Materials Pledge


2017 COTE Top Ten Plus winner Brock Environmental Center is an example of smart and safer material selection.

The Architecture and Design (A&D) Material Pledge statements are provocative and inspirational. These statements have been developed with a vision of a holistic approach to the way architects and designers evaluate the products and finishes that we specify on a daily basis. As AIA raises the bar of our impact on climate change, we must ensure that all aspects of the creation and use of materials are considered: Human Health, Climate Health, Ecosystem Health Societal Health​, Circular Economy

Only through a comprehensive approach of material characteristics and impacts can designers improve the health of the planet and the people that live on the planet.  

Commit to dedicating resources to meet as many pledge metrics as possible to full transparency and optimization of building materials

We pledge to:

  • Support Human Health by preferring products which support and foster life throughout their life cycles and seek to eliminate the use of substances that are hazardous.
  • Support Social Health & Equity by preferring products from manufacturers who secure human rights in their own operations and in their supply chains, and which provide positive impacts for their workers and the communities where they operate.
  • Support Ecosystem Health by preferring products which support and regenerate the natural air, water, and biological cycles of life through thoughtful supply chain management and restorative company practices.
  • Support Climate Health by preferring products which reduce carbon emissions and ultimately sequester more carbon than emitted.
  • Support a Circular Economy by reusing and improving buildings and by designing for resiliency, adaptability, disassembly and reuse aspiring to a zero-waste goal for global construction activities.

Plan for action:

Within one year, develop a standalone document or an addendum to your firm's current sustainability/climate action plan that serves as a roadmap for your firm to educate staff and clients. The document should be updated accordingly to show progress and reflect milestones.

Sign the Pledge online >

Human health

The problem

The total chemical load of hazardous substances in our body at any given moment is known as our body burden. Our bodies are extremely capable of processing a vast range of substances, however, many substances can't be metabolized and may not fully be eliminated. Bioaccumulation, or this build up in the body, often occurs to little effect. In many cases, however, certain substances may attach to various cells and interact with our internal chemistry. Endocrine disruptors, for example, interfere with hormone regulation and physical development, and can lead to neurological problems, a weakened immune system, and more. [1] During the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) of 1976 there were 83,000 registered substances that were analyzed by the US Government, out of those, 200 were tested for threats to human health and safety, resulting in only 5 substances that were banned. [2] Today there are over 160 million unique organic and inorganic chemical substances within the CAS Registry. Though the 2016 update to the TSCA requires the EPA to complete health risk assessments before any chemical reaches the market [3], the EPA still has 160 million substances in its existing inventory to evaluate and hundreds more that are invented each day. As a result, it is up to the architectural community to protect the health, safety and welfare of the occupants we design for, according to the state-of-the-art information available.

Through education and research, human health has become an increasing priority to most architects, contractors, and clients. Unfortunately, when selecting building materials, the transparency of the product makeup has been either limited or difficult to interpret. In addition, the lack of full disclosure of proprietary ingredients, further limits transparency in material makeup and our understanding of potential impact on human health.

The pledge

The Human Health pledge commits those who design spaces people occupy to include the evaluation of emissions and harmful substances in products as part of The Standard of Care. It also commits design professionals to evaluate the material ingredients in manufacturing and the impact on workers and surrounding communities. The pledge entails the use and implementation of materials that have passed standardized emission testing protocols, that have provided fully transparent information on their material ingredients as verified by a 3rd party, and that have optimized their products to remove the most harmful substances of concern. The pledge includes suggested priority product categories as a means for the industry and design community to work together on unified market requests and targets.

The purpose

The architectural community has a professional obligation to the health, safety and welfare of occupants we design for. By working together in a collective ask, through suggested prioritized product categories, the design community can initiate the necessary market transformation of materials into benign products.  With time we can continue to expand this impact into additional prioritized product categories and a fully optimized product market.


  1. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Endocrine disruptors, Introduction. National Institutes of Health – US Department of health and Human Services
  2. EPA - Summary Toxic Substances Control Act
  3. EPA - About TSCA Chemical Substance Inventory

Image credits


Prakash Patel