- Achieving Sustainable Site Design through Low Impact Development Practices
- Aesthetic Challenges
- Aesthetic Opportunities
- Balancing Security/Safety and Sustainability Objectives
- Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV)
- Construction Waste Management
- Cool Metal Roofing
- Distributed Energy Resources (DER)
- Electric Lighting Controls
- Energy Efficient Lighting
- Evaluating and Selecting Green Products
- Extensive Vegetative Roofs
- Facility Performance Evaluation (FPE)
- Fuel Cells and Renewable Hydrogen
- Glazing Hazard Mitigation
- High-Performance HVAC
- Life-Cycle Cost Analysis (LCCA)
- Low Impact Development Technologies
- Mold and Moisture Dynamics
- Natural Ventilation
- Passive Solar Heating
- Playground Design and Equipment
- Psychosocial Value of Space
- Reliability-Centered Maintenance (RCM)
- Security and Safety in Laboratories
- Solar Water Heating
- Sun Control and Shading Devices
- Sustainable Laboratory Design
- Sustainable O&M Practices
- Therapeutic Environments
- Water Conservation
- Windows and Glazing
Use Greener Materials
Last updated: 08-30-2012
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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 waste. Using a "cradle-to-cradle" approach, the "waste" from one generation can become the "raw material" of the next.
When developing specifications, product descriptions and standards, consider a broad range of environmental factors including: waste prevention, the use of recycled content (see EPA's Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines), environmental preferability, energy & water efficiency, and other factors such as life-cycle cost and end-of-life options.
During the construction/renovation design and development process, federal 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;
- 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;
- Encourage the use of recyclable assemblies and products that can be easily "de-constructed" at the end of their useful lives;
- Limit construction debris, encourage the separation of waste streams, and encourage recycling during the construction process;
- Eliminate the use of materials that pollute or are toxic during their manufacture, use, or reuse; and
- Give preference to locally produced products and other products with low embodied energy content.
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 windows and doors meet the new facility's security, accessibility, and energy 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.
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.
- Follow the EPA's five guiding principles established to help Executive agencies identify and purchase environmentally friendly products and services.
- Environment + Price + Performance = EPP. Include environmental considerations as part of the normal purchasing process.
- Pollution Prevention. Emphasize pollution prevention as part of the purchasing process.
- Life-Cycle Perspective/Multiple Attributes. Examine multiple environmental attributes throughout the product and service's life cycle.
- Comparison of Environmental Impacts. Compare environmental impacts when selecting products and services.
- Environmental Performance Information. Collect accurate and meaningful environmental information about environmental performance of products and services.
- Life-cycle stages of a product includes sourcing of raw materials, to manufacturing, packaging, transportation, distribution, retailing, use of the product, and management of the product when it is no longer needed (through reuse, repair, upgrading, recycling, or safe disposal).
- 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.
Consider Waste and Employ a Cradle-to-Cradle Approach
- Use EPA-designated recycled content products to the maximum extent practicable—required 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.
- Require the development and implementation of a plan for sorting construction waste for recycling.
- Identify local recycling and salvage operations that will be used during the project planning stage.
- Use products and assemblies that minimize disposable packaging and storage requirements.
- Consider designing a facility for deconstruction from the beginning.
- When procuring construction materials and products, select manufacturers and vendors with take back programs.
Specify Materials Harvested on a Sustainable Yield Basis
- Use timber products obtained from sustainably managed forests, certified through third-party agencies.
- 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.
Encourage the Use of Recyclable Assemblies and Products
- Within acceptable levels of performance, evaluate the use of de-mountable or de-constructable products and assemblies.
- Establish a waste management plan in cooperation with users to encourage recycling.
- Investigate providing locations at the project site for organic waste composting.
- Where possible, avoid materials not compatible with reuse and recycling.
Eliminate the Use of Materials that Pollute or are Toxic During Their Manufacture, Use, or Reuse
- Within an acceptable category of product, use materials and assemblies with the lowest level of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). See WBDG Evaluating and Selecting Green Products.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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
Section 9002 of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (Public Law 107-171, May 13, 2002) confers Federal purchasing preference to bio-based products on the basis of five criteria: environmental performance, cost performance, bio-based content, technical performance, and availability. In support of this legislation, a Federal rule was developed specifying that the USDA establish a "USDA Certified Bio-based Product" label. To qualify for the label, bio-based products must be evaluated for life-cycle environmental and cost performance by the NIST BEES tool.
Many new products have appeared on the market in recent years, all claiming to be 'green,' yet they sometimes offer little proof to back up those claims. The term 'Greenwashing' has come into vogue to describe products having unsubstantiated and misleading green characteristics. It is a challenge to specifiers and purchasers to determine the validity and relevance of environmental claims. Evaluate green products using recognized testing laboratories and test methods and read the Terrachoice study "The Sins of Greenwashing."
Relevant Codes, Laws, and Standards
Codes and Laws
- Department of Defense
- DoD Green Procurement Program (GPP) (PDF 186 KB)
- Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA 2007) (PDF 738 KB).
- Energy Policy Act (2005) (PDF 1.36 MB)
- Executive Order 13423, "Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management"
- Executive Order 13514, "Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy and Economic Performance," 2009
- Green Procurement Requirements Overview
- ASTM E 2129—Standard Practice for Data Collection for Sustainability Assessment of Building Products
- ISO 14040 Series—Life-Cycle Assessment Standards
- U.S. General Services Administration
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
Section 07 41 13:Metal Roofing, Section 07 92 00: Joint Sealants, 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
- 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.
Use Green Products
- Energy Star®, EPA
- WaterSense, EPA
- Design for the Environment, 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 Environmental Products Overview
- Sustainable Facilities Tool – Green Products Compilation
- Magazines and E-Newsletters
- Green Seal
- GreenSage.com—An online source for green and sustainable building materials and furnishings.
- oikos® Green Building Source—Green product information
- 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 Environmental Resource Guide by The American Institute of Architects (AIA), Joseph A. Demkin (Editor). New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1999.
Maximize the Recycled Content of All New Materials
- Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines (CPG), EPA
- Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Program (EPP), EPA
Specify Materials Harvested on a Sustained Yield Basis
- Forest Stewardship Council United States (FSC)
- GreenBlue Make Forest Products More Sustainable
- 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.
- Municipal Solid Waste Management, EPA
- National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Research Center—Construction Waste Management
- 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.
- WasteSpec: Model Specifications for Construction Waste Reduction, Reuse, and Recycling (PDF 2.9 MB) by Triangle J Council of Governments, 1995.
- 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
- GSA LEED® Applications Guide
- GSA LEED® Cost Study
- U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC)