Local, Green & Non-Toxic: Building Materials

Deep green materials represent the heart and soul of our new residence hall.

Under the strict requirements of both LEED and Living Building Challenge (LBC) certifications, building materials  must be regionally produced* and contain a high percentage of recycled content. Windows and exterior doors fall within this category. And recycled materials typically include steel, concrete and plastics as well as gypsum and composite woods (particle board, OSB). LEED Platinum credits were also awarded to the project for a progressive construction waste management program to salvage or recycle no less than 75% of construction waste in order to divert debris from local landfills. As a result, the job site used multiple dumpsters for various recyclables that included metal, cardboard, drywall, block/brick, concrete and wood.

Inside and out, materials provide a true reflection of the building’s sustainability as a place. The exterior façade features a composite brick made of 100% materials rescued from landfills, open pit mining byproducts and plant refuse. This newly-manufactured product contains only post consumer or post industrial (pre consumer) materials that include recycled iron oxides, recycled glass, mineral tailings, and other virgin ceramic scrap. Cast concrete was also used for the masonry accents in lieu of natural cut stone.

Local wood plays a prominent role throughout the interior. The design team and college realized an exciting opportunity to use Berea’s 8,000-acre forest preserve as a source of wood building materials for this project. Working closely with the college forester, Clint Patterson, and the Student Crafts Program, the team identified ideal candidates for furniture and finishes – particularly stands of red and white oak and yellow poplar. Prior to logging operations, the preserve had earned Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification, demonstrating the college’s long-term commitment to sustainable practices. After its rough cut and milling, the finished wood was integrated into the architectural design: tongue and groove for some of the ceilings as well as wainscoting, baseboards, chair rails and door trim in common areas.

Additional requirements in product selection called for calculating the embodied carbon footprint of materials from construction, as well as avoiding any items on the LBC’s adverse Materials “Red” List.


Where required in specification sections, products and building materials in the project cannot contain any of the following materials or chemicals:

  • Asbestos
  • Cadmium
  • Chlorinated Polyethylene and Chlorosulfonated Polyethylene
  • Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
  • Chloroprene (Neoprene)
  • Formaldehyde (added)
  • Halogenated Flame Retardants
  • Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs)
  • Lead (added)
  • Mercury
  • Petrochemical Fertilizers and Pesticides
  • Phthalates
  • Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
  • Wood treatments containing Cresote, Arsenic, Pentachlorophenol

* Materials are categorized by weight and density with limits set for each. For example, heavier materials like steel, concrete and brick must be sourced within 500 kilometers (310 miles) of Berea, while medium-weight materials like tile and drywall are limited to 1,000 kilometers (621 Miles). Assemblies that contribute to the buildings performance can be sourced 5,000 kilometers away (3,106 miles).

Comments are closed.