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“Better Materials” Simplifies Search and Documentation for HPDs, EPDs, and More

The chaotic and frustrating process of searching for transparency documents is getting a total overhaul with a better search and pre-verification by GBCI.
Paula Melton
November 25, 2019

If you’ve attempted the Building Product Disclosure and Optimization (BPDO) credits under LEED v4 or 4.1, you probably have war stories about finding, verifying, and documenting those credits—and then potentially having your environmental product declarations (EPDs) or Health Product Declarations (HPDs) rejected because of something you missed in the fine print.

All that frustration is about to go away. Meet the Better Materials initiative from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI).

Several major search engines on one platform

Introduced at Greenbuild 2019 in Atlanta, the program has two major features. The first is a meta-database that brings together several existing search engines on one platform. Currently available are UL Spot, Origin, and Ecomedes, and USGBC is promising more databases in the coming months.

“Unified Search is not a new product database,” emphasizes an announcement shared with LEEDuser. “Simply put, instead of opening each platform separately and searching for the same product on each platform, Unified Search allows project teams to search for the same products across all platforms in one go.”

The advantage? You don’t have to go to several different websites poking around for products with EPDs, HPDs, or other documentation. Better Materials supports search for:

  • BPDO - Environmental Product Declarations
  • BPDO - Sourcing of Raw Materials
  • BPDO - Material Ingredients
  • Low Emitting Materials

GBCI pre-verification

But LEEDusers have expressed dissatisfaction with some of these databases on our forums: they say that the databases can sometimes claim products have documents that meet LEED criteria, but then these same documents get rejected by GBCI.

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“We are asking everyone to become material experts and to decipher all the complex material reports,” explains the announcement. That’s about to end, with a new GBCI pre-screening. GBCI will work directly with manufacturers to verify that documents are LEED compliant. A few products have already gone through the process, but this is something that will take time to build out. (Manufacturers will pay for the screening, with pricing to be determined.)

A huge plus? You don’t actually have to upload any of the documents that have been pre-verified. You just have to enter an ID number in the calculator, which GBCI will automatically accept as your documentation.

This not a certification system for products, but rather the same screening GBCI already does for each document. The new system should save time for reviewers as well as for project teams.

“We want to make the search for better materials smarter, more predictable, and more transformative to the industry,” says the announcement. “Our vision is that everyone, everywhere should have access to better materials.”

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February 5, 2024 - 9:42 am

I contacted GBCI regarding this web site a couple of weeks ago and they finally got back to me today. Here's a snippet of their response...

Hi Cynthia,

Thank you for your patience while I consulted my colleagues on this. GBCI is no longer using or promoting the Better Materials website. Since Ecomedes now manages this website (https://products.ecomedes.com/), you may reach out to Ecomedes directly for any further support or guidance regarding the same.

If you have any other questions or concerns about this inquiry, please respond directly to this email, and I would be happy to help further. For future inquiries, you may find it helpful to explore our Help Center, or feel free to contact us at https://gbci.org/contact.

Best Regards, 

Shraddha Marathe

Senior Manager - Technical Customer Service, LEED AP BD+C 

July 23, 2020 - 3:24 pm

When purchasing for a LEED project that includes veneer panels & doors who's certificates should be collected. The vendor you purchased from or the vendors that the individual materials were purchased from?

May 24, 2020 - 9:39 pm

Hi Paula

I'm not able to find very many materials in the database -  doing a test search for floor coatings(what am I doing wrong?)

As an alternative - many of the larger general contractors subscribe to Green Badger which has a pretty robust (but still somewhat uneven) database of products, particularly for the low-emitting categories. The platform does a good job of tracking and reporting with an user-friendly dashboard.

January 22, 2020 - 2:45 pm

Hi, Mary Frances! The link is in the article, but I'm putting it here as well:


The database is already functioning. I don't know whether there are yet pre-verified materials.

January 22, 2020 - 1:15 pm

This sounds like a great initiative, but when can we expect to be able to use it and what is the link?

December 5, 2019 - 6:31 pm

I'm wondering if someone might be providing some training on how to use this new database?  I can see a "Verified for LEED Documentation" option on the ecomedes tab (2 products), but it is not as obvious how to filter for that on the UL Spot and Origin tabs.  Unless there is nothing verified on those databases yet?

December 2, 2019 - 8:58 am

Answer from USGBC: Thanks - at present we are working on LEED only. Perhaps in the future we can look at WELL as there certainly is overlap. But right now the focus is on building out the functionality and program for LEED. 

November 29, 2019 - 9:14 am

Bettina, this is a great question. I will try to find out the answer!

November 27, 2019 - 10:52 am

Would be a great addition for those looking at WELL certification.