Feature Article

Protect Your Spec: 14 Strategies

You’ve selected the ideal materials for your project: now get them into the building.

July 6, 2016

The Betty and Clint Josey Pavilion, an educational facility for the Dixon Water Foundation now certified under LBC, distills some key materials strategies to the essence.

Photo: Casey Dunn
Well, you’ve done it. You’ve sifted through countless product declarations on multiple transparency platforms. You’ve compared apples to oranges, and maybe a few pineapples.

Where no declaration exists, you’ve written to manufacturers encouraging them to share their secrets and confess their sins. The 50% or so who are going to respond have done so, and the 10% or so who actually have what you need have provided it. You’ve created color-coded matrices comparing products across multiple imperatives, and your clients, eyes glazing, have revisited recalcitrant product categories with you for the last time.

Decisions documented, you’ve bundled up the winning entrants’ data and sent them over to your spec writer to be issued as a truly impressive compendium of some of the least toxic, most environmentally responsible materials out there. You’ve assured the firm’s billing administrator that all, some, none (pick one) of this astonishing effort is billable, and now you’re leaning back in your chair (note to self: a likely source of halogenated flame retardants; maybe put in for a new one), and giving yourself a pat on the back.

Ahem.

Would it surprise you to know that getting the right materials into the spec is only half the battle? You still have to get them into the building, and the difficulty of doing that is emerging as a common theme for project teams that are making human health a priority in material selection. Trades inevitably propose cheaper, more familiar, faster-drying substitutes. Pre-manufactured components arrive onsite full of surprises. And who would have thought the world had so much vinyl in it?

If you’re going to truly avoid chemicals on a red list, and not just let them in the back door, you’ll need to build a strong project culture, smarten up your spec, and watch as well as hope. Here we share insights and lessons learned from project teams who’ve done that.