Module 5: Materials and Resources

Module 5: Materials and Resources

Authored by EcoRise

Essential questions: 
What is a building life cycle?
What are some examples of materials that have negative impacts on a building’s life cycle as well as materials that are environmentally preferable?
Why is source reduction so important?
How does recycling and reducing the use of materials during construction reduce material impacts and improve the sustainability of the built environment?
What can we do to ensure that the sources of our building materials are sustainable?
What is a sustainable purchasing program, and why is it useful?
What are some of the various types of waste generated in occupied buildings?
How can a solid waste management policy reduce the amount of waste a building sends to the landfill?
What is the difference between demolition and deconstruction?
How can a construction and demolition waste management plan reduce demolition waste?
How do adaptive reuse, deconstruction, and demolition compare in terms of sustainability?
How can we incorporate sustainable and even regenerative principles into a building design?

LESSON 5.1: A Building’s Life Cycle
(Estimated time needed: Two 55-minute sessions)
In this lesson, students begin investigating the LEED Materials and Resources Credit Category by examining the building life cycle, from the acquisition of initial building materials to the end of the building’s existence. Students consider the impacts of materials and resources at each step of the building life cycle and propose ways to reduce their impacts. Then they diagram the building life cycle, modifying it to consider changes from recycling and adaptive reuse at the end of life. Next, students explore and share adaptive reuse case studies to learn about creative ways people are reinventing buildings. Finally, students begin a group project in which students select a building or building site and plan how they will minimize the impacts of materials at each stage of the building cycle for either a new development, a renovation, or an adaptive reuse project. They revisit their plans at the end of each lesson in this module to apply what they’ve learned to their evolving designs.

LESSON 5.2: Material Impacts
(Estimated time needed: Two 55-minute sessions)
In this lesson, students evaluate the impacts of specific building materials throughout the material life cycle so they recognize how all the materials that form a building contribute to that building’s overall impact. During an observation hunt, they identify materials that make up key building components of the school. They determine whether a material is renewable, local, nontoxic, durable, biodegradable, reusable, or recyclable so they can recognize the characteristics of environmentally preferable building materials. They analyze the social, environmental, and economic impacts of the life cycle of a material they found during their observation hunt and propose ways, such as source reduction, to make the life cycle more sustainable. Finally, they apply what they have learned about material impacts to update the Sustainable Building Life Cycle Project, which they began in Lesson 5.1.

LESSON 5.3: Building with the Three Rs
(Estimated time needed: Three 55-minute sessions)
In this lesson, students examine building strategies that can reduce the impacts of materials during building construction. They determine ways to employ source reduction during design and construction and explore opportunities to use salvaged and recycled materials when building. This lesson cultivates skills students will need in a real-life work environment by having them apply their newfound knowledge to helping construction managers and architects find ways to reduce material impacts. It also encourages them to think creatively about how they can make buildings more sustainable as they develop an initial concept for a building product made of recycled materials. Finally, student groups continue to evolve their building life cycle project based on their growing understanding of the Materials and Resources Credit Category.

LESSON 5.4: Sustainably Sourced Materials
(Estimated time needed: Two 55-minute sessions)
In this lesson, students consider how green builders can gain confidence that the sustainable materials they purchase are actually sustainable. They take a close look at materials for a specific part of a building, exploring the ingredients of those materials, where they come from, and how that impacts the sustainability of the materials. Students learn about a variety of environmental product declarations and third-party certifications that improve product transparency so green builders know what they are getting. Then they collaborate and conduct research to make recommendations for a sustainable purchasing program. The lesson ends with students returning to their Sustainable Building Life Cycle Project, which they began in Lesson 5.1, to add what they learned about sourcing reliable sustainable materials.

LESSON 5.5: Occupancy Waste Management
(Estimated time needed: Three 55-minute sessions plus time after class for interviews)
In this lesson, students focus their study of the Materials and Resources Credit Category on waste produced during building occupancy and maintenance. They evaluate how waste produced by building occupants can be managed sustainably, using their school as an example. They identify waste streams in their classroom garbage and tour the school to find out about current waste production and management. Through interviews with stakeholder groups in the school community, they then investigate the main sources of trash in different areas of the school and how that waste is handled in sustainable or unsustainable ways. Then, they represent their stakeholders in teams that work to create a new waste management policy for the school that diverts as much waste as possible from the landfill through planned recycling, reuse, and composting. Finally, student groups continue to evolve their building life cycle projects based on their growing understanding of the Materials and Resources Credit Category.

LESSON 5.6: Building Deconstruction
(Estimated time needed: Two 55-minute sessions)
In this lesson, students finish exploring strategies to reduce material impacts throughout the building life cycle. The lesson revisits how different approaches to a building’s end of life determine whether a building life cycle is linear or cyclical. They apply what they’ve learned throughout the module to include demolition waste in a construction and waste management plant that diverts waste from the landfill. In addition, they examine how deconstruction can greatly increase the materials that can be salvaged and recycled. Students compare various strategies to create a sustainability spectrum for the end-of-life building stage. The lesson ends with students returning to their Sustainable Building Life Cycle Projects, which they began in Lesson 5.1, to take their designs to the next level by including regenerative methods. This final effort captures the essence of the LEED Material Resources Impact Category of promoting regenerative life cycles.

Supplementary References
Every LEED Prep lesson includes references in the Assess section to the GBES LEED v4 Green Associate Exam Preparation Study Guide (when relevant), the LEED Green Associate Candidate Handbook (for Task and Knowledge Domains), and LEED Impact Categories. Those resources are included here, along with other references students may find helpful in preparing for the LEED Green Associate Exam.