Like plants growing toward sunlight, designers are reaching for a way to illuminate the unseen health hazards and environmental footprint of building materials.

An 2013, 30 major architecture firms sent letters to all their material suppliers demanding transparency. “We need to know what’s in the products we’re specifying,” claims Russell Perry, FAIA, director of SmithGroupJJR’s Washington, D.C. office. “Our clients have a right to know these things and I’d like to help them find out,” he adds.

As a board member of the newly formed Health Product Declaration Collaborative, Perry was impressed by a letter sent out by the Dallas-based firm HKS, so he called on sustainable design leaders from other architecture firms to write similar letters, threatening to eventually ban products without content disclosures from their material libraries and educational programs.