Decoding Declare Labels

Declare | Pro Clima New Zealand

Decoding Declare Labels: A Guide to Selecting Green Materials at a Glance


Green building has become a necessity as climate change drives ecological awareness. Construction companies and experts worldwide have moved toward a greener built environment. However, it remains uncharted territory for many as they continue learning about alternative materials and sustainable practices. 

Although relatively new, Declare labels aim to help architects, construction workers, and regular people make better decisions about the products they use during the building process. These labels enable you to select materials aligned with your sustainability values and goals, resulting in healthier, safer, and environmentally sound infrastructure.

Considering these labels were only developed within the last two decades, there is much to understand. Here’s how to decipher Declare labels for all your green construction needs. 

What Are Declare Labels?

Many shoppers read nutrition labels at the grocery store to understand food products’ nutritional value and ingredients. These labels often influence buying decisions, especially if someone is trying to adopt healthier eating habits.

Declare labels work similarly, delivering greater transparency in the building and design industry. Architects, contractors, and consumers receive a breakdown of materials for individual products, helping them make safer and more environmentally conscious choices. 

The International Living Future Institute established the Declare program in 2012. Manufacturers may voluntarily participate, earning them two points in green building for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification. 

What Information Do the Labels Include?

Have you ever wanted to know how sustainable green carpeting or hardwood floors are? Declare labels state everything you might be wondering about a given product. Typically, they include the following information:

  • Product name and manufacturer
  • Building codes
  • List of product ingredients
  • Sourcing processes
  • Life expectancy and recyclability
  • Compounds from the Red List

The Living Building Challenge (LBC) compiles the Red List — a list of harmful chemicals and materials associated with various human and environmental health problems. Although the list is regularly updated, current compounds include asbestos, lead, cadmium, formaldehyde, petrochemical fertilizers, and pesticides.

Why Are Declare Labels Important?

beige wooden house layoutDeclare labels promote green building certification by creating healthier indoor environments with better air quality and helping lower a building’s carbon footprint. 

Your residence may seem like a haven, but it could make you sick. According to a University of Michigan study, 55 concerning chemicals are in homes across the country, some with concentrations reaching 1,000 times higher than the suggested limit. They often hide within floors, walls, and ceilings.

For example, the researchers discovered formaldehyde in wood furniture and cabinetry, a carcinogen linked to cancer. Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) was also prevalent in carpeting, where concentrations were 800 times more elevated than recommended. Prolonged BHA exposure could lead to ear, nose and throat irritation.

Buildings in the United States also account for 39% of global energy consumption and 68% of electricity use, creating emissions and straining the environment. As such, there is growing interest in eco-friendly construction.

Product ingredient disclosure allows building professionals and the public to make informed decisions about the materials they incorporate into structures. This transparency protects people by avoiding harmful chemicals and items, encourages sustainable alternatives, and empowers building companies to abide by and meet their sustainability objectives for the future. 

The Declare Label Statuses

Declare labels have three statuses indicating whether a product adheres to the LBC Red List. They are as follows:

  • LBC Red List Free: The product discloses all ingredients in its manufacturing and avoids all chemical compounds on the Red List. 
  • LBC Red List Approved: Products disclose 99% of their ingredients and may make an exception for a compound on the Red List. 
  • Declared: The product has been submitted to the program but has not disclosed its ingredients, contains one or more chemicals from the Red List, or has yet to comply with the assessment criteria.

Companies Leading in Innovation and Design

Several companies have pursued Declare designations for their products, including Allsteel, which manufactures office furniture and architectural products. Its frameless glass wall solution with optimal acoustic privacy received the label for its 30-year life span, recyclability rate from 22% to 100%, low carbon footprint and durability. 

In 2021, Knauf Insulation was Europe’s first and sole insulation company to meet the LBC Red List Free label criteria for its Glass Mineral Wool insulation. The company received the same certification for its Supafil Blowing Wool the year before.

The Kohler Co. — a global maker of kitchen and bathroom plumbing materials — also earned certification for cast iron and steel products. The category was a first for the LBC in 2020 after Kohler partnered with Toxnot, the International Living Future Institute and GreenCircle Certified for third-party evaluation. Eventually, Kohler wants to apply the Declare label to its bathroom accessories. 

How to Read Declare Labels

low angle photo of city high rise buildings during daytimeReading Declare labels is straightforward, especially since a product’s details are organized into sections. The first lists the basic information, including what the product is and the manufacturer’s name.

The ingredient list comes next — an exhaustive breakdown of each compound used to make the product, including chemical names and percentages.

Finally, the label states whether the item contains anything from the Red List. External links typically follow, providing additional information about the product and increasing transparency for consumers and builders alike. 

Transparency Is Key to Green Design

Environmental change warrants a more eco-forward construction sector with wiser product use. Declare labels allow architects, builders, and consumers to develop a healthier built world that accounts for people and the planet.

Imagine living and working in buildings with a low environmental footprint, free from hazardous chemicals. These labels could turn a specialized sustainability trend into an industry standard.