NaSBAP Unit Questions (at end of each Unit) Unit 4 – Green Materials

1. What are the traditional factors considered for selecting building material, and what are the additional factors considered for a sustainable building project? (PG: 4)

  • (5) Traditional Material Selection factors:

o Performance
o Service Life
o Cost
o Aesthetics
o Availability / delivery schedule

  • (11) Additional Sustainable Building Selection factors:

o Toxicity
o Resource efficiency
o Durability
o Quantity of material to provide function
o Quantity of virgin material used
o Source location of material / where it’s made
o Embodied energy (total energy required to extract the raw materials, manufacture the final product, transport the material to the point of use, and ultimately disassemble and deconstruct the material at the end of its life.
o Carbon Footprint (measure of greenhouse gases produced by the production, use and the disposal of the material, which ultimately contribute to global climate change).
o Operations & Maintenance reqm’ts (energy & water).
o Maintenance reqm’ts (cleaning & upkeep).
o Manufacturer’s environmental policies & practices.

2. Describe the (6) qualities of green materials.

  • Product made from materials that do not harm environment during extraction / harvesting.
  • Products are green because what is NOT in them, i.e. toxics, excessive material, etc.
  • Products that reduce environmental impacts – during const., renovation, or demo; on building operation- durability, multi-purpose use, requires less cleaning or maintenance, etc.( requires less energy to use over time).
  • Products that reduce carbon footprint of building as they have low embodied energy to improve thermal performance of building.
  • Contribute to safe, healthy, indoor environments.

3. Outline why each of the following is considered a highly controversial building material:
4. PVC:

  • Polyvinyl chloride is known carcinogen, plasticizers are toxic; stabilizers have cadmium + lead; dioxins are released in atmosphere when burned. (PG: 7)

5. Formaldehyde (urea & phenol):

  • exposure has been associated w/ number of ill-effects on human health including irritation to eyes, nose, throat, skin & asthma; found in carpets, insulation materials, preservatives in paints, coatings, cosmetics, glue in wood products; Urea-formaldehyde most common & of biggest concern. (PG: 7-8)

6. VOCs:

  • exposure has been associated with conjunctival irritation; nose & throat discomfort; headache; allergic skin reaction; dyspnea; declines in serum cholinesterase level; nausea; emesis; epistaxis; fatigue & dizziness. EU defines VOCs with boiling point = 250°C or 482°; VOC is chemical that produces vapors readily at room temperature and normal atmospheric pressure; does not include acetone, ammonia, etc. (PG: 8)

7. Fire Retardants:

  • Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers(PBDEs) – have persistent bio-accumulative toxins (PBTs), which are slow to break down and persist in environment & concentrate in food chain & in animal/human bodies; PBDE health concerns include thyroid & estrogen hormone disruption; over time, PBDEs as additive compound can separate from product and become ambient particles. (PG: 9-10)

8. What is multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS)? (PG:10)

  • A term applied to individuals who experience unusually severe and chronic sensitivity or allergy-like reactions to many different types of pollutants.
  • Pollutants can include solvents, VOCs, perfumes, petrol, diesel, smoke, pollen
  • Health-effects include burning eyes; nausea; fatigue; migraine; vertigo; rhinitis; poor memory; sore throat; light & noise sensitivity; sinus problems; sleep problems; digestive pains; muscle & joint pain.

9. Explain how Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is useful in assessing building materials and address any challenges or drawbacks to using LCA. (PG: 12-14)

  • LCA is a technique to evaluate the environmental aspects and potential impacts associated with a product, process or service by using (from cradle to grave):

o Life Cycle Inventory: relevant inventory of relevant energy and material impacts and environmental releases of a product, process, or service.

o Impact Assessment: through evaluating the potential environmental impacts associated with identified impacts and releases and ecological burdens.
o Life Cycle Interpretation: analyzing and communicating the results of the Impact Assessment for the products or processes under review to help make informed decision.

10. What are the three (four) steps in a systems-based approach to materials selection? (PG:16-17)

1) Determine client needs and goals. Clarify building owners /users needs and priorities (7).
a) First cost
b) life-cycle cost
c) performance / durability
d) safety / risk sensitivity
e) design / aesthetics
f) service maintenance requirements
g) sustainability goals.
2) Create system based view of project. When designing an integrated, whole-system building, consider materials choices in context of systems within which they will function. (5)Criteria include:
i. Site factors – location specific issues, microclimate, transportation, site sensitivities, etc.
ii. Envelope factors – air tight building with tight tolerances or more flexible approach?
iii. Energy factors – what is strategic approach to energy performance for the building?
iv. Building Service Life – is this an 80 or 200 year old building?
v. Design for Disassembly – what are the projected changes in use of the building and surroundings area over predicted life cycle of building?
3) Overlay steps 1 + 2 to develop an appropriate context for materials selection. Combine owner’s priorities with system influences. Then select indicators that reflect the system influences and weigh them according to client priorities.
4) Implement materials selection approach
o Factor in scheduling flexibility and tolerance for delays to integrate long-distance and limited supply potentials into decision process.
o Consider availability of sub-contractors who are experienced with installing “green” materials.
11. Why is it better to build ‘beyond code’ when building for sustainability? (PG:19)

  • Green builders & green certification programs seek to surpass code requirements in most areas and need to do so to achieve integrated high performance for their projects.

12. What is green washing, and what are the common signs that might identify a green washed product? (PG:20-21)

  • Greenwashing is the practice of falsely advertising one’s product, company or practice as “green”, or sustainable for purposes of increased revenue or clientele.
  • Most Common Greenwashing traits include:

o Ignoring hidden tradeoffs (e.g. its green because it contributes to energy efficiency)
o Use of jargon or meaningless terms.
o Lack of proof.
o Use of suggestive pictures.
o Irrelevant claims.
o Claiming ‘best in class’ for slight improvements over largely unsustainably-minded competition.
o False claims; green products derived from companies with poor environmental standards.

13. What can an SBA do to avoid using green washed materials on a project? (PG: 22)

  • Seek out products with reliable certification labels.
  • Identify the “green” priorities for your project, so you can more easily weed out materials that don’t meet these priorities.
  • Be wary of the common traits of Greenwashing. Investigate before selecting a material.

14. Identify three evaluation resources or tools for selecting green materials, and consider how you could use them in one of your projects. (PG: 22-31)

  • Construction Specification Institute (CSI) – they create communication standards and formats with the goal of improving construction documents and project delivery.
  • CSI MasterFormat – 2004 Edition – This has been an industry standard for over 40 years. Master format standardizes construction information; facilitates the ease of placing and retrieving information and improves construction communication.
  • CSI GreenFormat – will help the construction industry list and find sustainable products. GreenFormat will contain online access to product overviews.
  • Environmental Resource Guide (ERG) – gives architects and others in the building industry a basis for comparing the environmental impact of building materials, products, and systems. It was designed to create a simplified methodology for assessing the environmental impact of building materials.
  • GreenSpec – Resource guide on green products, environmental data, manufacturer info and links and using environmentally preferable products and systems.

15. What are the benefits and drawbacks of third party certified eco-labels? (PG: 27-28)

  • Benefits: it helps to avoid or minimize Greenwashing. Allows comparisons.
  • Drawbacks: Eco labels can be costly for initial review and most require annual reviews or updates. An additional expense may be passed on to consumers. As demand for more responsibly produced products grows, this is expected to change.

16. List the (6) key materials efficient design strategies. (PG: 31-37)

  1. Building Durability: impact of durability (slows rate of resource depletion, reduces demand on natural systems, increases lifecycle ROI (financial, energy and other metrics)) and locating the building for longevity. Will also involve architectural design, material selection, assemblies, and quality mgmt.
  2. Functional flexibility and adaptive reuse.
  3. Design to Use Less.
  4. Deconstructability & Design for Disassembly (DfD)
  5. Cradle to Cradle
  6. Carbon-Neutral Construction

17. What are some (8) Design for Disassembly (DfD) principles and strategies? (PG: 34-35)

  • Most buildings are not designed to facilitate material recovery and reuse or recycling.
  • Promoted by the EPA, it focuses on material choices that are reusable or recyclable and how materials are assembled. Strategies include:

a) Design for prefabrication, preassembly, and modular construction.
b) Simplification and standardization of connections details.
c) Simplification and separation of building materials.
d) Reduction or elimination of hazardous materials.
e) Selection of fittings, fasteners, adhesives, and sealants that allow for quick disassembly.
f) Select materials that are durable and reusable.
g) Design for flexibility and adaptability.

18. Define Embodied energy and how it relates to the lifecycle carbon footprint of a building. (PG: 36-37)

  • Embodied energy of a material is the total energy required to extract the raw materials, manufacture the final product, transport the material to the point of use, and ultimately disassemble and deconstruct the material at the end of its life.
  • The ‘Life-Cycle Carbon Footprint’ is the total carbon emissions that can be attributed to a building across its entire lifecycle, from production of materials to the end of its service life.
  • The embodied carbon footprint from construction or remodeling of a building is insignificant compared to the operation carbon footprint, i.e. the carbon emission resulting from its energy consumption.

19. How do the different LEED rating systems address materials? What is not included in the rating systems? (PG: 38-40)

  • LEED rating systems address the following aspect of materials:

o Toxicity.
o Salvage and reuse.
o Recycled content.
o Rapidly-renewable content.
o Waste mgmt.
o Regional Materials.
o Certified Wood.

  • What’s not addressed in LEED rating systems:

o Durability of the design and assembly vs. durability of the specific material.
o Designing for source reduction – LEED for Homes does not address this through the Home Size Adjuster Credit and the Efficient Framing credit.
o Toxicity issues


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