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Volume 7, Issue 1
Material Selection: Balancing Sustainability and Resilience
(Received 18 September 2017; accepted 12 February 2018)
Published Online: 09 May 2018
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Understanding sustainability includes three interdependent aspects: environmental, economic, and social. All three should be considered in balance when selecting construction materials. Design professionals must also think about resilience, a measure of the ability of cities, buildings, people, and institutions to spring back into shape, survive, and adapt, regardless of the shock or stress to which they are exposed. Facilitating resilience means considering many potential stressors and responses, including both shock and chronic events and those that are expected and unexpected. Stressors can be products of natural or technological causation. Not all stressors are equal, so the relative importance of stressor events should be evaluated in terms of risks and hazards. There are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ materials; there are only more- or less-sustainable ways of using materials to solve design problems while protecting the public’s health, safety, and welfare. Materials used in buildings and infrastructure should be selected on a comprehensive life-cycle assessment basis, using design methods that also minimize stressor impacts. Ultimately, resilience, when related to the discussion of products made from any material, should be considered as a complex response to these stressors and not simply as resistance to destructive forces. Today’s architects are expected to know more about materials, and design professionals must practice in an era when understanding traditional materials used a century ago is no longer sufficient. Currently, plastics are the most intensively engineered materials, and they can be used to illustrate the useful sustainability and resilience criteria applicable to all materials. Example products in this material category with favorable stressor response attributes include polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipe, used in durable water distribution systems. Vinyl cladding is resistant to all but the most extreme weather. PVC membrane roofing, noted for its solar reflectivity, reduces air conditioning loads and energy consumption. PVC wire and cable insulation makes the Internet possible, enabling a resilient global digital economy. Cleanable products facilitate healthcare and disease control by managing infection, and blood bags make a safe blood storage system possible. When considering economic and social factors of resilience, material manufacturing can have many positive effects on local communities.
George Middleton & Associates, Inc., Naperville, IL
Stock #: ACEM20170119
Title Material Selection: Balancing Sustainability and Resilience