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
IDEAL CONDITIONS + 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.