Page E1.1 . 02 November 2005                     
ArchitectureWeek - Environment Department
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  • Environmental Eldercare

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    Spec'ing Green

    by Michael Cockram

    "Architects have the ability to change entire industries with the stroke of a pen. If we specify a material with low carbon dioxide emissions in its fabrication say, floor tile, carpet, gypsum board industry will respond. This is the American way. Architects are consumers; they're not always aware of the incredible power they have to change the way products are manufactured."
    Ed Mazria in Metropolis Magazine.

    Each year architects specify much of the material for about 10 billion square feet (930 million square meters) of new and renovated construction in the United States. The building sector consumes up to half of the energy in this country in constructing, maintaining and demolishing structures.

    Because of the huge impact of buildings, activist architect Ed Mazria places much of the responsibility for saving the planet squarely on the shoulders of architects. In Mazria's view, architects are a large part of the problem and the potential solution to global warming and reliance on fossil fuels. And much of the solution to global warming lies in the choice of materials we specify for the buildings we design.

    As green design becomes more mainstream and more practitioners become LEED certified by the U.S. Green Building Council, the need for clarity in specifying materials becomes more pressing. The field of specifying green materials is still in its infancy and somewhat cumbersome to navigate. But the tools for specifying green materials are becoming more refined and more available to architects.

    Materials and Life Cycle Analysis

    To fully understand a material's impact on the environment, the designer must look beyond the short term-environmental ramifications such as volatile organic compounds (VOC) levels in finishes and consider the material's entire life span.   >>>

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    ArchWeek Image

    HOK specified straw bale infill walls in part of the Santa Clarita Transit Center in California.
    Photo: HOK

    ArchWeek Image

    A wall section showing the incorporation of straw bale in the Santa Clarita facility.
    Photo: HOK


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