Building and construction activities worldwide consume over 3 billion tons of raw materials each year, greater than 40 percent of total global use.  So we need to do our part to make sure we are building intelligently.  Using sustainable building materials and techniques promotes conservation of dwindling nonrenewable resources internationally.  In addition, integrating green building materials into building projects can help reduce the environmental impacts associated with the extraction, transport, processing, fabrication, installation, reuse, recycling, and disposal of these building industry source materials. Therefore it is important to understand what green building materials are, so that more people can use them.

What is a green building material?

The simplest way we can define what constitutes a green building material, is that it exemplifies the following three characteristics:

  1. It is composed of renewable, rather than nonrenewable resources.
  2. It is sustainably produced
  3. It is environmentally responsible over the life of the product (i.e. healthy, reduce energy costs, reduce maintenance and replacement costs, can be reused or recycled at the end of its useful life).

material/product selection criteria:

  1. Resource Efficiency can be accomplished by utilizing materials that meet the following criteria:
  • Natural, plentiful or renewable: Materials harvested from sustainably managed sources. Preferably they have an independent certification (e.g., certified wood) and are certified by an independent third party.
  • Recycled Content: Products with identifiable recycled content, including postindustrial content with a preference for postconsumer content.
  • Resource efficient manufacturing process: Products manufactured with resource-efficient processes including reducing energy consumption, minimizing waste (recycled, recyclable and or source reduced product packaging), and reducing greenhouse gases.
  • Locally available: Building materials, components, and systems found locally or regionally saving energy and resources in transportation to the project site.
  • Salvaged, refurbished, or remanufactured: Includes saving a material from disposal and renovating, repairing, restoring, or generally improving the appearance, performance, quality, functionality, or value of a product.
  • Reusable or recyclable: Select materials that can be easily dismantled and reused or recycled at the end of their useful life.
  • Recycled or recyclable product packaging: Products enclosed in recycled content or recyclable packaging.
  • Durable: Materials that are longer lasting or are comparable to conventional products with long life expectancies.

2. Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is enhanced by utilizing materials that meet the following criteria:

  • Low or non-toxic: Materials that emit few or no carcinogens, reproductive toxicants, or irritants as demonstrated by the manufacturer through appropriate testing.Minimal chemical emissions: Products that have minimal emissions of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). Products that also maximize resource and energy efficiency while reducing chemical emissions.
  • Low-VOC assembly: Materials installed with minimal VOC-producing compounds, or no-VOC mechanical attachment methods and minimal hazards.
  • Moisture resistant: Products and systems that resist moisture or inhibit the growth of biological contaminants in buildings.
  • Healthfully maintained: Materials, components, and systems that require only simple, non-toxic, or low-VOC methods of cleaning.Systems or equipment: Products that promote healthy IAQ by identifying indoor air pollutants or enhancing the air quality.

Affordability should be considered comparable to conventional materials.

Green building materials offer specific benefits to the building owner and building occupants, mainly:

  • Reduced maintenance/replacement costs over the life of the building.
  • Energy conservation.
  • Energy Efficiency can be maximized by utilizing materials, components and systems that help reduce energy consumption in buildings and facilities. (See Green Building Basics for more information.)

Water Conservation can be obtained by utilizing materials and systems that help reduce water consumption in buildings and conserve water in landscaped areas. (See Green Building Basicsfor more information.)

  • Improved occupant health and productivity.
  • Lower costs associated with changing space configurations.