The Red List is an index of the most harmful and polluting materials used in the building industry. It was created by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI) to identify and eliminate pollutants, substances that are harmful to construction and factory workers, and chemicals that bio-accumulate up the food chain until reaching toxic concentrations. The complete list is available online, and includes substances such as PVC, CFCs and HCFCs, halogenated flame retardants, formaldehyde, and chloroprene.
To incentivize this goal, ILFI’s transparency and material health initiative, Living Building Challenge (LBC), requires that qualifying projects must not contain any Red List chemicals. Exceptions are granted on a case-by-case basis. If an exception is permitted, the builder must present a written letter to the manufacturer of the Red List material to explain that they are not endorsing the product and would prefer that a non-toxic, sustainable alternative be produced. The LBC is working towards the elimination of all Red List chemicals, but exceptions exist because of material limitations in the building industry. Exceptions are temporary, and when viable alternatives are introduced, they will be eliminated. The LBC also has a “small component” clause that permits trace amounts of Red List chemicals.1
The ILFI awards Declare Labels to industrial manufacturers who opt to disclose their products’ ingredients. There are three kinds of Declare Labels, each with different imperatives for eligibility. Two, LBC Red List Free and LBC Red List Approved, are dependent on their compliance with Red List imperatives and ingredient disclosure, according to LBC standards.2 LBC Red List Free status indicates that a product does not contain any Red List chemicals at or above 100ppm or .01%. Manufacturers must disclose 100% of ingredients to claim their product is Red List Free. An LBC Red List Approved status means that a product is in compliance with LBC requirements, but that there are one or more exceptions.3
When the ILFI released LBC 4.0 in 2019, it created the LBC Watch List. This list contains chemicals and compounds that may be flagged for future inclusion on the Red List. ILFI’s objective is to warn manufacturers and project teams that might be using these substances and give them time for research and development on safer alternatives. Chemicals must be designated as “Priority for Red List Inclusion” for at least a year before being added to the Red List. Chemicals with “Priority for Red List Inclusion” appear on labels in orange but this does not affect Declaration status or LBC compliance.4