the latest news publications by members of the Healthy Buildings team and others who are contributing valuable, science-based, and comprehensible information on health in the built environment.

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Front of the Science and Engineering Complex at sunset.