LEADING SUSTAINABILITY ORGANIZATIONS UNITE: AIA, ILFI, IWBI, USGBC, AND MM ALIGN AROUND COMMON MATERIALS FRAMEWORK
In an unprecedented collaboration of leading organizations dedicated to sustainable building practices and impact reduction in the built environment, the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the International Living Future Institute (ILFI), the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), and mindful MATERIALS (mM) have joined forces to align around the Common Materials Framework, which establishes for the first time a common language for holistic material sustainability in the building industry.
In a standing-room-only event at the 2023 Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, held this year in Washington, D.C., leaders from the five organizations presented “Building Alignment: The Role of Project Certifications to Drive Impact” to shed light on the critical importance of aligning their efforts to advance materials sustainability, transparency, and optimization in the construction and design industries.
“Materials have remained one of the toughest sustainability puzzles to solve. Partly, that’s because their impacts are so diverse and global — and because so many entities impact material choices from design to installation,” says Alex Muller, VP of Strategy at mindful MATERIALS. “But it’s also been a confusing world to wrap your arms around. Every organization defines product sustainability differently and asks for different pathways or labels to meet the same objectives — safe, sustainable, and socially just materials. So it’s not surprising we’ve made less progress than we’d want. That’s all about to change thanks to the Common Materials Framework — and the commitment from these organizations to find meaningful alignment on holistically sustainable materials.”
The Common Materials Framework, whose first version was completed in 2021, acts as a ‘Rosetta Stone’ for product sustainability, translating diverse product standards and disparate data points into consistent categories of impact: Human Health, Climate Health, Ecosystem Health, Social Health + Equity, and Circularity. The AIA Materials Pledge first articulated these impact ‘pillars’ and are now widely recognized in the building industry. By doing so, it allows any organization, data platform, standard, designer, or manufacturer to have a common and comparable foundation for their work.
“It’s not overstating anything to say these are some of the most influential groups in the built environment where sustainability is concerned. The announcement at Greenbuild represents years of collaboration and months of direct conversation. To have everyone up on the stage together, speaking in the same language and with the same urgency about aligning like ‘no more talk, this is it’ — I mean, wow, that was powerful and something I have been hoping to see my entire career,” says Annie Bevan, CEO of mindful MATERIALS.
IWBI announced its commitment to map existing material features in WELL to the CMF, conduct a gap analysis to inform new possible CMF-aligned WELL beta features, and explore ways to support similar alignment with its Works with WELL licensing program.
“We’re thrilled to be locking arms with like-minded organizations to help realize a shared vision for better materials,” says Rachel Hodgdon, President and CEO of IWBI. “By working together and leveraging the Common Materials Framework, we are not only creating greater alignment across industries, we are also seizing an opportunity to accelerate progress toward healthier and more sustainable materials.”
USGBC announced plans to consider the CMF organizing principles for its much-anticipated LEED v5, which is available to review in draft for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance now. Draft Versions of Building Design & Construction and Interior Design & Construction will be launched next year and include a multi-attribute, holistic approach to sustainable materials.
“USGBC embraces collaboration across industries to elevate the benchmarks for the built environment,” says Peter Templeton, President and CEO at USGBC. “By championing sustainable materials, we not only curtail energy, water, harmful ingredients, and waste in manufacturing but also mitigate impacts during distribution, transportation, and future phases of use, reducing carbon emissions while also safeguarding health and environmental quality. The Common Materials Framework offers an opportunity for our industry stakeholders to standardize terminology and speed the uptake of sustainable products. We look forward to collaborating with this effort going forward.”
After adopting the five pillars more than three years ago, AIA offered a sneak peek into its process to build out actionable next steps for the over 250+ AIA A&D Materials Pledge signatories. The CMF will be used to build clear metrics that will help track the adoption of holistic materials selection among AIA’s 96,000 members.
“AIA is committed to supporting the architect’s ability to create a zero carbon, equitable, healthy, and resilient future through the power of design,” says Lakisha Ann Woods, CEO of AIA. “We are excited to move the A&D Materials Pledge beyond aspirational language and into action and implementation. Our members will now be able to benchmark their projects amongst their peers and track their years of progress, similar to our tracking in the AIA 2030 Commitment Program. The industry’s alignment around the CMF will allow AIA and our industry to speak the same language when discussing materials selection in the built environment.”
As ILFI prepares for the release of the next versions of its market-transformative programs — Declare, the Living Product Challenge, and the Living Building Challenge — Materials Director Mike Johnson called for urgent action in support of holistically sustainable and regenerative design and manufacturing and shared that the organization will leverage the CMF to ensure that its standards are industry-leading and aligned.
“ILFI is dedicated to helping the world define what good looks like for the built environment and to empowering communities around the world to respond to the urgent social and environmental issues of our time,” says Lindsay Baker, CEO of ILFI. “This collaboration of the world’s leading healthy building organizations will help us rapidly scale up our beneficial work.”
This collaboration and alignment between the AIA, ILFI, IWBI, USGBC, and mindful MATERIALS creates a powerful synergy, says Bevan. One she believes will propel the building materials industry forward.
“By leveraging the CMF, we will finally establish a common language and a shared foundation for materials data and sustainability standards,” says Bevan. “It’s hard to overstate how deeply this has been needed to align our respective missions, accelerate impact reduction, and reward the manufacturers working hard to meet so many different standards. This Framework and this leadership will allow us to come together and align our momentum for greater impact. I’m incredibly excited for what comes next.”
About the Common Materials Framework
The Common Materials Framework (CMF) is the outcome of the most detailed cross-stakeholder industry effort to date to analyze and organize over 100 of the most common building product and material certifications and disclosures.
The CMF gives structure to over 650 relevant sustainability factors identified within these programs. Those factors are organized within the five buckets of health and sustainability referenced across multiple stakeholder materials pledges, including the AIA A&D Materials Pledge. By mapping the underlying data and organization of those Pledge statements, the CMF allows signatories of those pledges to navigate and demonstrate achievement on their public commitments.
Once digitized, the CMF will act as a smart filter, allowing practitioners to search for sustainable products at any depth. mindful MATERIALS’ intention is that the CMF will work seamlessly across all leading building and material databases and technology platforms, ensuring a consistent foundation of information wherever material decisions are made.
About mindful MATERIALS, Inc.
mindful MATERIALS’ mission is to reverse the embodied impacts of the built environment by driving the use of regenerative and restorative building products that meet an industry-aligned framework for health, sustainability, and resilience, the Common Materials Framework.
mindful MATERIALS furthers its mission through a global cross-sector collaboration hub to develop and drive adoption of the common materials framework, which is digitized through its curated digital materials library and connected to industry tools, resources, education, and advocacy for the greater benefit of all.
To learn more about mindful MATERIALS and the Common Materials Framework, visit mindfulmaterials.com.
About American Institute of Architects
Founded in 1857, AIA consistently works to create more valuable, healthy, secure, and sustainable buildings, neighborhoods, and communities. Through more than 200 international, state, and local chapters, AIA advocates for public policies that promote economic vitality and public well-being.
AIA provides members with tools and resources to assist them in their careers and business as well as engaging civic and government leaders and the public to find solutions to pressing issues facing our communities, institutions, nation, and world. Members adhere to a code of ethics and conduct to ensure the highest professional standards.
About International Living Future Institute
The International Living Future Institute’s mission is to cultivate a society that is socially just, culturally rich, and ecologically restorative. To do this, the organization envisions a Living Future and shows that it works better in practice and policy. The Institute is premised on the belief that providing a compelling vision for the future is needed to reconcile humanity’s relationship with the natural world. The Institute’s programs have shaped more than 55 million square feet of real estate development across the United States and around the world. Learn more at http://www.living-future.org.
About International WELL Building Institute
The International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) is a public benefit corporation and the world’s leading organization focused on deploying people-first places to advance a global culture of health. IWBI mobilizes its community through the administration of the WELL Building Standard (WELL) and WELL ratings and certifications, management of the WELL AP credential, the pursuit of applicable research, the development of educational resources, and advocacy for policies that promote health and well-being everywhere. More information on WELL can be found here.
About U.S. Green Building Council
Since 1994, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has been at the forefront of defining what it means to design, construct, and operate green buildings and communities. Through the development of LEED, the world’s most widely used green building rating system, USGBC is committed to a sustainable, prosperous future through LEED, the leading program for green buildings and communities worldwide. Our vision is that buildings and communities will regenerate and sustain the health and vitality of all life within a generation. Our mission is to transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built, and operated, enabling an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy, and prosperous environment that improves the quality of life.
American Institute of Architects
International Living Future Institute
International WELL Building Institute
U.S. Green Building Counci