Materials Petal

Materials Petal

The intent of the Materials Petal is to create a successful materials economy that is nontoxic, transparent and socially equitable. Throughout their life cycle, supplies and materials are responsible for many adverse environmental issues, including illness, squandered embodied energy, pollution, and resource depletion. The Imperatives in this section aim to remove the worst known offending materials and practices from Living Communities. When impacts can be reduced but not eliminated, there is an obligation not only to offset the damaging consequences associated with the construction process, but also to strive for corrections in the industry. At the present time it is impossible to gauge the true environmental impact and toxicity of the built environment due to a lack of product-level information.

Ideal Conditions and Current Limitations

The Living Community Challenge envisions a future where all materials in the built environment are replenishable and regenerative, and have no negative impact on human and ecosystem health. The precautionary principle guides all materials decisions, first in the master plan phase through the Living Community Challenge and, later, through the Living Building Challenge as individual structures begin to take shape.

There are significant limitations to achieving the ideal for the materials realm. Product specification and purchase have far-reaching impacts, and although consumers are starting to weigh these impacts in parallel with other more conventional attributes, such as aesthetics, function and cost, the biggest shortcoming is due to the market itself. While there are a huge number of “green” products for sale, there is also a shortage of good, publicly available data that backs up manufacturer claims and provides consumers with the ability to make conscious, informed choices. Transparency is vital; as a global community, the only way we can transform into a truly sustainable society is through open communication and honest information sharing, yet many manufacturers are wary of sharing trade secrets that afford them a competitive advantage, and make proprietary claims about specific product contents.

Declare, the Institute’s ingredients label for building products, is a publicly accessible label and online database with an official connection to the Materials Petal. Not only does Declare contribute to the overt methodology for removing a temporary exception, it also provides a forum for sharing the information compiled by developers, designers and builders as part of their documentation requirements for certification. It is important for the Community to set material standards and to build them into the decision-making process for all future phases of the project.

In order to ensure responsible material use through time, the Community must develop an Implementation Plan to meet the following Imperatives from Living Building Challenge18 for all community facilities,19 common infrastructure20 and landscapes that the Community controls and are in charge of developing.

  • I10 Red List
  • I12 Responsible Industry
  • I13 Living Economy Sourcing

The Community must account for the total embodied carbon (tCO 2e) impact from the construction of all Community infrastructure (built or projected) and Community-owned facilities (built or projected) through a one-time carbon offset within the project boundary.

The Community must strive to reduce or eliminate the production of waste during design, construction, operation, and end of life in order to conserve natural resources and to find ways to integrate waste back into either an industrial loop or natural nutrient loop.

The Community must create a Material Conservation Management Plan that sets the guidelines for all buildings, landscape, and infrastructure to minimize waste in each of the following phases:

  • Design Phase, including the consideration of appropriate durability in product specification
  • Construction Phase, including product optimization and collection of wasted materials
  • Operation Phase, including a collection plan for consumables and durables
  • End of Life Phase, including a plan for adaptable reuse and deconstruction

During construction, the community must divert wasted material to the following levels:

Material Min. Diverted/Weight
Metal 99%
Paper & Cardboard 99%
Soil & Biomass 100%
Rigid foam, Carpet & Insulation 95%
All others - combined weighted average 90%

There must be dedicated infrastructure for the collection of recyclables and compostable food scraps throughout the Community. Food composting must be compulsory in the Community, and compost must be reused within the Community as a nutrient source. The Community must feature at least ten salvaged materials or reuse at least one existing structure.