The Transparency Project / Perkins + Will

©2009 Christian Phillips Photography. RWU North Campus Residence Hall, by

Everyday, Americans all over the country go to work. They get in their cars, arrive at the office, and sit inside. Then, they go home, maybe watch some TV, and go to bed. 5 days a week. About 50 weeks a year.

Our built environment is where we now spend about 90% of our time. Unluckily for us, however, a recent Forbes article suggests that, most of the time, indoor air quality is actually worse than outdoor, to the point where it’s potentially hazardous: “paint, carpet, countertops, dry wall, you name it and chances are it’s got some sort of toxic ingredient.”

And yet we have little way of knowing just how bad our building’s “ingredients” are for us. Until now.

Perkins+Will has been busy making lists of harmful substances, and their side effects, found in commonly used building materials. Just last week, they released a report tackling one such “toxin”: asthmagens, affecting over 23 million Americans (including 7.1. million children).

The forward-thinking firm is on the cutting-edge of a movement, instigated by clients and fast taking over the architecture world – towards “healthy” buildings (inside and out).

Read more about Perkins+Will’s revolutionary Transparency Project, after the break…

Nowadays, it’s common that a built landscape is designed to be “healthy” – perhaps an inviting staircase encourages physical activity, nature is integrated into the design, ventilation/natural lighting are givens. And yet, as far as the general consumer, or even the architect, knows, the very materials that construct these “healthy” environments could be inherently “unhealthy” themselves.

Peter Syrett, senior designer for Perkins + Will and lead author of the asthmagens report, explains the irony to Forbes: “The buildings we build are manifestations of certain values and beliefs. If a school is meant to nurture and support, you don’t want to build it out of toxic materials. If a hospital is about healing and you don’t want to build it with materials that work against those things.”

The “Transparency Project” is Perkins+Will’s campaign to transform the building industry towards transparency. They hope to pressure the traditionally secretive construction industry into creating a kind of “nutrition label” for their products, openly describing their contents, so we can consciously construct healthier, safer buildings.

Perkins+Will may be at the forefront of this movement, but we don’t think it will be long until other firms, and, eventually, the conservative building industry, follow suit. With clients, including high-profile ones like Google, increasingly demanding healthy buildings, architects will have to buff up on – and demand – “healthier” building materials.

The “Transparency Project” site is a good place to start.

Story via Forbes

Cite: Quirk, Vanessa. "The Transparency Project / Perkins + Will" 23 Aug 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 18 Dec 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=264727>