Published 1 year ago.
About a 5 minute read.
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The places where we work, play, eat, sleep, learn and heal can have an impact on our wellbeing. And everything from access to daylight and sound levels in a room to material selection and color schemes affects how we experience a space.
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) developed
the Architecture & Design Materials
Pledge to inspire a shift
in how architects and designers evaluate the products and finishes that they
specify. Leading up to organization’s annual
Shaw VP of Sustainability – Commercial Tim Conway spoke with
Sustainability Strategist Melissa Wackerle about the Materials Pledge and
the impact it aims to have on people and the planet, as part of Shaw’s annual
sustain[HUMAN]ability® Leadership Recognition Program.
Melissa Wackerle: Architects and designers have the foremost ability to
influence and determine the products that go into buildings. Through the
building materials specifications they make daily, AIA members have tremendous
power to make a direct and significant impact to mitigate climate change and
create buildings and communities where all people and natural systems can
To that end, AIA developed the A&D Materials
by a desire to clarify architects’ and designers’ ask to building product
manufacturers and inspired by our 2030 Commitment
program — which
drives accountability around ambitious imperatives for climate action — the A&D
Materials Pledge outlines five overarching statements that will lead to more
intentional product specification across their portfolios over time.
MW: The pledge supports holistic selection of materials that enhance human
health, climate health, ecosystem health, social health and equity, and circular
economy. These outcomes truly manifest sustainability’s triple bottom line of
people, planet and prosperity.
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Participating firms pledge to support:
human health by prioritizing products that support and foster life
throughout their life cycles and seek to eliminate the use of hazardous
social health & equity by prioritizing products from manufacturers that
in their own operations and in their supply chains, positively impacting
their workers and the communities where they operate
ecosystem health by prioritizing products that support and regenerate
the natural air, water and biological cycles of life through thoughtful
supply chain management and restorative company practices
climate health by prioritizing products that reduce carbon emissions and
ultimately sequester more carbon than emitted.
a circular economy by reusing and improving
and by designing for
adaptability, disassembly, and reuse; aspiring to a zero-waste goal for
global construction activities.
Since publishing these five statements in an open letter to the profession and
industry in 2018, more than 160 architecture and design firms of all sizes have
signed on. They collectively represent more than 20,000 employees of A&D
companies committed to healthy and sustainable materials selection.
Image credit: AIA
MW: Once firms join, they’re provided with a Materials Pledge Starter
guide (available to all for download) expands on the pledge statements to
provide specific actions firms can take to make an impact across the five pledge
areas. It also includes five general actions any firm can take, including:
Updating a firm’s sustainability or climate action plan to reflect the
Creating or refreshing the firm’s materials library or policies.
Making materials and product selections based on pledge criteria.
Building literacy and training employees about materials.
AIA has also developed a variety of additional online resources and education
including our five-part AIAU Materials Certificate
MW: Signing the A&D Materials Pledge — like setting any organizational goal
— opens the door for additional conversations for design teams about the
importance of materials in achieving sustainability goals.
In a study of pledge participants from November 2021, nearly 90 percent of
respondents report training staff on materials since signing the pledge, and 60
percent report pledge-specific conversations among project team members. Nearly
half of respondents have updated their materials library and policies to accept
only healthier, sustainable materials — laying the groundwork for lasting
MW: Our challenge has been a need for clear and consistent definitions and
benchmarks of healthy and sustainable materials.
In that November 2021 study, 70 percent of A&D Materials Pledge signatories
indicated that they seek more consistent goals and benchmarks to measure their
progress; and 87 percent of respondents wanted to see more manufacturer data.
While 40 percent of respondents reported that they are currently adopting
systems to organize their materials libraries and specify better products, an
additional 46 percent plan to do so in the future. This represents a tremendous
opportunity for market transformation toward heathy and sustainable materials
We also recognize the important of supporting building product manufactures,
like Shaw, to better recognize the return on investment
for research and development of materials that meet emerging industry standards.
We’re working with industry partners to connect market demand for sustainable
products to manufacturer investment in better materials.
MW: To meet this challenge and opportunity, AIA has been working with
mindful MATERIALS — a longtime collaborator
that emerged from AIA member-led architecture firms — to develop a Common
Materials Framework as a critical pathway to providing the clarity and consensus
around sustainable materials that can provide this consistent definition for
materials with benchmarks that span the five topics of the pledge statement
goals for the entire industry.
mindful MATERIALS is also leading a Manufacturer’s Materials
around the A&D Materials Pledge. We applaud Shaw’s leadership as an early
signatory to that initiative.
This article is part of a series of articles recognizing the second slate of
organizations to be honored by Shaw’s sustain[HUMAN]ability® Leadership
Recognition Program. Each of the 10 organizations selected for this year’s
recognition program is a leader in its own right and offers something from
which we can all learn about putting people at the heart of sustainability. To
read more about the other organizations recognized by Shaw, visit the landing page for this series.
Published Jun 17, 2022 2pm EDT / 11am PDT / 7pm BST / 8pm CEST
This article, produced in cooperation with the Sustainable Brands editorial team, has been paid for by one of our sponsors.