PHAROS Online: Beacon of Transparency for the Green Building Movement

Bill Walsh - November 10, 2009

Pharos ProjectJoin us. Join with leading architecture and design firms, construction firms and health care systems that have already subscribed to Pharos. Use the system to research green building materials, and align your purchasing power with your values and your commitment to transparency. Support manufacturers who share that commitment.

Today’s public opening of the Pharos system as an authoritative, affordable and user friendly materials evaluation tool is a major milestone in a project that began over three years ago. Following a long tradition of project development, it began with a drawing on a cocktail napkin. That’s how Jason McLennan – then a principal at BNIM Architects, now CEO of the Cascadia Regional Green Building Council – first presented his vision of how to communicate a multi-attribute evaluation of building materials with in an elegant lens graphic. It seemed to us the perfect way to convey our best information and analysis to the green building community, and to accelerate market transformation. The napkin evolved into a whitepaper, the whitepaper into screen shots, and the fun began. As anyone who has tried to evaluate product sustainability will attest, it was more complicated then we could have imagined.

More than anything, we wanted Pharos to be a trustworthy tool for professionals who specify and buy building products. So the first thing you should know is that the Pharos Project is fully independent from product manufacturers. We do not charge manufacturers to have their products listed in Pharos and accept no financial contributions other than the normal subscription rate. We are funded by no-strings-attached philanthropic foundations and a modest subscription fee.

We also wanted Pharos to provide unsurpassed depth and transparency of data and data sources. The Pharos system includes information about a product’s impacts not only during use, but also upstream in manufacture and (coming soon) downstream at the end of a product’s useful life. Whether the information comes from the manufacturer or our own research, we provide you with the both the source and a “Transparency Index” that lets you know the degree to which a manufacturer accepted or declined our request for product information. And we walk our talk. Pharos provides you with all of the evaluation criteria that we use to generate the scores and graphics.

Pharos scores and elegant graphics offer users a fair assessment “at-a-glance” of the relative impacts of products. Rarely do these “at-a-glance” views suggest that one product is clearly superior to all others in all categories. More often than not, the Pharos scores reveal that products have different levels of impact in different impact categories. But the “at-a-glance” view will provide Pharos subscribers with an unprecedented amount of information that they can use to align their product choices with their own values. Pharos users can also set filters, conduct searches and create product libraries that effectively let them set their own priorities and preferences.

During our development process, we heard loud and clear that many green building professionals prefer to examine data for themselves in order to evaluate products. That is why we have prioritized development of the Chemical and Material Library, because it gives you the power to look up nearly 10,000 chemical ingredients commonly found in building products. That way, even if a product has not yet been entered into the Pharos Product Library, you can still get answers to your health related questions about product ingredients.

However you use Pharos, we don’t determine what product best aligns with your values. You do. Pharos is a dynamic tool that connects you to a network of building professionals and manufacturers committed to transparency as a core value on the path to sustainability. We invite you to join and participate. Like it’s namesake, the great lighthouse of ancient Alexandria, Pharos is a guide. You will set the future course to radical transparency.

Subscribe now and register for a free instructional webinar on how to get the most out of the system.

Join us at Greenbuild 2009!

HBN’s Pharos Project will be at booth 2258 at this year’s Greenbuild conference in Phoenix, AZ, November 10-13, hosted by the U.S. Green Building Council. Be one of the first to try the Pharos system and support radical transparency in the building materials market!

For details on other HBN speaking engagements and Pharos events at Greenbuild, click here.


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