5 ways healthier materials will enhance your business

Materials selection

TWO ARCHITECTS REVIEW MATERIALS SAMPLES AT THE OFFICES OF CALLISONRTKL.

The AIA Healthier Materials Protocol is a first-of-its-kind guide that can help you better understand risk and create a healthier materials plans for clients. The protocol meets you where you are, whether you’re a sustainability expert or simply have a passion for design that is safer for people and the planet.

Here are five benefits to using the protocol in your everyday practice:

Your buildings will be healthier and safer

Lead, silica, polyvinyl chloride, flame retardants—research cited throughout the protocol, such as a recent U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, shows that certain chemicals in building materials can be hazardous to human health. Americans now spend about 90 percent of their time indoors, meaning that when buildings expose inhabitants to hazardous chemicals, large groups are affected. The creation, installation, and disposing of materials can also put the public and the environment at risk.

The protocol provides an overview of the science and policy surrounding healthier materials. It outlines creating project goals, scope, and budget as well as advice on monitoring a project after it is complete. The guide includes an acronym glossary, worksheets, and sample plans, as well as case studies of actual healthier materials plans in practice.

You'll be more knowledgeable about materials transparency

The protocol explains key concepts to help you understand the breadth and depth of the benefits and risks associated with materials selection. By defining such terms as chemical avoidance, disclosure thresholds, and transparency, it can help you set priorities for a project.

“There are different ways to meet a goal,” said sustainability consultant Sara Tepfer, a co-author of the protocol. “You can tell clients what is in materials, you can avoid certain products or chemicals, or you can simplify—cutting out materials from your design all together to reduce the chemical burden.”

You'll create value for clients

Buildings promote wellness in the people who use them, the protocol notes, citing reports like the Urban Land Institute's Building for Wellness: The Business Case. Wellness benefits are driving demand.

“Not only are more clients asking for healthier materials, they’re also more sophisticated about them,” says Frances Yang, the lead author of the protocol and sustainability consultant at Arup. “The protocol will educate you, and provide practical advice, so you can better serve clients who care about health and sustainability.”

Clients that aren’t as sold on materials transparency will be just as impressed when you align healthier materials with other goals for added benefits. The protocol outlines the value proposition, helping you explain to clients how materials transparency can help them achieve their project goals.  

You'll be a more effective communicator and collaborator

Materials that are safe for people and the environment is a fast-growing field of research and practice. The protocol gives you the terms and the tools to engage your stakeholders in a smart dialogue. Those key players not only include clients, but also manufacturers, suppliers, contractors, and peers in architecture and design.

Case studies from Google, Kaiser Permanente, Perkins+Will and the San Francisco Airport show how teams formed and pursued materials goals. These examples highlight the importance of consensus building, accountability, and how healthier material choices have created lasting impact in the real world.

You'll strengthen the market

The global green building materials market is growing, and will continue to grow rapidly, with market size expected to reach $364 billion by 2022, according to a 2018 report by Grand View Research, Inc. Architects can help drive that growth by choosing healthier materials.

The protocol demonstrates how you can leverage your purchasing power in a number of ways—creating plans that remove or replace unwanted materials, revising specifications to allow for alternate materials, and working with manufacturers to reformulate products using safer chemicals that still meet or beat performance criteria.

Read the AIA Healthier Materials Protocol and learn more about why Materials Matter.

Image credits

Materials selection

Jim Richards

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