Reduced Life-Cycle Impacts

Photo: Viridian Reclaimed Wood

OVERVIEW

Is wood a sustainable material? It depends: a table made from reclaimed wood has a much smaller environmental footprint than one sourced from a monoculture plantation that replaced a rainforest.

Defining responsible material sourcing—and then finding responsibly sourced products—is complicated. Here you will find in-depth resources that detail the benefits and challenges of using biobased materials, reclaimed wood, fly ash, and other materials. Our resources also detail which companies and industries are ahead of the curve in offering responsible choices.

What about the materials you don’t use? Using less is always a good idea—as long as that doesn’t compromise performance.

Doing more with less takes knowledge and attention: it’s about investing in human resources instead of wasting natural resources. And since our small planet has more humans every day, we’re not likely to run out of them anytime soon. Durability, efficient structural systems, and repairing and retrofitting rather than replacing are all key strategies to consider.

  • Better Steel, Lower Impacts
    May 2, 2017

    Feature Article

    Steel’s reputation for high embodied energy and carbon emissions are well documented, but improvements in processing, product selection, and end use can minimize these impacts.

  • Certified Wood: How SFI Compares to FSC
    March 3, 2015

    Feature Article

    FSC-certified wood is ingrained in rating systems like LEED, but rival SFI has a revised standard. Can it show it’s just as good on the issues that matter most?

  • Can Concrete Save Us? Locking Up Carbon in Building Materials
    June 1, 2014

    Feature Article

    Concrete is responsible for a huge proportion of global carbon dioxide emissions. A few companies want to reverse this cycle by sequestering carbon in building materials.

  • Finding Products for LEED v4-A Guide
    September 3, 2013

    Feature Article

    That complicated new Materials and Resources section of LEED v4 that we debated for years? It's here. Are you ready?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Reducing Environmental Impacts of Cement and Concrete
    August 30, 2010

    Feature Article

     This article explores the environmental footprint of portland cement production and future emissions regulations and looks at the issues surrounding its most common replacement, fly ash.

  • Prefabricating Green: Building Environmentally Friendly Houses Off Site
    September 28, 2007

    Feature Article

    Prefabricated housing offers several potential environmental benefits, including reduced transportation impacts, reduced waste, and quality control for better durability and performance. Aside from a few industry leaders, however, most manufacturers do not take full advantage of those efficiencies to create affordable high-performance houses.

  • 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.