Having previously looked at the Place, Water, Energy and Health + Happiness Petals of the Living Building Challenge, let's now look at Materials.
Throughout the life cycle of a building material, many can be responsible for adverse environmental issues, including personal illness, habitat and species loss, pollution and resource depletion. The five Imperatives in the Materials Petal aim to remove the worst known offending materials and practices and to help create a truly responsible materials economy that is non-toxic, ecologically restorative, transparent and socially equitable.
Imperative 10: Red List
No project containing any of the following materials or chemicals can be certified in the Living Building Challenge:
Imperative 11: Embodied Carbon Footprint
Imperative 12: Responsible Industry
Projects must advocate for the creation and adoption of third-party certified standards for sustainable resource extraction and fair labor practices. This applies to raw materials including stone and rock, metal, minerals and timber.
Imperative 13: Living Economy Sourcing
Projects must incorporate place-based solutions and contribute to the expansion of a regional economy rooted in sustainable practices, products and services.
The following restrictions apply to the location of manufacturers, service providers and material sources:
Imperative 14: Net-Positive Waste
In order to conserve natural resources, project teams must strive to reduce or eliminate production of material waste. This includes finding ways to integrate waste back into either an industrial loop or a natural nutrient loop. All projects must feature at least one salvaged material per 500 square meters of gross building area or be an adaptive reuse of an existing structure.
Projects located on sites with existing infrastructure must complete a pre-building audit to assess available materials for reuse or donation.
The use - and misuse - of materials is one of the biggest failures of the current residential design and construction industry. Inefficient methods are using irresponsible and unhealthy building materials and creating incredible amounts of waste, primarily due to our obsession with building as cheaply as possible with no thought towards responsibility and sustainability. Blame can be equally spread among designers, builders and homeowners.
However, there is good news. Our use of materials is one of the most easily correctable flaws in the home building process. It can begin with designers raising the level of awareness to builders and homeowners, and creating construction drawing sets that specify healthy building materials and detail specific quantities to help reduce construction waste.
We must make responsible use of the materials we have been given, building only with materials that create healthy environments for us to dwell in and making efficient use of these materials.
I am also a firm believer in designing and building homes that are both a reflection of the local site and environmental habitat, and are built using as much local labor and materials as is possible and practical. A local and regionally focused build helps to foster and grow a healthy local economy and can increase community pride and awareness through the projects we design and build.
Quotations and information cited comes from the Living Building Challenge 3.1. To learn more or download a copy of the Living Building Challenge, visit the International Living Future Institute. Neither Joshua Stewart nor JDS Design Studio is a paid advocate of the Living Building Challenge nor a member of the LBC Ambassador Network. As a residential design firm the purpose of creating this blog series is to inform, educate and advocate for a sustainable approach to designing and building fully self-sufficient homes and communities.