Published on : August 19, 2010

BioPreferred… An Important Ingredient to Sustainable Healthcare Development

BioPreferred… An Important Ingredient to Sustainable Healthcare Development

The argument over the existence of global warming is endless and the division between the opposing opinions is extreme, but the one thing you can’t argue about is the importance of sustainable healthcare design and construction.  
According to the Whole Building Design Guide of the National Institute of Building Sciences, the main objectives of sustainable design are “to avoid resource depletion of energy, water, and raw materials; prevent environmental degradation caused by facilities and infrastructure throughout their life cycle; and create built environments that are livable, comfortable, safe, and productive.”

Thinking of the famous line from the movie Field of Dreams, “If you build it they will come,” we could say about today’s construction industry, “If you build it, they will come… but if you build it foolishly, future generations may not have the resources required to maintain, expand or rebuild it?”

As the world’s population increases, the supply of natural raw materials used in many common building products by the construction industry will struggle to keep up with user demands. But fortunately, as technology advances, so does the capacity to use more renewable resources in the manufacturing of products than ever before. Today, rapidly renewable resources such as bamboo and balsa are being used in ways that just a few years ago would have been unthinkable. Also, there are manufacturers using biobased ingredients rather than petroleum in the manufacturing process of construction materials, helping to reduce America’s dependence on imported oil.

Biobased Products

You may have heard the term “biobased” before, but didn’t know what it meant. As defined by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), biobased products are commercial or industrial products, excluding food or feed, composed completely or in significant part of biological products including renewable agricultural materials such as plant, animal and marine materials, or forestry materials.

The advantages of using biobased products are numerous. Each year, billions of dollars are spent on products used by the construction industry. Many of these products can be created from biobased resources, helping to reduce the use of non-renewable resources. This can, in effect, create new demand for agricultural commodities that can serve as feedstock for production of biobased products; encourage the industrial base through value-added agricultural processing and manufacturing in rural communities; and enhance our nation’s energy security, causing us to rely less on fossil energy-based products derived from imported oil and natural gas and more on domestically produced biobased products.

Because of the numerous benefits, it is evident that biobased products are essential to sustainable healthcare development. First and foremost, incorporating biobased products in construction is environmentally responsible.  But there may be another reason. If your project is federally funded, any Federal agency or any person that is a party to a contract with any Federal agency is now required to give preference to the purchase of BioPreferred products as long as:

  • It is reasonably available;
  • It meets performance standards; and
  • It is reasonably priced

On October 5, 2009, President Obama signed Executive Order 13514 – Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance, which established guidelines for an integrated strategy towards sustainability in the Federal Government. The order states that all Federal agencies are required to implement a preferred procurement program and ensure that all new construction, major renovation, or repair and alteration of Federal buildings complies with the Guiding Principles for Federal Leadership in High Performance and Sustainable Buildings, (Guiding Principles). A Biobased Procurement Program must consist of:

  • A biobased product preference program;
  • A biobased product procurement promotion program; and
  • An annual review and monitoring of program effectiveness.

To establish a preference for the procurement of biobased products, the items must first be designated. The process involved in designating "items" (which are actually groupings of products) is very complex and takes a considerable amount of time to accomplish.

Moving forward, any agency not complying with the President’s Executive Order is subject to legal challenge.

In addition to the Federal government, some states have also adopted guidelines for purchasing biobased products. Just recently, Ohio passed Senate Bill 131 that requires the department of administrative services, other state agencies, and state institutions of higher education purchase biobased products by giving a preference to those designated items that are composed of the highest percentage of biobased content practicable. The state of Indiana has similar guidelines found in Indiana House Bill 1281 requiring all governmental bodies and state educational institutions to purchase biobased products whenever possible. It can be expected that other states will adopt BioPreferred procurement programs in the near future.

BioPreferred was created by the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (2002 Farm Bill), and expanded by the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (2008 Farm Bill), so even though agencies have adopted BioPreferred, they are only beginning to understand the importance of it. Much education about the program is still needed. The United States Department of Agriculture, which manages the BioPreferred program, has created an extensive website http://www.biopreferred.gov, which provides detailed information regarding the BioPreferred program to help with this process.

When browsing the site, the construction materials section can be difficult to find. To locate it, look for the “I Want To” box on the right side of the home page. Within the box, click on the “Buy Biobased Products” link, which will take you to a new page. From this page, look for the “Browse by Subject” section on the left-hand side and scroll over the “Construction and Road Maintenance” link, which will bring up a product category listing. Some product categories have sub-categories, so be sure to view all the sub-categories carefully, so as not to miss any of the available product options.

In addition to the obvious benefits already mentioned for incorporating these “items” in a construction project, BioPreferred products can contribute to LEED credits and, in many cases, are just as cost effective as similar products manufactured from non-sustainable ingredients.

Are BioPreferred products an important ingredient in the future of sustainable healthcare development? Absolutely! So, think about it, why would you not use BioPreferred products in your next project?

About the Author

Tim Ulmer is an independent manufacturer’s representative. Tim’s experience includes 35 years in the cabinet industry (24 as an owner) and 5 years as an independent sales representative. Tim owns and manages IHS Sales and with three additional sales agents represents Vendura Solid Surface, Denix 12, Denix Antimicrobial, Broen and Chicago Laboratory Faucets, Alsident Fume Hoods and Perfection Commercial Cabinetry. Vendura Solid Surface, Denix 12 and Denix Antimicrobial are USDA Certified Biobased Products listed in the USDA BioPreferred Catalog.  View Tim’s profile on Linkedin at http://www.linkedin.com/in/timulmer or contact Tim at tulmer@comcast.net if you would like to learn more about the products he represents.