News Brief

AIA Writes ‘Prescription’ for Healthier Materials

Step-by-step guidance helps design teams put healthier material selection into practice on every project.

Cover of "Healthier Building Materials: A Design and Implementation Protocol

A new handbook helps architects take action on material health in buildings.

Image: AIA
Awareness of material transparency and hazardous chemical avoidance has increased dramatically over the past several years. But awareness is only half the battle. In practice, selecting building materials that are safer for people and the planet can still be a highly complex and difficult task.

In response to this issue, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and Arup have published “Prescription for Healthier Building Materials: A Design and Implementation Protocol,” a step-by-step guide meant to help any design team, regardless of experience level, set and achieve healthier materials targets for any project.

A main idea behind this effort is that achieving healthier material selection does not have to be on an all-or-nothing basis and reserved only for certain projects that can go all in. Any project, whatever the type or scope, can make meaningful progress toward providing a safer built environment by using healthier products.

In addition to giving background information and context regarding material health in buildings, including a review of progress made related to product transparency, the guide also provides guidance on how to:

  • create and implement a Healthier Materials Plan, including information on how to set goals, define roles and responsibilities, and track progress
  • understand and use product disclosure and optimization tools, including an overview of common tools and standards currently in use
  • overcome common barriers, such as lack of alternative products, difficulty in obtaining client buy-in, and the various forms of real and perceived risk involved, including those related to liability, intellectual property, and uncertain performance of new or alternative products

The guide also includes several case studies that demonstrate how the healthier materials protocol can be used in practice. For example, there are descriptions of Google and Healthy Building Network’s Portico tool for material evaluation and selection, as well as Perkins+Will’s Transparency website, which seeks to put the precautionary principle into practice.

An explanation of how the San Francisco International Airport is using the Mindful Materials system to pursue the material ingredient reporting and Low Emitting Materials credits in LEED v4 is also included.

A number of practical standalone resources—like sample healthier materials plans, tracking worksheets, and specification clauses—are provided in the appendices.

For more information

Published September 10, 2018

Wilson, J. (2018, September 10). AIA Writes ‘Prescription’ for Healthier Materials. Retrieved from

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