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Results for "environmental"
  • Biophilia and Biomimicry in Design

    It’s easy to see why biophilia and biomimicry are frequently confused. They’re both design strategies that are inspired by nature and they were both introduced through the environmental movement – not to mention that they sound quite similar. But they’re actually entirely different concepts used in different ways – and…

  • Exploring the Designer’s Role

    Designers make some of the most important decisions about the spaces we live in. The wooden floor, the carpeting, the wall cladding and windows, the bronze kitchen hardware and tile backsplash and leather couch – all exist based on choices made by designers long before they became part of interior…

  • Navigating Local Sourcing

    You’ve seen it in your grocery stores, your farmer’s markets – and likely in your materials libraries too. Alongside “sustainable,” “green,” and “clean,” there’s another buzzword associated with socially and environmentally responsible consumerism: local. Locally produced goods and materials are a growing consumer preference – and there are plenty of…

  • The History of Passive House

    Photography Courtesy of Passive House Institute US Passive building strategies use elements like a building’s location, the local climate, and materials as natural opportunities to save energy on heating and cooling systems and keep operational costs down. They can help reduce front-end costs, as well as emissions related to heating,…

  • How Materials Passports Could Transform the Building Industry

    Imagine that your house, your office, your grocery store, and your bank are all part of a database with information about what building materials they contain and how each can eventually be reused or recycled. It’s housed in something called a “materials passport,” a digital document that provides information about…

  • A Closer Look at Leather Alternatives

    One leather alternative is made from the Nopal cactus (also known as prickly pear). It’s free of toxic chemicals, plasticizers, and is partially biodegradable. From leaves and mushrooms to plants more, an expanding array of innovative and eco-friendly leather alternatives exists. Our article on innovations in traditional hide leather explores…

  • A History of the Environmental Justice Movement

    In 1983, the United States General Accounting Office found that three out of every four off-site commercial waste hazards in the southern US were located in predominantly African American communities—even though African Americans only made up 20 percent of the region’s population. And this was no anomaly. Today, three out…

  • Biomaterials and Biodesign

    Biodesign is a quickly growing field that uses materials derived from living organisms rather than finite resources or synthetics. Living materials—made from anything that can reproduce, including plants, animals, insects, fungi, and even bacteria—have the potential to be more sustainable, healthier, and higher performing building alternatives than traditional materials. Biologists,…

  • Understanding Labels on Recycled Content: Post-Industrial, Pre-Consumer, and Post-Consumer

    Photography Courtesy of Shutterstock   It should come as no surprise that one of the most popular sustainability strategies adopted by companies and individuals is recycling. Everywhere we look there are recycled plastic bags, recycled cell phone cases, recycled lawn furniture, recycled yoga mats and sneakers and rugs. The popularity of…

  • The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

    Designers and architects are constantly looking for ways to make life better through built spaces. It’s not hard to find building professionals who are eager to make headway on issues like accessibility, sustainability, and health – and there are countless models and strategies for making improvements. The United Nation’s Sustainable…

  • How to Read an Environmental Product Declaration

    Photography Courtesy of Sensitile Systems. What is an EPD? If you’ve spent time scrolling through the environmental credentials for materials, you may have noticed the acronym EPD. It’s short for Environmental Product Declaration, and it’s a document that provides verified information about a product’s environmental impact across its life cycle.…

  • Exploring California’s Air Quality Standards

    If you’ve spent time toggling through search options on Material Bank, you may have found a tag called “CDPH/CHPS 01350 compliant” and another labeled “CARB compliant” under the Certificates and Standards filter. CDPH/CHPS 01350 and CARB are home-grown California standards and standards-setters for air quality. They are very important for…

  • Choosing the Right Building Standard: LEED, WELL, and Fitwel

    For design firms and companies who value human and environmental health, building rating systems are a helpful route to achieving some of the industry’s most ambitious, forward-looking goals. They set high standards for all kinds of building projects, from residential spaces to offices and schools, for both new construction and…

  • Exploring Plastic and its Alternatives in a Circular Economy

    Type “pollution” in Google Images and alongside photos of billowing smokestacks, you’ll see landfills brimming with plastic, plastic bottles washed up on beaches, plastic floating in bodies of water. Type in “plastic” and you’ll find much the same, linking to articles with titles such as “A Tidal Wave of Plastic,”…

  • A Primer on Take-Back Programs

    Photography Courtesy of Shutterstock In 2015, the United States construction and demolition industry generated 169 million tons of debris from buildings, more than half of which ended up in landfills. That’s 169 million tons of concrete, wood, wallboard, shingles, brick and clay tiles, and steel that could be reused or…

  • A Brief History of the Circular Economy

    In recent years, the circular economy has become a wildly popular concept—one that many companies want a piece of. It’s easier to evaluate claims of circularity with a clearer picture of what it means and where it comes from. The circular economy concept is the product of a few different…

  • The Circular Economy: Tighter Loops

    The circular economy was designed as a financial system that could form part of a solution for the world’s ecological challenges. Its goal is to reduce environmental impacts and generate economic growth by reusing materials and eliminating waste and pollution, moving away from the consumption of finite resources and towards…

  • Material Health: Specification Strategies Part II

    Knowledge Bank is taking a closer look at specification strategies that design teams can implement in their projects to prioritize human health. By selecting healthier materials, building professionals can help reduce occupant exposure to toxic chemicals, and improve the health and well-being of communities. In this article, we’ll build on…

  • A Primer on Cleanability for High-Touch Surfaces

    Photography Courtesy of United FabricsExplore Materials and Sample Before 2020, only specialists needed to know the ins and outs of cleaning and disinfecting surfaces. Now it is more important than ever before. The surfaces that we touch frequently in indoor spaces can harbor harmful microbes and toxins, turning them into…

  • Material Health: Specification Strategies

    The first article in our series on material health explored toxicity and exposure in the built environment, including the ways that people can be exposed and the process for assessing risk. The quality of the indoor environment is vital to human health because we spend 90 percent of our lives…

  • Indoor Air Quality Strategies and Solutions: Ventilation

    While many of us spend more time indoors than ever before, the pollution levels of indoor air are two to ten times higher than those found outdoors. Indoor air quality (IAQ) can be compromised by sources such as building materials, fuel-burning appliances, household cleaning and maintenance products, heating and cooling…

  • Daylighting Strategies and Systems

    Daylighting is a strategy for using natural sunlight to illuminate the interiors of buildings in order to reduce energy costs. By controlling the admission of natural light into a building, daylighting can reduce as much as a third of total energy use. It also connects indoor and outdoor spaces, creating…

  • Material Health: Investigating Toxicity and Exposure

    Today, people spend more time indoors than ever before. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, on average we spend 90 percent of our lives indoors working, playing, sleeping, eating, learning, socializing, and exercising. This means that the quality of the indoor environment is critical to human health, especially because…

  • A Comparison Between Declarations and Certifications

    When designers and other building professionals page through materials for project specifications, there’s a lot of information to sort through. In particular, information about a product’s sustainability and health effects can be easily misinterpreted amongst a wide agglomeration of labels, certifications, and declarations. How should designers parse through this information…

  • A Closer Look at Toxicity: Six Classes

    A World of Chemicals In today’s world, nearly all of our material needs and resources are in some way derived from industrial chemicals. They are in the furniture we lounge on, the doors we open, and the appliances, cookware, and clothing that we use every day. And the list goes…