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Two Key Tips for VOC Management

In an ideal (LEED-based) world, all products would come with a giant stamp right on them, or on the first page of a submittal, with big bold wording stating things like VOC content, FSC number or recycled percentage. For better or for worse, that certainly isn’t the case. What I am amazed with, however, is how some submittals can contain absolutely zero relevant data. I mean, I know people don’t like extra paperwork, but is the answer really just forward on as much crap as you can pull together? Unfortunately, this happens more often than naught!

Let’s take VOCs for example. The first issue is often making sure it is known that you need cut sheets on sealants and adhesives. With paints, you’ll get it, since it is a standalone submittal. But with things like PVC cement or duct mastic, they are very small components of plumbing and HVAC submittals, and are very frequently overlooked.

So two key tips for today. 1 – make sure you’re getting the submittals you need. This means, check the LEED VOC chart, or keep a handy list of what’s likely to be on your project, and make sure it is part of the submittal package. Almost every commercial job with have PVC/CPVC cements and primers (plumbing, maybe electrical), duct mastic (HVAC), fire caulk (lots of trades), acoustical sealant, various flooring adhesives (carpet, vinyl, ceramic, etc), multipurpose construction adhesives, painter’s caulk, and cove base adhesives (flooring). I’ve probably missed a few, but you’ll likely being seeing these (you better be seeing these!) Just note, each one is buried as part of a much bigger submittal – make sure they are sending you the product data!
Key point #2 – the product data sheet. It’s crazy. People submit all sorts of paperwork. But you need to read carefully – a lot of time product data sheets don’t actually include VOC content. Worse, a number of MSDS sheets don’t contain VOC content! And these can be 20 pages long – so it can be tough to find. So a quick tip – assuming they sent a PDF, just use the magic Control+F (or Command+F on a Mac) and search for VOC. If nothing pops up, try “volatile” cause sometimes they just spell it out. Either way, it should take you right to it. If it doesn’t, then you need to start playing detective and read through more closely.

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 2.22.57 PMA quick Command+F and VOC turned up the VOC content instantly.

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 2.23.45 PMSometimes VOC won’t return any results – try typing in “volatile”.

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 2.23.18 PMOther times, you get product data sheets (vs MSDS sheets), that simply list VOC content as a product attribute. That’s fine – USGBC will accept those too:

But – if you can’t find it, reject that submittal ASAP and make them send you product literature that states the VOC content so you can make sure you don’t have easy LEED points going down the drain.

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