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No “Perfect” Products

There are no perfect products, so designers must make trade offs. Prioritizing important factors for a project is important to assess material health.

Perfection in life and in the world of healthier materials design is elusive.

Many factors go into selecting the “perfect” material for a design project. Selection depends on the specific project, the client requirements, and additional architectural goals for the project.

In this video, Chris Hellstern lists 10 key steps he’s found helpful in the materials selection process:

  1. Become educated, and share that knowledge
  2. Get people invested
  3. Allow time
  4. Consider:
    • Do we really need it?
    • Is it worth it?
    • Is there a safer alternative?
  5. Engage your team and contractor early
  6. Create a decision path
  7. Due diligence is key
  8. Prioritize
  9. Advocate
  10. Ask the expert

Health experts and industrial hygienists weigh the levels of risk against exposure to determine how close a material is to being a healthier material. Other experts may consider how close a material’s properties are to being naturally derived rather than being man-made.

Prioritizing the most important factors of a material for a particular project is important to assess material health. A list of priorities helps designers determine step-by-step, or material-to-material, decisions about whether a material meets the material health criteria for a project.

The importance of prioritizing is evident if you consider that a single building project can have thousands of materials to be specified. Designers may also be working on several different projects at once. Fortunately, if a priority list is set for one project, it may be adaptable to a future, similar project.

It is still very difficult to identify truly healthier materials and sometimes difficult compromises must be made when choosing and specifying building products. The more you demand transparency from the products you specify the sooner manufacturers will offer products that meet healthier materials standards.

Over to You

Share your thoughts on the 10 key steps.

  • Do the steps make sense to you as you understand the work of the designer?
  • Are there any steps you think should be added?

Share your reasoning.

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Building Design: Material Selection for Healthier Communities

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