“When self-sustaining ecosystems are converted to built landscapes, the hidden costs may include soil loss, degradation of water, introduction of toxic and non-renewable materials, and unsustainable energy use. This does not need to be —in fact, it needs not to be.”J. William Thompson & Kim Sorvig, Sustainable Landscape Construction
To build what we draw, we inevitably require materials of various kinds. How these are harvested, processed, transported, assembled and maintained has an ecological and social, footprint. And most (other than some wood products) are not derived from rapidly renewable resources. Typically these materials represent ‘withdrawals’ from the earth’s natural capital and therefore warrant our utmost respect in terms of how and where we use them.
We seek to use materials wisely and efficiently, maximize life cycles and full cost accounting, seek to eliminate waste, and choose materials that do not toxify people and place. In selecting materials we consider the following:
-Is it natural, plentiful or renewable?
-Has it been salvaged, refurbished, or remanufactured?
-Is it locally sourced, processed and manufactured?
-Has the manufacturing process used resources efficiently?
-What is its embodied energy?
-Is there post comsumer/post-industrial recycled content?
-Is it reusable? recyclable?
-Is it durable? non-toxic?
-What are its innate properties? limitations
Columns of black basalt at Bedrock Granite, this beautiful and precious material should be used sparingly.
life cycle assessment
These considerations feed into Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) that looks at the ‘cradle to cradle’ implications of the material and how it is being used throughout the materials and element’s life. We are also concerned with the systematic accumulation of various toxic chemicals in ecosystems around the world. To that end we look to eliminate the use of materials that contain:
-Volatile Organic Compounds (e.g. formaldehyde, benzene)
some useful links