Better Building Materials Understanding Human Health and Environmental Attributes by Ashley White
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Better Building Materials Understanding Human Health and Environmental Attributes by Ashley White

The U.S. Green Building Council would like to thank the following individuals for providing peer-review feedback: Mara Baum (HOK), Eden Brukman (Health Product Declaration Collaborative), Mikhail Davis (Interface), Corinne Day (AECOM), Vince Digneo (Adobe), Paul Firth (UL Environment), Stacy Glass (Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute), Jean Hansen (HDR), Lauren Heine (Clean Production Action), Priya Premchandran (Google), Kirsten Ritchie (Gensler), Adhamina Rodriguez (Swinerton Builders), Wes Sullens (StopWaste), Meg Whittaker (ToxServices), and Howard Williams (Construction Specialties).

The content of Better Building Materials: Understanding Human Health and Environmental Attributes is in the public domain and may be freely reproduced and displayed, and derivative works may be created from it, with the exception that the following are used under license and with permission of their creators: photographs on p. 13, Figure 1-2 (p. 22), photographs on p. 30, photograph of forest (p. 35), photograph of power plant (p. 42), photographs on p. 44, Figure 3-1 (p. 69), Figure 3-2 (p. 70), Figure 3-8 (p. 99), Figure 3-10 (p. 104-105), Figure 3-11 (p. 115), Figure 3-12 (p. 116), Figure 3-13 (p. 117), photograph on p. 118, Figure 3-14 (p. 120), Figure 4-2 (p. 144), and the contents of Chapter 6.

Leadership from the Field--Case Studies (p. 175-208). To the extent use of previously copyrighted content is desired, please contact the copyright owner directly, as indicated in the attribution found herein. The built environment is the stage for our lives. Materials make that built environment possible, and collectively, the effects of millions of materials choices have massive consequences for the ecosystem and human health at local, regional, and global scales. The breadth of materials-related issues extends far beyond familiar factors, such as aesthetics, cost, durability, availability, performance, emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), or the percentage of recycled content.

Increasingly, we understand that materials choices are complex and multifaceted, affecting the health of manufacturing and construction workers and building occupants, and the sustainability and quality of natural resources across the life cycle of each building product. For most building professionals, the array of considerations is daunting, and navigating the issues requires new knowledge and skills. This guide defines the core information—including fundamental issues, major tools, and best practices—needed by the professionals who specify and procure building products to understand the consequences of building materials for human health and the environment.

This knowledge will empower project teams and related professionals, such as facilities managers, product designers, manufacturers, and scientists, to take leading roles in using materials selection to promote human health and protect the environment. that deliver comparable or improved function, durability, and maintainability—has always been an important component of green building. Until recently, the focus within green building rating systems like the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design™ (LEED) was on single attributes, such as recycled content, locally sourced materials, and VOC content, covering a limited part of the materials life cycle.

Growing understanding of the health and environmental impacts of materials, as well as better access to tools and data, has allowed LEED to pursue an alternative approach. This is reflected in LEED v4 by new Materials and Resources credits that emphasize information disclosure and materials optimization. The new credits will enable project teams to choose preferable products based on more robust, multifaceted information, including ingredient lists, human health hazards, and environmental impacts across the life cycle of materials, and they provide incentives for manufacturers to improve their products.

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