Materials Library Manifesto

Ann Rolland, FAIA, LEED AP
Partner, FXCollaborative Architects LLP

Revised 17 October 2023 

To cause positive impact to our profession, our community, and the planet FXCollaborative is an advocate and initiator of change. Our mission for more responsible selection of materials and products includes the following key tenets:

  • Vigorously address the degradation of our planet by product manufacturers the AEC industry, specifically the impact on Climate Crisis (embodied carbon).
  • Persistently consider health and well-being as essential to our designs and the materials we select.
  • Actively support initiatives and movements that focus on equality, cultural literacy, and gender inclusivity.
  • Advocate for positive change in the AEC industry by acting as a resource to firms, organizations, and clients.

Our resource library should reflect these tenets and articulate our values and commitment to issues of health and well-being: of our planet, the inhabitants of the environments we create, and our society. The resources we select must contribute to the creation of a healthier, more equitable future for human-kind and the planet. What we specify has significant and lasting impacts on the ecosystems of our planet and the human condition. As designers we can influence and utilize our practice to insist on industry accountability and change. By signaling to manufacturers and product suppliers our firm’s values we send an important message and convey our sense of responsibility to collectively advance manufacturing practices and industry resources. This manifesto is our action plan for doing so.

Our goals:

  • Cultivate awareness in the AEC industry and advocate for change.
  • Help designers make better informed decisions in the selection of products and materials we specify.

A push to unify sustainable standards is underway in the industry through the A&D Materials Pledge and The Common Materials Framework (CMF). We have adopted the CMF categories and definitions, and priorities to support and enhance our efforts, and ask product manufacturers to report according to its priorities.

While implementation of our manifesto will evolve as industry awareness heightens and evaluation criteria and systems progress, we are committed to understanding the materials we are specifying and their alignment with FXCollaborative’s ethical imperatives. To do so we ask manufacturers and product suppliers to disclose information related to their production and practices. Below is an outline of the criteria we use as the primary lenses for material evaluation: Climate Health, Ecosystem Health, Human Health, Social Health & Equity, and Circular Economy.

Climate Health:

  • Embodied Carbon / Global Warming Potential: Select / specify materials with Environmental Product Declarations, preferably product specific.
  • Responsible Sourcing: Select / specify materials that reduce carbon emissions and sequestered carbon such as low embodied carbon concrete and wood from responsibly managed forests.
  • Local Materials: Consider materials that are extracted, harvested, and manufactured locally to reduce transportation.

Ecosystem Health:

  • Pollution: Select / specify materials that eliminate pollution in their creation and have Cradle to Cradle or similar certifications.
  • Water: Select / specify low-flow WaterSense fixtures and similar approaches to responsible water usage.
  • Ecology: Select / specify materials that support biodiversity and conservation such as Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood.

Human Health:

  • Transparency: Select / specify materials with documentation of ingredients and health impacts using industry recognized standards such as Health Product Declarations, Declare labels, etc.
  • Health Optimization: Avoid materials with harmful content such as chemicals of concern and those on the Red List. Specify materials that have low VOC/emissions, GreenGuard and similar certifications.
  • Life-cycle Health: Consider the health effects of materials during their extraction, manufacturing, and disposal.

Social Health & Equity:

  • JEDI: Preference manufacturers with strong JEDI programs, that report on diversity, and work toward gender and cultural balance in leadership and their work force make-up.
  • Restorative Justice: Preference manufacturers with a public record against racism, and who take actions to implement positive and restorative change.
  • Ethically Sourced Supply Chains: Preference manufacturers that confirm their products are sourced and manufactured without the use of child, indentured, and/or enslaved labor.

Circular Economy:

  • Reuse: Select / specify reused materials and furniture.
  • Recycled Content: Select / specify materials with significant recycled content.
  • Responsible Disposal and Reuse: Select / specify materials that can be disassembled and recycled, offer take-back programs, Cradle-to-Cradle certification, and similar programs.
  • Life-cycle Health: Consider the effects in all stages of a material’s life cycle.