Return to site home page


Material Considerations for Sustainable Design


PITTSBURGH – There are many factors to consider when choosing a building or design material.  Some impact the environment more, while others are a cost consideration.  With so many choices available, where should we begin and what factors should be considered?

The Hardwood Council aims to assist in the selection process with a new reference document titled, “How Selecting Materials Impacts Our Lives—What to Consider for Material Selection.” The one-page reference document is available for download at and is a must for the environmentally serious design professional.

Did you know that hardwoods sequester carbon; are a sustainable resource; have no emissions for carbon dioxide; require minimal energy to process; can be repurposed at the conclusion of their long life span and even in a landfill can naturally revert back to nature?

Few building materials possess hardwood’s overall environmental attributes. So when considering a material other than hardwood, ask the following questions and evaluate how North American Hardwoods compare.

  • Is the material natural or man-made?
  • Is the material part of the carbon “solution” or does it enhance the problem?
  • Does it require a lot of processing?
  • How much of the material is utilized?
  • Are harmful chemicals needed for manufacturing?
  • What is the useful life of the material?
  • Can it be recycled or repurposed?
  • What happens to the material after its useful life?

As the world works toward carbon neutral buildings, materials selection will indeed play an important role. Be knowledgeable when making a selection. Compare factors in a material’s overall existence or life-cycle with those of North American hardwoods. Then consider functionality, durability and the sheer beauty of hardwoods. You’ll find there is no comparison. Why choose anything else?

For more in-depth information about smart specifying, the sustainability of North American hardwood products and to download “How Selecting Materials Impacts Our Lives—What to Consider for Material Selection,” visit

A coalition of hardwood lumber and product associations, the Hardwood Council promotes the increased use of American hardwood products—flooring, furniture, cabinetry and decorative millwork—to the design and build community. Visit to learn more.