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How to choose the right materials for a LEED project?

The choice of materials for sustainable projects has a significant impact on the environment. LEED certification has a specific category called Materials and Resources which dictates the environmental criteria to follow in selecting construction materials but also managing construction waste. This section encourages the use of more renewable materials and asks manufacturers to provide information on their products and components over their life cycle, LEED also encourages the team to use materials that are reused, salvaged or reused in part or whole. The overall objective being to choose materials which are environmentally friendly, are local as much as possible, biobased, with low toxic emissions and which have a minimized environmental impact throughout their life cycle.

LEED certification includes 2 prerequisites and 5 credits for the Materials and Resources category that can earn up to 13 points.

What are the LEED prerequisites for the Materials and Resources category?

Storage and collection of recyclable materials: This involves reducing the amount of waste generated by building users and organizing the collection, storage of recyclable materials and the transport of this waste to landfills for disposal.

Construction and Demolition Waste Management Planning: This involves setting waste diversion goals by identifying at least five materials (structural and non-structural) for diversion and establishing recyclable or reusable material redistribution strategies.

What are the LEED prerequisites? Check out our blog post.

What criteria should you consider when selecting materials?

1. Reduction of the impact of the building's life cycle

The aim here is to demonstrate a reduction in environmental impact during initial project decisions by reusing existing building resources or by demonstrating reductions in material use through life cycle assessments.

2. Environmental Product Declaration (EPD)

The Environmental Product Declaration is a document produced by the manufacturer describing the environmental impact of products based on factors such as global warming, eutrophication, ozone depletion, ocean acidification and more. This is to encourage the use of products and materials for which life cycle information is available and which have economic and social benefits throughout their life cycle.

One point is therefore awarded if the material chosen has this documentation and another point can be awarded if its environmental data is optimal, i.e. demonstrating an impact reduction below the industry average. Local materials are also favored and encouraged.

3. Sourcing of Raw Materials

Methods for sourcing raw materials are also important. This credit rewards projects that use materials that have optimized extraction processes by limiting or eliminating the extraction of new resources, the reuse of materials or the use of recycled materials. Biobased or local materials are therefore prominent strategies to comply with this credit.

In addition, manufacturers must provide documentation on the ecological and social impacts of their sourcing practices.

4. Material Ingredients

Materials are also assessed on their composition and the manufacturer’s transparency relating to material ingredients. The objective is to select products whose chemical components are listed, and to select products that minimize the use and production of contaminants. Disclosure of this information can be done through numerous programs such as Health Product Declarations or Cradle to Cradle certificates.

On the other hand, products demonstrating optimization through one of the referenced benchmarking systems, such as GreenScreen v1.2 Benchmark or Cradle to Cradle, are also rewarded. Finally, projects can be further awarded if they use products from a manufacturer verified by an independent third party .

5. Construction and demolition waste management

Construction and demolition waste accounts for a significant amount of waste generated globally. Teams are encouraged to put procedures in place to collect, reuse and recycle materials and to reduce overall construction and demolition waste on site and divert it from landfills and incinerators. Up to 2 points are available depending on the percentage of material reallocation.

This objective is also the subject to a prerequisite where teams are required to develop and implement a construction and demolition waste management plan.



Our LEED Blog series have been developed for project managers and architects who work on projects with a LEED certification objective. This LEED Blog summarizes everything you need to know about LEED for a good implementation and a successful certification process. Don't forget to go through our numerous resources to help you guide your clients towards a successful LEED certification! Return to LEED Main Blog See the next post: LEED Commissioning

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