Material Transparency and Healthier Choices: Building Local Advocacy with Global Impact


Stacey Crumbaker
IIDA, Associate AIA
Mahlum Architects

Jay Hindmarsh
Mahlum Architects


1 Learning Units/Health, Safety, Welfare (LU/HSW)

How applies to HSW:

The presentation directly addresses health aspects in architecture.


Humans spend over 90% of their time indoors – their daily interactions with the materials that comprise these spaces have a significant impact on their health and well-being. As global construction demands have surged with population growth, consumption of raw material has increased by 60% since 1980 and mineral extraction has increased 8-fold since the early 1900s. The health of the communities and environments where these raw materials are found around the world can be significantly damaged by extraction processes, but the development and manufacturing of raw materials into building components can also cause considerable damage.   Increasingly, evidence-based studies demonstrate a tangible and direct effect of specific building materials on human health. With more information, project teams can better assess products to choose those which are healthier and better able to withstand the rigorous demands of a school environment. Tracking materials from their source allows districts to better understand the global ramifications of local decisions. With increased awareness during the design process, project teams can advocate healthier material choices not only for students and building staff, but also fenceline communities adjacent to industrial development and manufacturers.     Presenters will summarize technical, nuanced research in plain language and share tips on how districts can apply this learning to individual projects, maintenance and operations. With a working knowledge of the healthy materials movement, districts will be able to facilitate conversations among design teams, building management, and educators to tackle the challenges and opportunities of specifying healthier materials for education environments. By advocating for healthier materials and utilizing evidence-based research on environmental health, local districts can help shift approaches to material selection, ensuring health as a right for all, not a privilege for some.

Learning Objectives:
  • Working knowledge of the healthy materials movement, its relationship to the design and construction of schools, and impacts on communities.;
  • Understanding how material selection may impact human and environmental health for building occupants like students and educators, as well as the people who build our schools and manufacture the materials we specify.
  • Knowledge of how to advocate for product transparency to improve human health and why it is critical to shift our approach to material selection to improve the health of our global communities.;
  • Exposure to engagement tools used to facilitate conversations among design teams, building management and educators to better understand the challenges and opportunities of specifying healthier materials in education environments.
Primary Competency:

Design of Educational Facilities: Acts as a resource to the design team in providing ongoing guidance and support to ensure that the emerging and ultimate design aligns with the established community vision, education goals, future programming, written design standards, best/next practices and education policy.

Primary Domain:

Process: Content of this session/workshop will focus on the importance of quality processes and practices implemented by the project team when creating learning environments. The who, what, when and how of various disciplines and applications.

Secondary Domain:

Toolbox: Content of this session/workshop will focus on the approaches, methods and applications when transitioning from design and concept into reality, actual existence through quality performance, execution and/or product.