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.

  • 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.

  • Game-Changing Products from Greenbuild 2016
    December 5, 2016

    Product Review

    USGBC’s 2016 expo showcased innovative products, including building-integrated ERV and an industry-first PV solar water heater.

  • 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.

  • Get a Whiff of This: The Lowdown on Product Emissions Testing
    August 29, 2006

    Feature Article

    Analytical chemistry tools, used together with product testing chambers, are making it possible to "see" product emissions in new ways. Editor Nadav Malin discusses the science behind product emissions testing, the different product certification standards, and what's ahead for this growing field.

  • Bamboo in Construction: Is the Grass Always Greener?
    March 1, 2006

    Feature Article

    An increasingly popular building material, bamboo is celebrated for its quick growth and ability to regenerate after being harvested. But bamboo also has its downsides. In this feature article, EBN examines the pros and cons of building with bamboo.

  • Stone Certification Recognized in LEED v4, Living Buildings
    November 7, 2016

    News Brief

    Natural stone is one of the oldest green building materials, but it’s the newest to have a rigorous multi-attribute certification recognized by USGBC

  • The Questionable Science Behind VOC Emissions Testing
    October 4, 2016

    Feature Short

    We need the protection that product VOC testing provides, but it’s far from the last word on human health in buildings.