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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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • The 12 Product Rules

    Infographic

    These 12 product rules provide a simple approach to selecting better, healthier, and more environmentally responsible building products and materials.

  • Getting “Conflict Minerals” Out of Our Products

    Primer

    While “blood diamonds” get attention, mining of metals like tin and tungsten helps finance civil wars. Here’s a look at the movement to change that.

  • The Many Faces of Reclaimed Wood

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    Some types of reclaimed wood count as "salvaged materials" that contribute to points in LEED and help comply with green building codes while others do not.

  • Forest Products Certification: How It Works

    Primer

    Many wood and paper products now come with an eco-label. But what happens behind the scenes before a product gets the seal of approval?