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.

  • The Hidden Science of High-Performance Building Assemblies
    October 26, 2012

    Feature Article

    Any four walls and a roof make an enclosure, but for efficiency, comfort, and durability, those elements have to be meticulously designed and installed.

  • Seal, Tape, Gasket: A Sticky Search for Better Materials
    August 27, 2012

    Feature Article

    Given the importance of sealing hidden joints in our air and water barriers, you'd think we'd know how long our sealants, adhesives, and gaskets last.

  • Exterior Paints: Long-Term Protection and Environmental Tradeoffs
    May 31, 2012

    Feature Article

    Exterior coatings protect buildings from the environment but often contain hazardous ingredients, so maximizing their durability is often the greenest option.

  • Behind Humanscale’s Living Product Challenge Certification
    February 7, 2017

    News Analysis

    Going big, committing early, and removing unneeded chemistry were key ingredients in certifying the Diffrient chair and Float table under LPC.

  • Biobased Materials: Not Always Greener
    April 30, 2012

    Feature Article

    We tend to think of biobased materials as inherently greener-but even "natural" and "rapidly renewable" materials can carry big environmental impacts.

  • What Makes a Product Green?
    February 2, 2012

    Feature Article

    Lots of manufacturers call their products "green," but are they? Here's our guide to the high-performance attributes that matter.

  • LEDs: The Future Is Here
    November 29, 2011

    Feature Article

    LEDs have finally become an economically viable lighting option, but choosing the best LED products still takes knowledge and skill.

  • Better Choices in Low-Slope Roofing
    October 5, 2011

    Feature Article

    There are big differences in environmental impacts of commercial roofing materials, but the biggest variable may be service life.

  • Choosing Windows: Looking Through the Options
    January 27, 2011

    Feature Article

    We ask a lot from windows: energy efficiency, aesthetics, durability, affordability, and more. Which window frame materials and low-e glazing options balance these choices best? This article explores all the options and decodes the performance labels we see when buying windows.

  • What's New in Multi-Attribute Environmental Certifications
    November 24, 2010

    Feature Article

    The industry is increasingly recognizing the need for a more comprehensive review of green products. We don't have perfect programs yet, but we scrutinize the most prominent programs out there and highlight how they're useful.