. . . with materials vetting, that is?

The process of researching each and every component of our home is onerous and long. And I say this from the sidelines, while Amanda and her team at Catalyst Partners, plus Jane Hughes and Bob Burnside, do the heavy lifting.

Wall detail: Every component here needed vetting!

Wall detail: Every component here needed vetting!

The Living Building Challenge handbook describes the Materials petal of the certification requirements as follows:

The intent of the Materials Petal is to induce a successful materials economy that is non-toxic, transparent and socially equitable. Throughout their lifecycle, materials are responsible for many adverse environmental issues including illness, squandered embodied energy, pollution, and resource depletion. The Imperatives in this section aim to remove the worst known offending materials and practices. When impacts can be reduced but not eliminated, there is an obligation not only to offset the damaging consequences associated with the construction process, but also to strive for corrections in the industry. At the present time it is impossible to gauge the true environmental impact and toxicity of the built environment due to a lack of product-level information.

The materials petal includes five imperatives:

  • Red List: The following chemicals cannot be present: asbestos; cadmium; chlorinated polyethylene and chlorosulfonated polyethylene; chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs); chloroprene (neoprene); formaldehyde (added); halogenated flame retardants; hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs); lead (added); mercury; petrochemical fertilizers and pesticides; phthalates; polyvinyl; chloride (PVC); wood treatments containing creosote, arsenic or pentachlorophenol.
  • Embodied Carbon Footprint: Account for embodied carbon footprint in construction through a one-time carbon offset.
  • Responsible Industry: Wood must be certified to Forest Stewardship Council standards, or salvaged or harvested onsite for clearing of the building area or for restoring or maintaining onsite ecological function. The project must advocate for creation and adoption of third-party standards for sustainable resource extraction and fair labor practices.
  • Appropriate Sourcing: Incorporate place-based solutions and contribute to the expansion of a regional economy rooted in sustainable practices, products and services. Source locations for materials and services are restricted according to type and especially to weight.
  • Conservation and Re-Use: Strive to reduce or eliminate waste during design, construction, operation and end of life phases, in order to conserve natural resources.

So now back to the specifics of our process: I’m copied on most of the emails among our team members regarding materials vetting, and the communication seems endless. Wood, concrete, metal, adhesives, fasteners, finishes . . . The process provides repeated opportunities for overlooking items, for misunderstandings and for other bumps in the road. What a testament to the integrity and good will of our team members, as they work through hard moments and continue as happy partners in this joint venture.

How much easier it would be to buy whatever off the shelf at the local lumberyard, hardware store or DIY center. And how much that reveals why the building and manufacturing industries feel little impetus to change. No wonder this is the Living Building Challenge.

The great news is that we’re closing in on the end of the nearly 800 items to be checked, seeing some light at the end of the long tunnel. We’re grateful to the following manufacturers and suppliers for working with us to achieve the safe materials goal. This is not an exhaustive list – just what we have so far. Our apologies to anyone we’ve overlooked; we’ll publish the complete list before we’re all done.

Alro Steel, Amana Corporation, Benjamin Moore Paints, Big George’s Home Appliance Mart, Bosch Appliances, Clopay Building Products, Cresline Plastic Pipe Company, Crossville Tile, DAP, Dow, Dupont, Emerson Industrial, General Finishes, General Hardwoods Company, Gentex, Hacker Industries, Hi-Lite Mfg, Hubbardton Forge Lighting, Industrial Chimney Co / Rumford Fireplaces, Ludowici Roof Tile, Lukjan Metal Products, Marvin Windows and Doors, Motawi Tile, Roseburg Forest Products, Santa Clara Copper, Sioux Chief Manufacturing, SolarWorld, Standard Lumber, The Stone Mill, Toto, Tried and True Finishes, United States Gypsum, Uponor Corporation.

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