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HomeFree – A Healthy Material Resource for Affordable Housing Leaders

Healthy Building Materials as Contributors to Overall Human Health

Healthy Building Contributes to Human Health

What do you think of when you hear the term “healthy living?” A balanced diet? Physical activity? What about healthy building materials? The concept of healthy living can — and should — be extended to include anything that can affect people’s health either directly or indirectly. With this in mind, the impacts of building materials on occupants’ health is a growing concern of building industry professionals because exposure to unhealthy chemicals used in building materials can trigger serious health hazards.

“Low wealth communities are disproportionately impacted by exposures to unhealthy chemicals – from lead poisoning to asthmagens – in the home, in their neighborhoods and on the job”*. In order to address this issue, the Healthy Building Network (HBN), an environmental health organization founded in 2000 to reduce the use of chemicals in building products, has introduced ‘HomeFree.’

HomeFree is a national initiative to support affordable housing leaders that strive to improve human health by using less toxic building materials. HBN works together with affordable housing leaders and professionals in the field of environmental health to identify health implications of region specific building materials. ‘HomeFree’ is an open-source web platform to create awareness and facilitate adoption of affordable and healthier materials at a large scale.

HBN HomeFree Resources

HomeFree includes a multitude of resources to inform and encourage industry leaders to consider healthy building as a contributor to human health. The platform currently includes:

  • Recommended product listings for eight commonly used product categories in dwelling units. Products in each of the eight product categories listed below are color-coded based on the relative toxicity levels of the substances constituting the materials. Many material listings also include information regarding anticipated health hazards like cancer, endocrine disruption, skin and respiratory allergies, and many others.
    • Flooring
    • Paint
    • Drywall
    • Countertops
    • Cabinetry & Millwork
    • Doors
    • Insulation
    • Flooring Adhesives
  • Demonstration projects in six regions** around the nation. HBN is supporting the project teams of these demonstration projects to model and test best practices as well as to identify superior products. Further, the project teams are also benefitted from local advisors’ feedback. Currently, HBN is collecting data regarding the product specifications for any affordable housing projects located in the six regions listed below, to inform a baseline study. If you have projects located in any of these regions, visit to submit the product specs.
    • Pacific Northwest (Washington and Oregon)
    • Minnesota
    • New York
    • California
    • Louisiana
    • Washington, D.C.
  • Region-specific and general discussion forums
  • Event postings
  • Webinars
  • News bulletins

Product transparency strongly influences making informed choices of the materials. One of the tasks adopted by HBN is to persuade manufacturers to verify the chemicals used within their products and disclose their contents to facilitate comparisons between multiple alternatives. HomeFree intends to incentivize manufacturers to provide complete disclosure of the chemicals and also to develop superior products by creating group purchasing initiatives.

Here, at Steven Winter Associates we are excited to champion the building industry’s efforts to promote product transparency and advocate healthier living environments.

To find out more about Healthy Building Network and its HomeFree initiative, please visit and



HomeFree – by Gina Ciganik. Extracted from

*HomeFree – by Gina Ciganik. Extracted from

**SWA is delighted to be the sustainability and energy efficiency consultant of the demonstration project located in New York.



Written by Bhakti Dave, Residential Green Rater Intern

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