Material Selection

Photo: Dan Brady. License: CC BY 2.0.

OVERVIEW

Materials really do matter to the health of occupants and the environment, but finding out what is in a product—and why—is not easy.

Products also have to perform as intended, so there are often tradeoffs between performance and the most sustainable materials.

Here you will find articles on:

  • the least hazardous, most environmentally sustainable materials used in products

  • environmental product declarations that can reveal the life-cycle impacts of materials

  • standards and third-party certifications that provide important VOC criteria and other health and performance metrics

  • chemicals of concern in building materials

You’ll also learn how what makes a product green can differ from product category to product category, and why multi-attribute vetting is critical no matter what product or material you’re selecting or specifying.

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  • Let’s Talk: Mainstreaming Transparency Takes More than Letters

    Op-Ed

    To move the building industry toward greener products, there are two big things we need to do. 

  • Materials Transparency & LEED

    Webcast

    This deep dive into the three Building Product Disclosure and Optimization (BPDO) credits in LEED v4 provides the rationale for why product choices are so important, the details on how to achieve points within the three credits, and which options you shouldn't bother pursuing.

  • Building Product Disclosure & Optimization (BPDO) Cheat Sheet

    Infographic

    The three Building Product Disclosure and Optimization (BPDO) credits in LEED v4 are pushing the industry into new territory. USGBC has done a great job defining and spurring manufacturers to support some options, but others are not yet (as of mid-2017) achievable, for a range of reasons. So go after the easy ones, and don’t waste time on others until they’re within reach.

  • VOC Testing: What It Can and Can’t Tell You

    Primer

    “Section 01350” has come a long way since it acquired its curious nickname. Here’s what it can tell you about indoor air quality—and what it can’t.

  • Building Products Matter Even More Than We Thought

    Op-Ed

    Operational energy use is critical, but materials might be an even bigger part of the solution to climate change and other pressing environmental issues.

  • Phthalate Plasticizer Toxicity Explained

    Primer

    Phthalates are used as plasticizers in vinyl. Some are toxic, some less so—yet many manufacturers are avoiding them altogether.

  • The Lacey Act and the Building Industry: Sourcing Legal Wood

    Primer

    Lumber Liquidators will pay millions for importing illegal wood products. Could architects or contractors be fined for buying them?

  • What These Forestry Labels Really Mean

    Infographic

    You’ve seen FSC and SFI labels on wood products. Most often, you’ve seen no label at all. Here’s a green guide to each one.

  • The 8 Shades of Greenwash: How Many Do You Recognize?

    Infographic

    Most building products these days have an environmental angle to their sales pitches. Many are legit, but as ever, you still have to watch for the telltale signs of greenwash—the practice of inventing or exaggerating the environmental benefits of a product.

  • FSC, LEED, and the Price of Perfectionism

    Op-Ed

    A hard line against industry-sponsored alternatives to FSC certification in the past may have unfortunate outcomes for the world’s forests.