When is something considered green material?

Until we know when something is considered green, we can not begin to reduce the use of materials.  Green material is something that does the most with the least, it fits in harmony within the ecosystem processes, it helps eliminate the use of other materials and energy, and contributes to the attainment of a service-based economy.   To be able to well understand what a green material is, is dependent on the understanding of relationships in nature, in the economy, and between nature and the economy.  It is an always changing relationship.  Therefore, what is considered a green material is also constantly changing. 

The context in which a material is used is also crucial in green consideration.  A conventional petrochemical-based building material might be used in buildings and developments that are quite ecological in their overall impact.  Likewise, a “green” material might be used or installed in a destructive way that completely negates it’s positive aspects.  By being salvaged and re-used, a very conventional material might become a green material. It’s a question of relationships that have multiple levels and are constantly shifting and changing.

The criteria for evaluating building materials include the general categories of resources, performance and pollution.  The resources required for a material can be consumed in its extraction, production, or disposal.  This also is the case for pollution.  Performance is the energy and resources it can save or waste for its use.  Therefore, for each type of material, performance may mean something very different.  For example, the performance of insulation will be judged based on its thermal resistance characteristics, while a flooring would be evaluated for its durability.

        Making a decision on what is “green” is sometimes relative.  Several products may  be considered the greenest just because the alternatives are so destructive.

       Below are a  list of criteria that have commonly been when evaluating building materials in terms of how green they are:

  • how much energy was used to produce and transport the product and its components? – Local is greener
  • what kinds of energy sources (renewable or otherwise) were used in producing it?
  • what kind of pollution and waste did its production and transport generate, and how much will its disposal create?
  • can it be obtained locally?
  • does it make  good use of a local resource, especially an overlooked or underused resource?
  • is it reused, or recycled?  If recycled, is it post-consumer (preferable) or post-industrial?
  • can it be recycled or reused at the entire of its product life?
  • durability?  … Maintenance across its lifespan?
  • how well does it perform its system function?
  • how does the material affect indoor air quality?

Ultimately, awareness of the importance of these indicators are our best hope to displace simplistic ideologies of growth and competitiveness.

QUBE | INC. is dedicated to making their work more green.  Based on the clients needs, we try to simultaneously reduce our carbon foot print and supply the highest quality of service and materials.

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