"At SmithGroupJJR, our mission is to create a legacy of inspiring places that enhance the environment and enrich the human spirit. Sustainable design is at the core of what we do. Through multi-discipline, integrated design, we’re committed to delivering sustainable solutions not only for our clients but for the overall health of our planet. In this vein, we at SmithGroupJJR also practice what we preach as we reduce the overall footprint within our own organization through our operations, education, work environment and process."
August 30, 2016
Until recently, as architects, our conclusions about the environmental intelligence of materials were informed by metrics that were a step removed from what we actually needed to know. Without access to the actual atmospheric carbon consequences of materials choices, we looked to recycled content as a proxy. Sustainably harvested wood substituted for lack of information on the broader impacts on habitat. VOC content was a poor substitute for information on the impacts to health.
Now, we have moved toward greater transparency by asking manufacturers for more relevant data on environmental impact (Environmental Product Declarations) and human health impact (Health Product Declarations). In support of this enhanced industry-wide conversation, the AIA Board adopted a Position Statement that encouraged architects to “…promote transparency in materials’ contents and in their environmental and human health impacts.”
With access to greater information about materials, not all of which is favorable, practitioners began to ask whether they were taking on greater risk, i.e. if an architect knowingly specifies a material containing a carcinogenic chemical, has he or she acquired additional liability? To address this question, a Task Group of the AIA Materials Knowledge Working Group has published a whitepaper, “Materials Transparency & Risk for Architects: An Introduction to Advancing Professional Ethics while Managing Professional Liability Risks”.
Among the topics covered by the whitepaper are:
The whitepaper recognizes that materials transparency is the new normal and may offer opportunities for architects. Further, like any new practice, transparency could present potential risks, but such risks are manageable. In response, the AIA offers tools and resources to help architects navigate these new waters.
Whitepaper contributor and AIA Task Group member Russell Perry, FAIA, LEED Fellow, will appear at the following events to share his knowledge with a series of presentations and panel discussions:
September 15, 2016, Living Product Expo 2016, Pittsburgh, PA, “Managing the Risk and Liability of Material Ingredient Transparency within the Design and Construction Team.”
October 21, 2016, Utah Sustainability Summit, Salt Lake City, UT, “Materials – the New Landscape.”
November 2, 2016, Architecture Exchange East, Richmond, VA, “How to Specify Healthy Building Materials.”
November 4, 2016, Architecture Exchange East, Richmond, VA, “Research in Practice.”