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.

  • 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.

  • Fiberglass, XPS, Cork? Insulation Options for LEED v4 and Living Buildings
    April 4, 2017

    Product Review

    Choosing insulation with an eye to points in LEED v4 or Living Building Challenge compliance? Here’s how insulation materials compare.

  • Chemistry for Designers: Understanding Hazards in Building Products
    March 1, 2010

    Feature Article

    What's in our building materials? Are there chemicals we should be afraid of? Trying to get answers to these questions can be frustrating, but there are a number of good tools available.

  • Behind the Logos: Understanding Green Product Certifications
    January 1, 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.

  • Making Carpet Environmentally Friendly
    June 7, 2007

    Feature Article

    Carpets are the most popular floorcovering in the U.S., but they have also been associated with environmental problems including indoor air emissions and intensive resource use. However, manufacturers have worked to curb their environmental footprints by recycling carpet, examining their life-cycle impacts, and pursuing broad-based certification.

  • EPA to Regulate Hazardous Chemicals in Building Materials
    March 1, 2017

    News Analysis

    Asbestos, HBCD, and other chemicals face restrictions under the new Toxic Substances Control Act.

  • Cradle to Cradle Certification: A Peek Inside MBDC's Black Box
    February 1, 2007

    Feature Article

    Cradle to Cradle is a multiple-attribute product certification program based on the philosophy of architect William McDonough and chemist Michael Braungart, and the work of their company, McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC). While MBDC's consulting services are driving breakthroughs in green manufacturing, the certification program lacks some of the comprehensiveness and transparency that are increasingly expected in the green certification market.

  • Greening Your Electricity
    September 28, 2006

    Feature Article

    Many businesses and homeowners are choosing to buy green power, including renewable energy credits (RECs). This article examines the environmental benefits of green power, including on-site renewables, what REC buyers should know about their purchases, and investing in energy conservation.