Pharos Project

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Evaluation Tool

Pharos Project

Tool Category

Third-party Evaluation Tools

At a Glance

The Pharos Project is an independent and comprehensive database for identifying health and environmental hazards associated with building products. The Pharos Project encourages manufacturers to disclose all ingredients in building products; helps architects, designers and building owners avoid using products that contain harmful chemicals; and creates incentives for product redesign and modification to reduce the impacts of hazardous materials use throughout the lifecycle of building products.

Tool Website(s)


Tool Owner/Sponsor

Healthy Building Network

Product Stage of Life Evaluated

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

Tool Description

The Pharos Project includes a Building Product Library (BPL) and a Chemical and Material Library (CML).

The CML profiles over 37,500 chemicals and materials for 30 health and environmental hazards, including carcinogenicity, mutagenicity, reproductive toxicity and endocrine disruption, against over 65 authoritative lists of hazards issued by governments, NGOs and other expert bodies.

The BPL evaluates building products and components in 15 main product categories, scoring each for their potential environmental and health impacts. It evaluates over 1,600 building products and components from over 300 manufacturers. The ingredients of over 450 products are completely disclosed by over 60 manufacturers


The BPL provides 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. Level ten represents the ideal product and level one indicates the least favorable.

The framework is presented as a wedge diagram called the Pharos Lens. Each endpoint 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. The Pharos Project also rates product certifications and standards and uses them in building product evaluations. 

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

Pharos pricing is based on projects, instead of the number of users. For 3 projects, the price ranges from $21/month to $240/year. Ten projects costs $52.50/month or $600/year and 25 projects costs $105/month and $1,200/year. There is a 14-day free trial for new subscribers. 

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

Healthy Building Network: 202-741-5717 (phone); 877-974-2767 (toll-free); email: info@healthybuilding.net

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