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Pharos Project

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Key to Data

Evaluation Tool

Pharos Project

Tool Category

Third-party Evaluation Tools

At a Glance

The Pharos Project is a web-based tool that is intended to help commercial buyers evaluate product content, certifications and other relevant data about building materials against key health, environmental, and social impact benchmarks. It provides information about a product's toxic impacts during use and in manufacture.

Scores are provided for each impact category allowing retailers to choose preferred materials.

Tool Website(s)

Tool Owner/Sponsor

Healthy Building Network

Type of Entity


Focus of Evaluation


Product Stage of Life Evaluated

Raw materials, manufacturing, transportation, consumer use, end of life

Impact(s) Evaluated

Air emissions, energy use, human health, material impacts, worker health and safety

Tool Description

The Pharos Project tool includes a Building Product Library (BPL) and a Chemical and Material Library (CML). Each product in the BPL is scored on several environmental and health impact categories. The CML uses health hazard information from over 25 authoritative national and international bodies and includes over 10,000 chemicals and materials. Users are provided with a comparative, multi-attribute analysis of these impacts in the form of numerical and color-coded scores.

These scores are based upon the Pharos Framework, which identifies impact categories against which products can be evaluated: VOC's, user toxics, manufacturing and community toxics, renewable materials and renewable energy. Pharos scores products on a ten-point scale within each impact category but does not combine the individual category scores into a single overall numerical product score. Level ten represents the ideal product and level one indicates the least favorable (there is no zero scoring). Levels 2-9 represent benchmarks of achievement on the path to the ideal product.

The framework is presented as a wedge diagram called the Pharos Lens where each of the endpoints is represented by a wedge in the framework and a series of concentric circles within the framework evaluate how well the material performs relative to that endpoint. The inner-most rings are red, the middle rings are orange and yellow, and the outermost rings are green, allowing users to identify "at a glance" the areas in which a material could improve over time.

The framework can be used to evaluate and compare building materials even though all the impact categories have not yet been fully developed.

Product Categories

Building Materials & Products; Paints & Coatings

Tool Requirements

Manufacturers provide information to the Pharos web site about their products, including recycled content, chemical ingredients, formulation,manufacturing process, manufacturing locations, certifications, regulatory compliance, standards met, renewable energy used at the manufacturing site, and packaging.

Cost of Tool

Individual subscriptions are $180.00 per year. Team subscriptions start at $540.00 per year. In mid-2011 Pharos subscriptions will be sold as a package with the GreenSpec product directory as part of a strategic partnership between the Healthy Building Network and BuildingGreen, Inc, publishers of GreenSpec. There is no charge for manufacturers to enter their product data into the Pharos database.

Evaluation Frequency


Strengths and Weaknesses

Strengths: The Pharos scoring system identifies the relative impacts of products “at-a-glance” and also allows users to see what is behind the Pharos evaluations and scoring. All Pharos calculations are transparent, assumptions are disclosed, and as much raw data as possible is made available so that Pharos users can make an independent evaluation.

Weaknesses: Pharos currently provides information about a product’s impact during manufacture and use. It does not yet provide information about downstream impacts at the end of a product’s useful life.

For More Information

Bill Walsh:

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