News Brief

Environmental Resource Guide

By the American Institute of Architect’s Committee on The Environment. Quarterly installments, prices vary (see below).

The backbone of the ERG are the materials assessments, including life-cycle analyses and detailed reports about various building materials from an environmental perspective. Funded in part by an $800,000 grant from the EPA, these reports are compiled by consultants under contract to the AIA. Eleven different materials have been covered to date, some more thoroughly than others. Each report provides an overview of the material’s life-cycle from resource extraction to installation and maintenance. Where possible, embodied energy estimates are given, and specific environmental problems or issues are discussed.

Although some of the assessments have gaps, on the whole they provide a useful overview of each industry. At the very least, after reading a section one can begin to interpret manu-facturer’s data and ask intelligent questions about the material. Having the significant points summarized in bullet format at the beginning of each section is very useful for a quick preview of what follows, or to look back on later to refresh your memory. Many of the sections include brief statements from representatives of the industry and from environmental groups, as well as a summary of relevant government regulations.

Aside from the material assessments, the ERG addresses design issues under six additional topics:

•Site Design and Land Use

•Natural Resources


•Recycling/Waste Management

•Building Ecology


Some of these topics already have detailed information, while others are waiting for future installments to fill them out. Almost all the information in these topics is in the form of selected articles reprinted from other publications. This approach has it pros and cons. On the positive side, it has allowed the editors to choose some really good essays, drawing from a variety of perspectives on the issues. The different voices sampled give a sense of the vitality of this developing field, which has many questions with few obvious right answers. On the negative side, it is hard to find specific information about a particular topic, so these sections make good reading for general knowledge, but they don’t offer a quick reference for specific information. Perhaps if the index was more thorough the material would be more useful in that way.

Finally, the ERG also includes case studies of notable environmentally appropriate designs. These are detailed and comprehensive, with enough information to really get a sense of the projects and their unique features.

On the whole, the ERG is a very exciting project. If the information collected is well organized and thoroughly indexed as it gets updated and expanded, it will become a real encyclopedia for the environmental design field. ERG is not cheap at $200 per year ( $125 for AIA members, $150 for non-profits, and $350 for corporations—binder & shipping additional), but it is well worth the price—particularly for larger design firms. Contact them by mail at AIA/ERG Project, 1735 New York Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20006, or by phone at 800/365-ARCH or 202/626-7331.

Published November 1, 1992

(1992, November 1). Environmental Resource Guide. Retrieved from

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