Progressing Approaches to Sustainably Managing Building Materials

Posted on 6/20/2019 10:05:34 AM By Paul Bertram

This blog is an update to last year’s topic on Sustainable Material Management” where I provided a checklist of Environment, Sustainability and Resilience related initiatives, reporting formats, and various product certifications.

To be sure this movement for Resilience and Material Transparency is not getting easier or going away.

In this blog I am addressing updates on evolving Code and Green Building Influences in Environment, Sustainability and Resilience regarding challenges of increasing extreme weather events and climate change.

Specifically, regarding progressive advances in material transparency, disclosure and verification reporting including announcements made at Greenbuild in November last year.

Climate Change and Extreme Weather Events are two terms that are relative to many of these initiatives. The realization of increased extreme weather events due to what is perceived as human impacts to Climate Change and the related devastation largely comes from intense media coverage. This coverage brings the human and physical tragedy of these impacts to greater focus and a call for action.

In the ICC 2019 National Building Code Assessment Report - Building Code Effectiveness Grading Schedule report; Resilience has gone from a post-event discussion to a global movement calling for better preparation before the next disaster occurs—and better responses when it does.

ICC believes that risk assessment and risk-transfer decision making are dependent on how well we can identify and proactively mitigate hazards.


Also, in January, the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) issued an update on their Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves: 2018 Interim Report. The 2018 Interim Report highlights the significant savings that result from implementing mitigation strategies in terms of safety, and the prevention of property loss and disruption of day-to-day life.

For this part of the ongoing study, the Institute’s project team looked at the benefits of designing buildings to meet the 2018 International Residential Code (IRC) and 2018 International Building Code (IBC)—the model building codes developed by the International Code Council (ICC)—versus the prior generation of codes represented by 1990-era design and National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) requirements. The project team found a national benefit of $11 for every $1 invested.

As a note: This benefit is limited to specific areas and varies in return on investment from $4.00 to $11 dollars for every $1.00 invested depending on the geographic area and specific area of investment.


All of this positions adhesives and sealants to drive a resilience-based message to the AEC industry on the importance of marrying up all of the components in an assembly to deliver the specified design intent. Air infiltration/exfiltration rates ultimately depend on the performance of adhesives and sealants

Moving to “green” rating systems, LEEDv4.1 was introduced at last November’s Greenbuild in Boston. It is not getting any easier for suppliers. I noticed some of the larger product manufacturers have met many of the LEEDv4 reporting requirements in the Materials & Resource (MR) Credit areas. However, LEEDv4.1 has changed a great deal. It is fair to say that participation to meet MR credit reporting/verification credits should be a well thought out business decision.

Is participation in these certifications and labels really an opportunity to improve product, costs, supply chain, functional performance, market share, brand identity and investor confidence?

This chart from Jerry Judelson is the reason manufacturers have to have a clear understanding of how many LEED (or other “Green” rating system) projects they receive and from what firms in relationship to key market focus.

          (click to enlarge)

LEEDv4 has been out a long time with a development path started in 2009 and eventually stretched through six public comment periods and a beta program that began in 2013, before the system became mandatory in 2016. Originally introduced through Existing Buildings Operation and Maintenance

Linked is a copy of the LEEDv4.1 Building Design and Construction TRACTED CHANGES, this is an extremely useful document to see and understand the extensive updates to LEEDv4


You can download the Tracked changes at the link below

The BETA LEEDv4.1 participant guide link is below

The credit areas that had extensive rewrites that potentially impact adhesives and sealants included:

  • LEED v4.1 Materials and Resources - Building Life Cycle Impact Reduction

    Building Life-Cycle Impact Reduction - Option 4. Whole Building Life Cycle Assessment

    (as a note: I will be writing extensively about LCAs in the next blog)

  • Materials & Resources LEEDv4 - Building Product Disclosure and Optimization
    Option 1. Environmental Product Declarations
    • There are various types of acceptable Environmental Product Declarations. LEEDv4.1 identifies 3 options
  • Materials & Resources LEEDv4
    Building Product Disclosure and Optimization – Sourcing of Raw Materials
    • This credit was completely revamped as follows:
      • To encourage the use of products and materials for which life cycle information is available and that have environmentally, economically and socially preferable life cycle impacts. Use at least 20 different permanently installed products from at least five different manufacturers that have publicly released a report from their raw material suppliers which include raw material supplier extraction locations, a commitment to long-term ecologically responsible land use, a commitment to reducing environmental harms from extraction and/or manufacturing processes, and a commitment to meeting applicable standards or programs voluntarily that address responsible sourcing criteria.
        • Extended producer responsibility.
        • Bio-based materials
        • Wood products
        • Materials reuse.
        • Recycled content
  • Building Product Disclosure and Optimization – Material Ingredients
    • This is credit that stopped LEEDv4 in its tracks and as a result has extensive updates. These changes are extensive and will be addressed in a later blog but include GreenScreen, HPDs, Declare label, UL Product Lens, CradletoCradle, SCS Global certifications (Carbon Footprint, Good Manufacturing Practices), NSF/ANSI 336 - Sustainability Assessment for Commercial Furnishings Fabric at anycertification level

The American Chemistry Council was heavily engaged in the redrafting of several of these credits and as a result has developed a series of chemistry education programs


I will end with an interesting request by The Living Product 50

In April of 2018 The International Living Future Institute (owner of the Living Building Challenge) sent a letter out to the design community in support of efforts by manufacturers who have responded to the call for verified material transparency reporting

Many product manufacturers received around 35 signatories from some of the world’s biggest and most influential architectural firms encouraged them to continue on our sustainability journey with product transparency, accelerating a transformation in the manufacturing industry

The manufacturers responded in a big way

Now that the manufacturers have responded, it is important to evolve and deepen the conversation. Information about where and why our products are being selected now needs to flow back to the manufacturing community.

This is clearly a statement letting the industry know that investment in all these certifications/verifications has to be tracked back to sales.

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