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Materials Matter: Evaluating the Impact of Building Materials

Responsible materials expert Jennifer Gustafson explores how we measure the long-term impact of building materials on people and ecosystems

LEO A DALY designers use a variety of resources to ensure responsible material selections

​Understanding the full impact of building materials is complex, and our clients appreciate our professional services that help them identify products and material selections that consider all living systems. As designers who implement the AIA Materials Pledge, we holistically evaluate the creation and use of materials in projects.

Responsible Materials

Our continuously refreshed materials library reflects support for the use and implementation of materials that have passed standardized emission testing protocols, provided fully transparent information on their material ingredients as verified by a third party, and optimized their products to remove the most harmful substances of concern. We also consider health impacts throughout the supply chain, including how sourcing and manufacturing materials impacts ecosystems and those that live in them.

Life Cycle Analysis

To fully assess climate change and other environmental impacts of the built environment, we are gaining and sharing perspective on whole building Life Cycle Analysis (LCA). It is a valuable tool in aligning material production with sustainability. This comprehensive method measures the environmental impacts of resource consumption, emissions and waste over the lifespan of a building revealing the full footprint of materials/products, processes and buildings.

Resiliency at All Levels

Resiliency of materials and products is another important part of sustainable measures. Our design and planning process recognizes that buildings are long-term, valued assets for owners. We critically think about exterior and interior designs that will mitigate risk and vulnerability of disruption or disaster events. Our conversations with clients incorporate business operation planning as well as forecasting for change and unexpected events.

About the author

Jennifer Gustafson’s 25 years of experience in interior and architectural design includes; healthcare, corporate, civic, educational, and hospitality projects. Jennifer leads the firm-wide responsible materials initiative raising awareness and helping teams identify and specify products that are responsibly sourced and transparent in their chemical makeup and life cycle impact.