SpecLink-E and LEED v4 Low-Emitting Materials

The principal SL-E section that deals with low-emitting materials is:

  • Section 01 6116 - Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) Content Restrictions

Related sections include:

  • Section 01 3329 - Sustainable Design Reporting.
  • Section 01 3329.04 - Material Content Form
  • Section 01 3329.07 - Prohibited Content Installer Certification
  • Section 01 5721 - Indoor Air Quality Controls

Reading List

Section 01 6116 - Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) Content Restrictions:

Section 01 6116 divides VOC requirements into three groups: 1) specify compliance with federal, State, and local regulations, 2) specify indoor-emissions restrictions, and 3) specify VOC-content restrictions.

Regulatory low VOC requirements are well-established and can be specified as absolute requirements, such as low/no formaldehyde composite wood, low/no VOC paints, coatings, adhesives and sealants. Such requirements can also be voluntary, such as using a local regulation in a different jurisdiction.

On the other hand, indoor-emissions restrictions are not yet mandated by law, although they may be mandated by the Owner. The method of testing for indoor-emissions is completely different from testing for VOC content. The VOC content test is done on liquid products before installation -- the indoor-emissions test is done on installed products. The test for indoor emissions was developed by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and is referred to as Standard Method v1.1. Test reports or certifications are necessary to show that products meet this standard -- since this standard is relatively new and is not mandated by law many manufacturers have not yet tested their products. SL-E refers to the products this applies to as "indoor-emissions-restricted" products, and provides a method to define which products are in this category.

Section 013329.04 Material Content Form is used to submit the evidence required to show that the products used met the requirements. Some of this evidence is not commonly included in conventional product data submittals.

Section 013329.07 Prohibited Content Installer Certification Form is used to discourage undisciplined installers from negating the efforts made to achieve low-emissions goals, to get the Contractor's cooperation in controlling prohibited content materials, and to help avoid the necessity for indoor air contaminant testing (which is specified in Section 015721 Indoor Air Quality Controls).

LEED v4:

Under LEED v4, 1 to 3 points can be achieved for EQ Credit Low-Emitting Materials.

This credit includes voluntary VOC-content and indoor-emissions restrictions. Indoor-emissions restricted products can include all the interior finishes (walls, ceilings, flooring, adhesives, sealants, exterior wall insulation). The emissions-restricted product scope is divided into 5 categories -- paints and coatings, adhesives and sealants, flooring, composite wood, and ceilings, walls, and insulation -- with another category for furniture and one for healthcare/schools. The 3 points are awarded for the number of compliant categories achieved. For instance, if all flooring was indoor-emissions tested (or inherently non-emitting) and all paint was tested, 1 point would be achieved. The threshold for achievement is very high -- 90-100% for indoor-emissions plus 100% for VOC-content.

Two approaches are possible:

  • Research and specify particular materials that have already been tested. Add the emissions criteria to each individual specification section where applicable, preferably by cross-referencing to Section 016116.
  • Ask for submission of evidence for all products used in particular categories that it seems possible to achieve. Documentation of evidence is done using 013329.04 Material Content Form.

If indoor-emissions restrictions are included, edit the scope of the indoor-emissions-restricted products in the DEFINITIONS article, to include categories that you know can be achieved. This scope should also be reflected in Section 01 3329 under DEFINITIONS, if only the low-emitting credit is being pursued.


Read the rating system document for this credit. Your objective is to understand the requirements and the ramifications if you decide to pursue them. "General Emissions Evaluation" refers to what SpecLink-E calls "indoor-emissions".

Hypothesize a project. Assume that you are going to pursue 1 point by using all water-based paints and sealants and by using tested floor coverings or inherently non-emitting flooring materials.

Open Section 016116, activate the title, and activate the optional checklist at the top. (If you are using the same project as for earlier exercises, these may already be active.)

  • Select the applicable criteria. To achieve 1 point as assumed, you'll need to select both indoor-emissions restrictions and voluntary VOC-content restrictions (because most regulations do not cover enough).
  • Also select the option to "Require all installers to certify..."
  • Scroll down to DEFINITIONS and select "Interior paints and coatings" and "Flooring". You might also select "Composite Wood" because its compliance requirements are well known and products are readily available. However, 3 compliant categories may not be enough to achieve another point.
  • Read the rest of the section and select any optional text that applies to your project.

Open Section 013329:


  1. The BSD SpecLink-E master database indicates specific products that have low VOC content.
    1. In most relevant product sections.
    2. Mostly not.
  2. VOC content limits are specified:
    1. In individual product specifications, where relevant.
    2. In Section 016116 Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) Content Restrictions.
    3. In Section 016116 and some other sections.
  3. Which of the following different types of VOC issues are covered in Section 016116?
    1. VOC restrictions included in federal, State, and local regulations.
    2. Indoor-emissions restrictions.
    3. VOC-content limits.
    4. All of the above.
    5. None of the above.
  4. Regulatory and voluntary VOC content limits are primarily intended to:
    1. Prevent further depletion of the ozone layer.
    2. Prevent ground level ozone (smog).
    3. Avoid exposing installers to toxic chemicals.
    4. All of the above.
    5. None of the above.
  5. Indoor-emissions restrictions are primarily intended to:
    1. To protect school children.
    2. To minimize emissions of toxic chemicals after the products are installed.
    3. Other.
    4. All of the above.
    5. None of the above.
  6. In general, VOC content limits apply to wet-applied products, like paints, adhesives, and sealants.
    1. Yes.
    2. No.
  7. In general, indoor-emissions restrictions apply to solid products, like gypsum board, flooring, etc.
    1. Yes.
    2. No.
  8. Under LEED v4, the low-emitting materials credit only covers indoor-emissions.
    1. Yes.
    2. No.
  9. Under LEED v4, the low-emitting materials credit covers which of the following product categories?
    1. Indoor paints and coatings.
    2. Adhesives and sealants.
    3. Flooring.
    4. Composite wood.
    5. Ceilings, walls, and insulation.
    6. Furniture.
    7. Exterior wet-applied products.
    8. All of the above.
    9. None of the above.
  10. Under LEED v4, New Construction, how many points would be credited if the threshold was achieved for paints and coatings and flooring?
    1. 2 points.
    2. 1 point.
    3. 0 points.
    4. Other.
  11. Which of the following materials are NOT considered inherently non-emitting (and thus are required to be indoor-emissions tested)?
    1. Stone.
    2. Concrete.
    3. Clay brick.
    4. Unfinished metals.
    5. Metals with plated, anodized, or powder coated finishes.
    6. Glass.
    7. Factory-finished solid wood flooring.
    8. All of the above.
    9. None of the above.
  12. Indoor-emissions of products:
    1. Can be calculated from VOC content measured in grams/Liter.
    2. Must be tested on installed or applied products.
    3. Other.
  13. Which of the product categories in question 9 does not have to be indoor-emissions tested?
    1. Composite wood.
    2. Other.
  14. Can the Contractor be assigned the responsibility for choosing indoor-emissions tested products?
    1. Possibly in certain limited categories where enough products are known to meet other specification requirements and are tested.
    2. Probably not, if all categories are to be pursued.
    3. Other.
  15. If any of the categories of the Low-Emitting Materials credit are to be pursued:
    1. Include them in the definition of "Product Reporting Scope" in Section 013329.
    2. The Contractor must collect evidence of testing from manufacturers, suppliers, and subcontractors.
    3. The Material Content Form is used to collect evidence.
    4. The design team does the calculations.
    5. All of the above.
    6. None of the above.
  16. What is Section 013329.07 Prohibited Content Installer Certification Form used for?
    1. To prevent undisciplined installers from negating the efforts made to achieve low-emissions goals.
    2. To make installers think twice about using unauthorized adhesives.
    3. To get the Contractor's cooperation in controlling prohibited content materials.
    4. To help avoid the necessity for indoor air contaminant testing.
    5. All of the above.
    6. None of the above.