Green Specs II
A methodology for evaluating environmental impacts of building
materials and products.
By Meg Calkins, ASLA
For every building product or material, there is a complex web
of environmental impacts that ripple across the country, and sometimes
around the world. The manganese to color the brick made in Iowa,
for example, came from China, and if not handled properly during
manufacture and installation, it can cause disorders of the central
nervous system. The unit paver contains only enough ground, granulated
blast-furnace slagan industrial by-product from steel processingso
as not to affect the color, and the iron oxide pigment for the poured-in-place
concrete in Illinois came from Mexico and is sealed with a product
that contains volatile organic compounds. It is impossible to track
all the environmental effects of building materials, but it is possible
to discover the major ones and to specify materials and products
to minimize the environmental impacts.
This article suggests a methodology and questions to ask of manufacturers
and distributors to better understand the environmental life-cycle
impacts of materials and products. To illustrate the benefits and
limitations of the methodology, a sample analysis and comparison
of three paving assemblies has been performed. The questions are
not intended to produce one right answer as to which product is
bestthat is a nearly impossible task, and different projects
will have differing priorities. Instead, the questions are designed
to bring the major environmental impacts and hazards to light in
order to assist with product selection.
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