The business of building is booming – the U.S. Census Bureau reports the seasonally-adjusted annual rate of U.S. construction spending now tops $1.3 trillion, a 7.2 percent year-over-year increase (September 2017 to September 2018). This remarkable growth is spurring building materials selection decisions across tens of thousands of residential and commercial construction projects.
The process of making practical, informed, sustainable building materials selection decisions can be challenging. How do architects, builders and designers make sensible materials choices that can balance energy efficiency, performance, aesthetics, resilience, health and wellness and sustainability? How can you find out about the composition of the building material product you’re considering? How do the choices you are making support and contribute to sustainability across the entire life cycle of a building?
Greenbuild 2018 provides a wealth of educational resources that help answer those questions and many more. Through the Materials Education Track, attendees can explore the value of EPDs and LCAs, understand the impacts of building materials and learn more about two Materials & Resources pilot credits in LEED.
At the same time, organizations and companies are stepping forward to provide tools and guidance that can help with the decision-making process. For example, the more than 150 member companies of the American Chemistry Council (ACC) recently committed to a set of comprehensive Sustainability Principles that promotes the safe use of chemicals, informed sustainability decision-making, and accelerated innovation by:
- Providing information on the impact of chemicals based on the best available science.
- Creating frameworks for enabling transparent decision-making for chemical products and technologies used throughout the supply chain.
More and more manufacturers are also responding to the call for more transparency in materials selection. Three companies – Covestro (materials supplier), Legrand North America (building technology products manufacturer), and Thread International (apparel manufacturer) – are excellent examples of industry best practices in sustainability leadership. A Greenbuild 2018 luncheon hosted by ACC presented first-hand accounts of how each company operates in a sustainable manner without compromising their business goals:
- Covestro, a leading supplier of high-tech polymer materials used in building insulation systems, explicitly advocates the comprehensive and global application of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
- Legrand, a global specialist in electrical and digital building infrastructures, is committed to developing solutions that enable high performance buildings. Legrand also provides increase transparency by verifying the lifecycle impacts of its products by PEP ecopassport®.
- Thread International recovers discarded trash from some of the world’s poorest neighborhoods and converts it into thread used in popular consumer products like backpacks, boots, leggings, jackets, and T-shirts. To date, Thread has shipped nearly 200,000 pounds of recycled plastic out of Haiti for processing into fabric.
Senior leaders from the three companies discussed the foremost challenges and opportunities of the green building industry. Together, they identified collaboration and innovation as keys to unlocking improvements in sustainability, recycling and reuse and the circular economy.
As architects, builders and other specifiers are working to make informed materials choices, companies like Covestro, Legrand, Thread International, and many other manufacturers are actively supporting efforts to enhance transparency and share information along the supply chain.