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Building Design: Material Selection for Healthier Communities

Delve into healthier materials design and unpack the challenges and opportunities in selecting materials for healthier building.

3 female designers looking at a computer with smile, thinking about how to select health building material for healthier community.
  • Duration

    3 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours
  • 100% online

    How it works
  • Included in an ExpertTrack

    Course 3 of 3
  • Get full ExpertTrack access

    $39/monthFind out more

Explore the design principles for choosing healthier materials

In building design, there is no perfect product – so how do designers make the best choice for healthier materials? On this three-week course, you’ll address this dilemma and gain an understanding of how designers identify and evaluate healthier materials.

You’ll take a deep dive into the strategies and guiding principles for designers and what healthier materials design looks like.

Within this, you’ll explore the current challenges and opportunities in the design, architecture, and construction industries.

Learn the process behind building healthier communities

As you approach healthier materials design, you’ll look at the fundamental goals and principles of the material health process.

Exploring material properties, design qualities, and operational considerations, you’ll understand how a designer comes to choose healthier materials. Within this, you’ll discover how designers can be participants and advocates for social justice.

Explore healthier built environments

On the final week of the course, you’ll explore the process of finding and evaluating healthier products for the built environment.

Within this, you’ll unpack the role of the retailer and how retailers can contribute to transforming the market for healthier materials.

Guided by the experts at Parsons School of Design’s Healthy Materials Lab, you’ll finish the course with the knowledge of how designers make informed decisions to create healthier built environments.


  • Week 1

    Strategies and Guiding Principles for Designers

    • Course and Week Introduction

      Welcome to Week 1! It's time to find out what you'll learn about this week. You'll also have the chance to meet your instructors and introduce yourself to your fellow learners.

    • What Does Healthier Materials Design Look Like?

      This week you'll learn about what healthier materials design looks like. You'll think about how to approach healthier materials design and why it's important.

    • Current Challenges and Opportunities in Architecture, Design, and Construction Industries

      This week you'll explore the current challenges and opportunities in architecture, design, and construction industries. You'll think about how to prioritize materials and where there are opportunities in the industry.

    • Designer's Dilemma: No Perfect Products

      Let's discuss the Designer's Dilemma. There are no perfect products in the building industry. Designers always have to make trade offs when determining what materials to use. This activity explains some of those trade offs.

    • Week 1 Wrap-Up

      We've come to the end of Week 1. It's time to reflect on what you've learned and look forward.

  • Week 2

    Approaching Healthier Materials Design Within a Community Context

    • Welcome to Week 2

      Welcome to Week 2! Let's get a look at what you'll learn about this week.

    • Fundamental Goals and Principles of the Material Health Process

      Let's look at the fundamental goals and principles of the material health process. We'll learn about materials properties and what principles to consider in materials selection.

    • Designers as Collaborators and Participants in Social Justice

      Designers are collaborators and participants in social justice. This activity explains their role and how they can advocate for change to keep communities healthier.

    • The Role of Occupants

      Let's explore the role of occupants. Once a building is turned over for use, what role do the occupants, building managers, and maintenance staff play in keeping it a healthy space.

    • Week 2 Wrap-Up

      We've come to the end of Week 2! It's time to reflect on what you've learned and look forward.

  • Week 3

    Implementing our Vision of a Healthier Built Environment

    • Welcome to Week 3

      Welcome to Week 3! Let's see what you'll learn about this week.

    • The Role of Retailers

      Learn about what role manufacturers and retailers play in healthier materials. We'll think about transparency and how you can find out what's in building materials to make good choices.

    • Common Building Product Challenges

      Let's take a look at some common building product challenges. Think about how to prioritize materials when there are trade offs to be made.

    • Overcoming Obstacles

      While there are obstacles and challenges in selecting building materials, we can explore a few ways you can overcome those. You'll learn about incentive programs and how those create healthier buildings.

    • Envisioning Healthier Built Environments

      Now, let's envision healthier built environments. We'll consider what the future looks like and why this work is so important. You'll see some case studies of leaders in the industry, and how you can follow their lead.

    • Week 3 Wrap-Up

      We've come to the end of Week 3 and the end of this course! Take a short quiz to reinforce your learning, and make sure you've taken away the important lessons. It's time to reflect on what you've learned and look forward.

Prove you're job ready

Highlight the new, job-relevant skills you’ve gained and supplement existing qualifications with a hard-earned, industry-specific digital certificate – plus one for every course within your ExpertTrack.

  • Learn the latest in your chosen industry or subject.
  • Complete each course and pass assessments.
  • Receive certificates validated by the educating organisation.
  • Impress employers with learning outcomes you can add to your CV.
  • Make your career dreams a reality.

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Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Classify metrics for health goals based on specific audiences and design needs
  • Evaluate design options and materials against specific criteria
  • Model informed decision making about design and materials based on context and comparison
  • Explain who vulnerable populations are and why its important to consider them in building design
  • Describe the role of key players in the built environment
  • Explore the future of healthier built environments

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for anyone interested in how health and sustainability are interconnected with the built environment.

It will be particularly useful for those working, or planning to one day work in, in design, or passionate about materials design processes.

Who will you learn with?

I am co-Director of Parsons Healthy Materials Lab in New York. See our work at
healthymaterialslab.org and keep in touch at https://healthymaterialslab.org/email-signup

Catherine, has led educational programming at Parsons Healthy Materials Lab since 2015. She also teaches at Columbia GSAPP and The New School.

Who developed the course?

Parsons School of Design

For more than a century, Parsons School of Design has been inspired by the transformative potential of design. Today, the school’s groundbreaking academic programs carry forward that mission, making Parsons the number one design school in the U.S. and among the top three globally. At the heart of a comprehensive university — The New School — Parsons draws on a range of academic fields to deliver a uniquely interdisciplinary education enriched by the resources of its home in New York City

About this ExpertTrack

Understand how building materials impact human health as you explore healthier materials and their use in sustainable building.

Start learning today - free 7-day trial

After your free trial you can:

  • Pay $39 per month to keep learning online
  • Have complete control over your subscription; you can cancel any time
  • Work at your own pace and set your own deadlines at every stage
  • Only pay while you’re learning; the subscription will cancel automatically when you finish
  • Complete online assessments to test your knowledge and prove your skills
  • Earn digital course certificates and a final award that you can share online, with potential employers, and your professional network
  • Keep access to the content of courses you complete even after your subscription ends

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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