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The composition of materials used in a building is a major factor in its lifecycle environmental impact. Whether new or renovated, federal facilities must lead the way in the use of greener materials and processes that do not pollute or unnecessarily contribute to the waste stream, do not adversely affect health, and do not deplete limited natural resources. As the growing global economy expands the demand for raw materials, it is no longer sensible to throw away much of what we consider construction and demolition waste. Using a "cradle-to-cradle" approach, while incorporating appropriate environmental controls, where necessary, the "waste" from one generation can become the "raw material" of the next. When done in an environmentally acceptable manner, the recycling and reuse of construction and demolition (C&D) materials yields numerous benefits, such as conserves raw materials, offsets impacts associated with the input of virgin material into construction and renovation of buildings and infrastructure, reduces landfilling impacts, and conserves landfill space.
When developing specifications, product descriptions and standards, consider a broad range of environmental factors over the product's lifecycle. Such environmental preferability considerations may include: optimizing the use of building space and materials, preventing waste, using recycled content (see EPA's Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines) and safer chemical alternatives, energy & water efficiency, and other factors such as life-cycle cost and end-of-life options.
As early as during conceptual design and design-development stages, federal construction/renovation projects must have a comprehensive, integrated perspective that seeks to:
- Salvage and utilize existing facilities, products, and equipment whenever possible, such as historic structures, previous brownfield or greyfield sites, and reconditioned fixtures and furnishings;
- Design facilities adaptable for different uses during their life cycle incorporating building components that can be disassembled, and reused or recycled;
- Reduce overall material use through optimizing building size and module;
- Evaluate the environmental preferability of products using lifecycle thinking and lifecycle assessment (LCA)
- When new materials are used, maximize their recycled content, especially from a post-consumer perspective;
- Specify materials harvested on a sustained yield basis such as lumber from third-party certified forests;
- Limit the generation of C&D materials, encourage the separation of waste streams, and ensure that reuse and recycling is done in an environmentally acceptable manner during the construction, renovation, and demolition processes;
- Eliminate the use of materials that pollute or are toxic during their manufacture, use, or reuse;
- Give preference to locally produced products and other products with low embodied energy content; and
Salvage and Utilize Existing Facilities, Products, and Equipment
- Use reconditioned products and equipment, such as furniture, whenever economically feasible and resource efficient.
- Evaluate if components of existing buildings or facilities, such as windows or metal door frames, can be incorporated in any new construction. Ensure that the salvaged materials meet all federal, state and local laws and regulations as well as currently applicable construction codes, in addition to the new facility's security and accessibility requirements.
- If developing a new facility, attempt to clean up and redevelop brownfield, greyfield or other contaminated, previously used, or impacted sites.
- Employ regionally appropriate design that considers local resources and climate conditions.
- When using existing facilities, products and equipment, work to find ways to reduce potential sources of toxicity (e.g., PCBs in lighting ballasts, paints, caulks and sealants, lead and cadmium in paints, and asbestos) and to improve energy and water efficiency.
Design facilities adaptable for different uses during their life cycle incorporating building components that can be disassembled and reused or recycled
- Design major systems with differing functions and lifespans to promote disentanglement.
- Design and provide access to the connections that allow disassembly.
- Include adaptable, re-configurable interior non-structural components, and during building renovation or adaptation, plan to dismount, disassemble, re-configure and reuse interior elements such as non-loadbearing walls, partitions, lighting, and electric systems, suspended ceilings, raised floors, and interior air distribution systems.
- Use components and materials that are reusable or recyclable.
- Maintain a Disassembly Plan with information around the method of disassembly and properties of materials and components.
Reduce overall material use through optimizing building size and module
- Reduce the overall building size by optimizing the functional relationships between program spaces and shortening circulation, adhering to space criteria (number of square feet per person or unit), and configuring individual spaces to accommodate several complementary functions.
- Ensure buildings are designed to minimize cut-offs and optimize purchasing to prevent excess materials from arriving at the job site. For example, minimize cut-offs by designing to use standard material sizes and reducing customizing spaces.
Note: "module," in architecture, is an arbitrary unit adopted to regulate the dimensions, proportions, or construction of the parts of a building. Modules can also serve as the basis for coordinating the dimensions of the various materials and pieces of equipment to be assembled in the course of constructing a building. (from Britannica)
Evaluate Environmental Preferability Using a Life-Cycle Perspective
- Purchase environmentally preferable products as described in EPA's Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP) Program, which promotes Federal Government procurement of products and services that have reduced impacts on human health and the environment over their life cycle.
- Use EPA-designated recycled content products to the maximum extent practicable-as is required by federal agencies under the 42 USC §6962, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1994, Section 6002.
- Within an acceptable category of product, use materials and assemblies with the highest percentage available of post-consumer or post-industrial recycled content.
- In addition to products with recycled content, optimize product durability by purchasing products with extended warranty, upgradeability, spare parts, service information, and mold resistance.
- Consider EPA's Recommendations of environmental performance standards and ecolabels when specifying products.
- The life-cycle of a product includes sourcing of raw materials, manufacturing, packaging, transportation, distribution, retailing, installation, use of the product, and management of the product when it is no longer needed (through reuse, repair, upgrading, recycling, or safe disposal). To capture the benefits of reuse, repair, upgrading and/or recycling, analyze the impact offsets that can be accomplished when the product is used in place of a virgin material in another building or infrastructure.
- Evaluate how materials selection influences the building's overall life-cycle environmental performance and specify materials that can achieve the greatest environmental improvement.
- Where there are certain life-cycle stages or attributes that dominate the opportunity for environmental improvement, those key impact areas (or "hot spots") should be given greater emphasis in a material specification.
- Consider trade-offs among multiple environmental impacts (e.g., global warming, resource depletion, indoor air quality, waste streams) when determining environmental preferability. That is, look at the "big picture" rather than simply shifting problems from one impact to another.
- Employing LCA Tools like ATHENA and BEES can simplify the process and give more credible results.
Limit the Generation of C&D Materials; Encourage the Separation of Waste Streams; and Encourage Reuse and Recycling done in an Environmentally Acceptable Manner during the Construction, Renovation and Demolition Processes
- During the design phase, require the development and implementation of a Construction Waste Management Plan to maximize the reuse and recycling of C&D materials generated from the project. Consider the following:
- In order to maximize the effectiveness of diversion efforts, (e.g., by ensuring a common understanding of requirements for sorting C&D materials), identify the local recycling and salvage operations that will be used to manage site-related C&D materials; confirm that the chosen recycling facilities are in compliance with state and local regulations, state licensing or registration and/or third-party independent certification.
- Set targets for waste diversion, such as salvaging or recycling on-site or off-site at least 50%, by weight, of the nonhazardous C&D materials generated, excluding land-clearing debris.
- In order to maximize the recycling or salvaging of materials, products and components, consider the use of disassembly techniques to the building or structure, or its portion, planned for demolition; consider linking the deconstruction project with a current construction or renovation project to facilitate the reuse of salvaged materials.
- Require the submission of a Materials Management Summary report documenting the diversion results at the conclusion of project.
- Use products and assemblies that minimize disposable packaging and storage requirements.
- When procuring construction materials and products, select manufacturers and vendors with take-back programs whenever the cost of their products is reasonable, products are available within a reasonable period of time or distance, and products meet performance specifications.
Specify Materials Harvested on a Sustainable Yield Basis
- Use timber products obtained from sustainably managed forests, certified through third-party organizations.
- Evaluate the substitution of bio-based materials or products, such as agricultural-fiber sheathing, for inert or non-recycled alternatives.
- Specify rapidly renewable materials that regenerate in 10 years or less, such as bamboo, cork, wool, and straw.
Eliminate the Use of Materials that Pollute or are Toxic During Their Manufacture, Use, or Reuse
- Consider EPA's Recommendations of environmental performance standards and ecolabels when specifying products.
- Within an acceptable category of product, use materials and assemblies with the lowest level of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and any chemicals that reduce indoor environmental quality. See WBDG Evaluating and Selecting Green Products and Enhance Indoor Environmental Quality.
- Eliminate the use of asbestos, lead, and PCBs in all products and assemblies. See WBDG High-Performance HVAC.
- Eliminate the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) as refrigerants in all HVAC systems.
- Evaluate the use of materials and assemblies whose manufacture does not pollute or create toxic conditions for workers. See the following sections of WBDG Secure/Safe—Occupant Safety and Health: Provide Good Indoor Air Quality and Adequate Ventilation and Eliminate Exposure to Hazardous Materials.
- Select paints, coatings, plastics, rubbers, and seals that are free from flame retardants and / or softeners containing SCCPs [short-chained chlorinated paraffins] (not more than 0.1 percent by weight), 10 carbon atoms to 13 carbon atoms, minimum 48 percent chlorine by weight, unless it can be shown that the SCCPs are present above this threshold due to the use of recycled content.
- Select paints, coatings, plastics, rubbers and seals that are free from flame retardants and / or softeners containing PBDEs and HBCD.
- Avoid product coatings that contain fluorotelomers based on C8 or higher fluorocarbon chemistries.
- Select textiles, paints, printing inks, and paper that are free of benzidine and benzidine congener-based dyes.
- Use detergents that do not contain NPE and APE surfactants and are certified by EPA's Safer Choice Program.
- When possible, give preference to products that openly disclose substances used in the manufacture of a product and substances comprising the final product.
- Avoid Ground-level Ozone in buildings. It can contribute to health problems for the building's occupants and damages vegetation and ecosystems.
Give Preference to Locally Produced Materials with Low Embodied Energy Content
- Evaluate the use of locally produced products to stimulate local economies and reduce transportation burdens and greenhouse gas generation.
- Evaluate the use of materials and assemblies that require minimum "embodied" energy for raw materials acquisition, manufacture, transport, installation, and use.
- Within an acceptable category of product, evaluate the use of materials and assemblies with low embodied energy content.
Encourage Operational Waste Recycling Success through Planning in the Design Phase
- Establish an operational waste management plan in cooperation with building owners to encourage recycling.
- During the design and construction phase, designate adequate area(s) for collection of ongoing recyclables. Local salvage/recycling/collection services should be identified during the design phase to maximize the effectiveness of the designated areas.
Durability of Materials
It is important that 'green' products perform the same as 'standard' products over their expected life cycle, therefore, it is valuable to develop a durability plan, which informs material and systems decisions assessing potential risk factors and damage functions. Once identified, measures can be made in the building design to address the risk factors. This process follows every phase from pre-design to building occupancy. Durability plans consider effects related to moisture, heat, sunlight, insects, material failure, ozone and acid rain, building function, style and natural disasters. Consider materials that age gracefully. Often traditional materials used in building construction are easily refinished, repaired, or are partially replaceable to ensure a potential lifespan measured in human generations.
Balancing Sustainability and Security/Safety
To ensure that security strategies are appropriately implemented for the desired level of protection, designers are encouraged to conduct threat/vulnerability assessments and risk analysis. To prevent unnecessary use of resources in a project, include only the security measures identified by assessment and analysis. Evaluate the cost of comparable security measures before making your final decision. For high-risk and critical facilities, the increased use of materials and products is inevitable. In such cases, designers and builders are encouraged to specify and use environmentally preferable products to the maximum extent feasible. For example, as part of the Pentagon renovation work after the 9/11 terrorist attacks concrete rubble from damaged parts of the building were crushed into gravel and reused as aggregate under concrete slabs. More
Preferring Bio-based Products
Relevant Codes, Laws, and Standards
Codes and Laws
- Department of Defense
- Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA 2007) .
- Energy Policy Act (2005)
- Executive Order 13693, "Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade"
- International Green Construction Code (IgCC), International Code Council
- ANSI/BIFMA e3 Furniture Sustainability Standard
- ANSI/ASHRAE/IES/USGBC Standard 189.1-2014, Standard for the Design of High-Performance Green Buildings
- ASHRAE 189.1 Standard for the Design of Green Buildings, except Low-Rise Residential Buildings
- ASTM E2129 Standard Practice for Data Collection for Sustainability Assessment of Building Products
- ASTM E2921 Minimum Standard for Comparing Whole Building Life Cycle Assessments for Use with Building Codes and Rating Systems
- EPA's Recommendations of Specifications, Standards and Ecolabels for federal purchasing. For these and other standards the federal government is using to meet its EO 13693 mandates, go to the Green Procurement Compilation.
- ISO 14040 Series Life-Cycle Assessment Standards
Building Types / Space Types
Aesthetics—Engage the Integrated Design Process, Cost-Effective, Functional / Operational, Historic Preservation—Update Building Systems Appropriately, Productive, Secure / Safe, Sustainable—Optimize Site Potential, Sustainable—Optimize Energy Use, Sustainable—Protect and Conserve Water, Sustainable—Enhance Indoor Environmental Quality, Sustainable—Optimize Operational and Maintenance Practices
Products and Systems
Building Envelope Design Guide—Sustainability of the Building Envelope
Federal Green Construction Guide for Specifiers:
- 01 67 00 (01611) Environmental Product Requirements
- 01 74 13 (01740) Progress Cleaning
- 01 78 23 (01830) Operation & Maintenance Data
- 05 05 00 (05050) Common Work Results for Metals
- 06 05 73 (06070) Wood Treatment
- 06 10 00 (06100) Rough Carpentry
- 06 16 00 (06160) Sheathing
- 06 20 00 (06200) Finish Carpentry
- 06 60 00 (06600) Plastic Fabrications
- 06 90 00 (06700) Alternative Agricultural Products
- 07 92 00 (07900) Joint Sealants
- 08 14 00 (08210) Wood Doors
- 09 29 00 (09250) Gypsum Board
- 09 30 00 (09300) Tile
- 09 51 00 (09510) Acoustical Ceilings
- 09 65 00 (09650) Resilient Flooring
- 09 65 16.13 (09654) Linoleum
- 09 68 00 (09680) Carpeting
- 09 72 00 (09720) Wallcovering
- 09 90 00 (09900) Painting & Coating
- 10 14 00 (10400) Signage
- 10 21 13.19 (10170) Plastic Toilet Compartments
- 11 13 00 (11160) Loading Dock Equipment
- 11 28 00 (11680) Office Equipment
- 11 30 00 (11450) Residential Equipment
- 12 10 00 (12100) Artwork
- 12 48 13 (12482) Entrance Floor Mats and Frames
- 12 59 00 (12700) Systems Furniture
Use Green Products
- Energy Star®, EPA
- Greener Products, EPA
- WaterSense, EPA
- The Design for Environment label has changed to Safer Choice, EPA
- Federal Green Construction Guide for Specifiers—The Guide provides model language that is intended to assist users in achieving green building goals as may be determined by the individual agency and project. It is being developed by EPA with the Federal Environmental Executive and the Whole Building Design Guide.
- GSA Buy Green Products
- GSA Sustainable Facilities Tool (SFTool)—Green Procurement Compilation
- Magazines and E-Newsletters
- Cradle to Cradle Products Program
- GreenSage.com—An online source for green and sustainable building materials and furnishings.
- GreenScreen for Safer Chemicals
- Green Seal
- Health Product Declaration Collaborative™
- PATHNET.org—Excellent repository of building materials, case studies, and innovative techniques
- Pharos—Materials evaluation system created by Healthy Building Network
- Sustainable Sources—Green Building Information online green building information
Renovate Existing Facilities, Products, and Equipment
- Case Studies:
Evaluate Environmental Preferability Using LCA
- BEES (Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability), NIST—BEES measures the environmental performance of building products by using the life-cycle assessment approach specified in ISO 14000 standards.
- Environmental Impact Estimator, Athena Sustainable Materials Institute—The Estimator lets designers assess the environmental implications of industrial, institutional, office, and both multi-unit and single-family residential designs: new construction or renovation.
- EcoCalculator, Athena Sustainable Materials Institute
- The Recycled Content Tool (ReCon)—ReCon estimates the life cycle GHG emissions and energy impacts from purchasing and/or manufacturing materials with varying degrees of post-consumer recycled content.
Maximize the Recycled Content of All New Materials
Specify Materials Harvested on a Sustained Yield Basis
- Forest Stewardship Council United States (FSC)
- Scientific Certification Systems (SCS)
- Sustainable Forestry Initiative, American Forest & Paper Association
Limit Construction Debris
- Construction and Demolition Debris Recycling, California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle)
- Case study: EPA New England Regional Laboratory
- Construction and Demolition Materials, EPA
- Construction Waste Management Database, GSA—The Database contains information on companies that haul, collect and process recyclable debris from construction projects. Created in 2002 by GSA's Environmental Strategies and Safety Division to promote responsible waste disposal, the Database is a free online service for those seeking companies that recycle construction debris in their area.
- Design for Deconstruction , U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- Sustainable Materials Management: Facts and Figures formerly called Municipal Solid Waste in the United States; Facts and Figures, EPA
- Department of Defense
- Public Works Technical Bulletins, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:
- Residential Construction Waste Management: A Builder's Field Guide by Peter Yost and Eric Lund. National Association of Home Builders Research Center, January 1997.
- Analysis of the Life Cycle Impacts and Potential for Avoided Impacts Associated with Single-Family Homes
- WasteSpec: Model Specifications for Construction Waste Reduction, Reuse, and Recycling by Triangle J Council of Governments, 1995.
- Executive Order 13693 and Implementing Instructions
- FedCenter.gov—FedCenter, the Federal Facilities Environmental Stewardship and Compliance Assistance Center, is a collaborative effort between the Office of the Federal Environmental Executive (OFEE), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Construction Engineering Research Laboratory, and the U.S. EPA Federal Facilities Enforcement Office. FedCenter replaces the previous FedSite as a one-stop source of environmental stewardship and compliance assistance information focused solely on the needs of federal government facilities.
- Federal Leadership in High Performance and Sustainable Buildings Memorandum of Understanding
- U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC)
- BIRDS (Building Industry Reporting and Design for Sustainability): Allows users to compare the sustainability performance of a building type as the energy efficiency design of that building type is increased
- GSA Sustainable Facilities Tool (SFTool)—SFTool's immersive virtual environment addresses all your sustainability planning, designing and procurement needs.
- A new EPA publication, the Tribal Green Building Toolkit, provides information on how tribes and other communities can prioritize and implement green building codes, policies and practices. This toolkit summarizes priorities identified by the Tribal Green Building Codes Workgroup, a group of tribal and federal leaders working to advance tribal green building.
- U.S. Life-Cycle Inventory (LCI) Database—Created by NREL and partners, this publicly available database allows users to objectively review and compare analysis results that are based on similar data collection and analysis methods.
- The Waste Reduction Model (WARM)—WARM calculates and totals life cycle GHG emissions avoided through alternative waste management practices (reduced, recycled, combusted, or composted) in comparison to a baseline scenario (landfilled) for various materials