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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  • Finding the Building Products You Need to Do WELL

    Blog Post

    The WELL Building Standard has stringent transparency and health criteria for products and materials. Here’s how to find what you’ll need for certification.

  • 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.

  • Deep Material Vetting (That Won’t Chew Through Your Design Budget)

    Webcast

    In just one hour, learn how to vet products and materials (without having to earn chemistry and toxicology degrees!). Includes special access to a forum offering post-webcast product vetting support.

  • 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 PVC Debate

    Webcast

    If, like a lot of people, your head has been spinning over the last decade as PVC has been debated to point where clarity is hard to find, we'll review the key context that underlies this whole debate—and where facts and opinions diverge.

  • Toxic Chemicals in Buildings: How to Find & Avoid the Worst Offenders

    Webcast

    As a building professional, your clients look to you to help them make solid, science-based decisions about even more complex products and materials. Decisions about a school, a multifamily building, or a commercial office space can affect a lot of people. Do you have enough information to answer the questions of concerned clients? There are no easy answers to any of these questions, but we do know how to identify and eliminate some of the worst hazards from our buildings. In the webcast, we'll take a look at some successful strategies.