Sourcing Materials – Sustainable Selection Criteria

There are several deciding factors that each builder uses when sourcing materials and products for use in the homes they build.  Traditionally, these have been elements such as price, suitability, quality, and availability.  The order of importance in ranking these elements is somewhat decided by us individually, influenced by external forces such as budget and client expectations.

With our sustainable construction goals, we can add additional criteria to the list above, and simply rank products as they best fit.  This is the beginning of life-cycle analysis, which we discuss in more detail in a later article – for now, however, we are just interested in outlining the basic criteria we can quickly use

Glass and Steel Construction

to determine suitable products to use.  There are three main elements of consideration noted in national certification programs such as LEEDÒ for HomesÔ or the NAHB Green Building ProgramÔ. Products that feature one or more of these elements are considered ‘Environmentally Preferred Products’.

Local Products: Consider products that are mined, farmed or manufactured locally.  The idea is that nearby natural resources are often suited to the local climate and can increase the durability of a home, and also reduce embodied energy costs accumulated through transportation.

Recycled materials: Encouraged for reasons that are fairly obvious and well-known, recycled materials redirect waste from landfill and reduce resource consumption.

Certified Products: Farmed trees, (as well as other plants which are used as the base for many building components) are sustainable because the resources they use are renewable and replenished.  Using natural materials can also reduce the use of harmful chemicals we are exposed to.  Products that have these elements validated through certifications such as FSC, SFI or GreenSeal are preferred.


When added to the elements originally discussed, our selection

criteria now include itemssuch as manufacturing location, durability, chemical content, price, quality, certifications, recycled content and availability.  The order of importance of these criteria is still an individual decision and totally dependent on your project goals, but a good understanding of the important elements will help you integrate sustainable practices into your every-day operations.  The GreenSpec Guide for residential products is an invaluable resource when narrowing down products which match the criteria discussed, leaving us to order them given our own individual order of importance.


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