What role does sustainable material selection play?
Choosing materials for green building development goes beyond aesthetics and performance. It involves making responsible choices that align with sustainability goals. Environmental product Declaration (EPDs) are based on the principles of Life cycle assessment (LCA), and are used to measure the environmental impact of materials from its extraction to the end of its life cycle. These Impacts include:
Resource Conservation: Selecting materials that are sourced sustainably, such as those made from renewable or recycled materials, including upcycled materials, can reduce the demand for virgin resources, conserve natural resources, and minimize environmental degradation associated with extraction and processing of raw materials. Upcycling, which involves repurposing or redesigning discarded or unwanted materials into new items, can be an effective way to reduce waste and extend the lifespan of materials, contributing to the principles of sustainability and resource conservation in green building.
Energy Efficiency: Choosing materials with high energy performance, such as those with high insulation properties or reflective surfaces, can reduce the energy consumption of a building by minimizing heat gain or loss through the building envelope. This can result in reduced energy use, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and improved overall energy efficiency of the building.
Waste Reduction: Opting for materials that are durable, reusable, or recyclable can minimize waste generation during construction, operation, and eventual demolition of a building. This can help reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills and promote a circular economy approach where there is no loss or disposal of materials, and all ingredients are fed back into the cycles to be fully re-used.
Indoor Air Quality The importance of material selections with regards to VOCs can’t be overemphasized, because even norminally “neutral” materials like wood surfaces can emit VOCs (e.g. formaldehyde). Laquers, finishes and paints as well asadhesives and artifical organisc materials (plastics, foams, etc.) can be VOC sources.
Another aspect is the social treatment of the earth. If resources are exploited in a way with minimal or no negative impact on the environment or, even better, the use of materials which can be gained without destroying nature, these approaches should take precedence. This avoids the problem that individuals have to live in an environment that was sacrificed due to sourcing for people far away.
Social Considerations: Material selection can also address social aspects, such as labor rights, human health, and community welfare. Choosing materials produced in a socially responsible manner, such as those with fair labor practices, locally sourced materials, or materials that promote social equity and community engagement, can contribute to the social sustainability of a building project, and promote positive social impacts. Another aspect is the social treatment of the earth. If resources are exploited in a way with minimal or no negative impact on the environment or, even better, the use of materials which can be gained without destroying nature, these approaches should take precedent. This avoids the problem that people have to live in an environment that was sacrificed due to sourcing for other people living far away.
Making informed material selections is a crucial aspect of green building practices that contribute to creating environmentally responsible and sustainable construction projects.