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.

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  • Prefabricating Green: Building Environmentally Friendly Houses Off Site

    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

    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.

  • Piping in Perspective: Selecting Pipe for Plumbing in Buildings

    Feature Article

    Potable water supply piping and drain-waste-vent piping represent a significant fraction of a building's materials. Choosing the greenest pipe for both applications, particularly deciding between metal pipe and plastic alternatives, requires evaluating a variety of environmental and human health impacts as well as durability and performance issues.

  • Bamboo in Construction: Is the Grass Always Greener?

    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.

  • Building Products Matter Even More Than We Thought

    Op-Ed

    Operational energy use is critical, but materials might be an even bigger part of the solution to climate change and other pressing environmental issues.

  • FSC, LEED, and the Price of Perfectionism

    Op-Ed

    A hard line against industry-sponsored alternatives to FSC certification in the past may have unfortunate outcomes for the world’s forests.

  • EBN's Position on Fly Ash

    Op-Ed

    EBN is concerned about heavy metals leaching from products made with fly ash, and thinks these products should only be used if they reduce greenhouse gas emissions elsewhere or if the risk of leaching is very low.

  • Indigenous Cradle to Cradle

    Op-Ed

    Reader Bruce King questions the focus of the Cradle to Cradle product certification program on synthetic materials.

  • Meeting Your Challenge

    Op-Ed

    Sarnafil US, Inc. meets EBN's challenge to recycle its old roofs as well as production waste and scrap.

  • Why the USGBC Should Change LEED's Position on Wood

    Op-Ed

    Alex Wilson, who wrote a white paper for the USGBC recommending changes to the LEED Rating System relative to wood and biobased credits, explains why the changes make sense from an environmental standpoint.