Healthy Materials

Sweating the Small Stuff: Some molecules don’t belong in a building. Product transparency helps architects keep them out.
Architectural Record
By Katharine Logan

Learning Objectives:

  1. List some of the potential toxins commonly found in building materials.
  2. Explain why it is often labor-intensive to find out what building materials contain.
  3. Describe some of the disclosure tools for materials ingredients that are available to architects and product manufacturers.
  4. Outline the product vetting process used by each of the design teams behind the three projects discussed in “Sweating the Small Stuff.”


SAA 1 Hour of Core Learning
As an IACET Accredited Provider, BNP Media offers IACET CEUs for its learning events that comply with the ANSI/IACET Continuing Education and Training Standard.
This course is approved as a core course
This test is no longer available for credit

If there’s one thing architects know, it’s materials. Attention to detail? It practically defines the profession. Now, however, as awareness of building materials’ environmental and health impacts grows, architects are being asked to consider materials at an even smaller scale: molecular.

In North America, chemicals can be used in consumer products before being tested for toxicity. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, more than 80,000 chemicals currently used in the United States haven’t been adequately tested for their effects on human health. For proven toxins, regulation is premised on the notion of safe levels not to be exceeded. But for children, researchers maintain that no level is safe. Multiple toxins, including heavy metals, bioaccumulative compounds, and endocrine disruptors, are now found in all of us; among the most common sources of exposure are building materials.

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Photo: © Patsy McEnroe


Originally published in Architectural Record
Originally published in June 2016