Architects and builders demand building materials that are high-performing, cost-efficient, low environmental impact, easy to install and maintain, and aesthetically pleasing. And chemical products provide a variety of attributes that enhance a building’s durability and resiliency while also providing cost and performance efficiencies.
Architects and builders specify and use a variety of materials to construct the houses, schools, businesses, hospitals and recreation centers where people work, live, learn and play.
Materials made possible by chemistry are used in making all the parts of a building – from roof tops to wall coverings and floors, to insulation inside the building envelope to countertops and surfaces.
Many architecture firms are embracing the concept of “sustainable architecture,” defined by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) as “architecture that performs to its highest design potential: producing not consuming, providing resilient structures and communities, and fostering opportunities for health and well-being.” In fact, 9 out of 10 architects consider sustainability when specifying products and materials, according to findings from a 2016 survey conducted by ACC and AIA.
Architects are sometimes asked to consider how future occupants will interact with and use products and materials in a building. Will the product make life easier and more convenient? Conversely, are there any concerns associated with the products and materials being used?
While architects are not expected to be experts on chemical materials, they are increasingly asked to make materials selection decisions. Thus it can be helpful for architects and others involved in the building process to have a basic understanding of issues related to potential effects from occupant exposure to chemicals in products.
All materials have strengths and weaknesses. When making material selection decisions, it’s important to understand trade-offs – how substituting one material for another may affect a building’s performance, functionality, aesthetics and cost, as well as the health of occupants and the environment.
A number of tools, guides and considerations can help architects weigh options and understand the impacts and trade-offs associated with materials selection decisions. Architects also may want to consult experts in these areas who can help them navigate what guidance might be most useful.