Material Selection

Photo: Dan Brady. License: CC BY 2.0.


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.

  • Behind the Logos: Understanding Green Product Certifications
    January 2, 2008

    Feature Article

    The number of environmental product standards and certifications is growing rapidly, putting numerous different "green" logos on products. This article reviews the key programs and evaluates their rigor, and offers guidance in using them to accomplish project goals.

  • Are Cool Roofs Green? The Answer’s Not Black and White
    June 29, 2014

    Feature Article

    Roofing choices are complicated by heating tradeoffs, climate effects, and condensation, but proponents say reflective roofs still make sense in most climates.

  • Can Concrete Save Us? Locking Up Carbon in Building Materials
    June 1, 2014

    Feature Article

    Concrete is responsible for a huge proportion of global carbon dioxide emissions. A few companies want to reverse this cycle by sequestering carbon in building materials.

  • Mineral-Based Interior Paints Go Mainstream
    September 5, 2017

    Product Review

    Mineral-based paint from Romabio contains no synthetic resins, and can be used in place of standard interior acrylic latex paint on drywall.

  • The PVC Debate: A Fresh Look
    February 3, 2014

    Feature Article

    PVC is banned by some green building programs and simply reviled by some groups. How did we get here, and has anything changed since vinyl became the enemy?

  • Innovative Products and Technology from the Greenbuild Expo
    December 30, 2013

    Feature Article

    Our product editors pick some winners from the expo floor at Greenbuild 2013 while raising questions about some materials.

  • Pete’s Puzzle: Mold on Painted Clapboards is Food for Thought
    August 29, 2017

    Blog Post

    There is mold on the factory-primed, latex top-coated wood clapboards on the south but not the north side of our house

  • Interior Paints: LEED v4 and Beyond
    September 6, 2017

    Product Review

    LEED v4 overhauled its low-emitting materials credit, with a new emphasis on VOC content and emissions. But be sure to look for durability as well.

  • Finding Products for LEED v4-A Guide
    September 3, 2013

    Feature Article

    That complicated new Materials and Resources section of LEED v4 that we debated for years? It's here. Are you ready?

  • Engineering a Wood Revolution
    July 28, 2013

    Feature Article

    Engineered wood products are challenging concrete and steel in structural applications while proffering a lower environmental footprint.