Selina Holmes

At Greenbuild Chicago, explore sustainable materials and resources strategies.

Materials and Resources (MR) is a critical topic addressed in LEED. Every version of LEED released has addressed materials in some way, and LEED v4 is no different.

LEED v4 changes the paradigm for how decisions are made about materials that go into the buildings in which we spend so much of our time, by giving new information to decision makers. The credits and prerequisites focus the on minimizing the embodied energy and other impacts associated with the extraction, processing, transport, maintenance and disposal of building materials.

  • Usage: Within the Materials and Resources (MR) section, instead of saying a product is good or bad based on one attribute (e.g., recycled content), LEED enables project teams to have a more robust dialogue with manufacturers about optimizing around environmental, social and health impacts and better understanding trade-offs. This category is designed to consider the entire life cycle of the building, from extraction and manufacturing to transport, operations and maintenance—and eventually, the end of life.
  • Life cycle: Whole building life-cycle assessment encourages the architect to work with the structural engineer to investigate opportunities to reduce the embodied energy of materials by right-sizing the building’s structure. There can be as much as a 20–30 percent positive impact on the life cycle of the building by looking at bay sizing and slab depth. This is important because, as buildings become more and more operationally efficient, the embodied impact of materials gets proportionally larger.
  • Transparency: Environmental product declarations (EPDs) and material ingredient reporting tools, like Health Product Declarations, provide architects and designers with more information about the contents in products and the manufacturing process. EPDs address how products are made and their material ingredients, and other tools provide information about who makes them. These three together address the triple bottom line and give architects a more complete set of information by which to select products. By providing this information, manufacturers can better differentiate the progress they’ve made and demonstrate that improvement.

Join USGBC at Greenbuild Chicago, November 14–16, to learn more about LEED and materials. In addition to our many education sessions, you'll want to visit the expo hall, where you can interact with the newest and most innovative products the market has to offer.

Leveraging EPDs to Build Lower Embodied Carbon Buildings

Thurs., November 15, 9–10 a.m.

The time is now to address the embodied carbon of building materials as rigorously as emissions from operations. By specifying materials with lower embodied carbon, architects, engineers and designers can take a key step in reducing the building’s overall climate impact. Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) and their supporting LCA reports contain data that can be leveraged to significantly reduce the greenhouse gases associated with these materials. Learn the best practices employed by building product manufacturers to reduce embodied carbon and how specifiers and building owners can take advantage of these insights.

Beyond Measure: using LCA to Transform Projects and Products

Thurs., November 15, 3–4 p.m.

This session will focus on the application of life-cycle assessment (LCA) to go beyond accounting and explore decision-making and implementation at every stage of the project, from conceptual design to procurement and construction. Attendees will leave with a set of guiding principles for minimizing embodied carbon and an outline of key windows of opportunity for maximizing their positive impact. Case studies include student housing, an office tower using LCA to optimize the design in pursuit of LEED v4, and the development and placement of new low-carbon concrete mixes that reduced embodied GHGs up to 55 percent.

Register for Greenbuild Chicago