Materials Matter

“Architects have a greater ability to improve public health than those of the health profession.” Dr. Claudia Miller, professor at the UT School of Medicine in San Antonio, made this assertion during a panel discussion at HKS about choosing healthy building materials.

Dr. Miller recognizes the impact the built environment has on human health as she researches Toxicant-induced Loss of Tolerance.

Building materials’ impact on human health and on the environment is taking center stage for the AIA. In October 2013, the AIA’s Sustainability Leadership Opportunity Scan identified Materials as one of two core focus areas through 2016. Click on the video on the right to watch the National AIA video clip on materials. Share the video with your colleagues or post the QR code in your office to generate dialog on the subject.

Dozens of large architecture and design firms have requested product manufacturers produce Health Product Declarations (HPDs) for their building products. Transparency regarding the chemicals and potential hazards associated with the contents of building products will help to drive the push toward healthier and greener chemistries in the building product industry. Education and robust dialog about the health and environmental impacts of products provides architects information to make smart material selections.

In January 2014, HKS and five other large Dallas architecture firms hosted a “Transparency Forum” to discuss the importance of transparency regarding the chemical contents of building products. The session will be repeated next week in Houston at the Texas Society of Architects Convention.

During your next meeting with a building product manufacturer, discuss the impacts of product selection on human health and the environment.  Ask for an HPD for the product you are considering. Compare the chemical contents of one product against another. Architects will bring added value to clients as they design with human and environmental health in mind.   

Nancy Hulsey is sustainable materials specialist at HKS, Inc. 

Contributed by:
Nancy Hulsey


Talk About It

About 9 years ago: B. T.

Thank you Nancy! I am looking forward to presenting on this topic with you and likeminded colleagues from P+W, Beck, SmithGroup and HDR at the Texas Architect Conference this Thursday afternoon.