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March/April 2009

Pharos Project

The Healthy Building Network, partnering with the Cascadia Region Green Building Council and the Center for Clean Products and Clean Technologies are working on a life cycle based material assessment tool called Pharos™. Since I'm eager for it's release, I decided to check on the status of the project. I spoke with Paul Bogart, Programs Director at the Healthy Building Network and reviewed the project website. The Pharos project is being designed to "assist people in using their professional training and judgment to evaluate the weight of available evidence about building products, and to make informed decisions." I wish I had thought to describe our site so clearly and concisely. I especially appreciate the part about using "their professional training and judgment". We'll never have one tool or one resource that will give us one right answer. As professionals, we're hired to use our professional judgment. We're not hired to just use computer based tools when guiding our clients through the design process. That said, the complexity of information needed to analyze materials is too much for any one human brain. So, a computer based tool designed by thoughtful professionals dedicated to continual improvement will be a welcome addition to our interior designer tool belt.

Check out for a direct look at the project website. Continue here for a quick overview.

The Pharos Project has been under development for a couple of years and is currently set to begin a pilot phase. The pilot phase will include a group of professionals in the field helping to test and refine the tool before taking it to market. A target date for release hasn't been set.

Pharos has three main components: a Framework, a Lens and a Wiki.

The Framework has three main categories with subcategories that are each considered during material assessment.

The Lens is the graphic representation of the material assessment including the three categories and subcategories of the Framework. This way the range of positive and negative sustainable attributes can be viewed all at once, giving an "at a glance" analysis of the sustainable attributes of a material. Along with the Lens is a Label, which is a little like the nutrition label on a food product giving additional more specific information.

The Label includes:

The Pharos Wiki is underway, providing an opportunity for a broader community of people to gather and help inform the on going development of Pharos. We'll keep you posted as to the launch date of Pharos. It's expected to be a valuable tool for all of us seeking additional support in sustainable material selection.