The WBCSD and Arup conducted a survey to explore material choices in sustainable construction and the decision making processes associated with this. The aim was to understand the factors that influence senior construction professionals when considering material options in sustainable buildings. Over 200 individuals from Brazil, China, Germany, the UK and the US participated in this survey.
The study showed that decision making on material choice is complex. Material sustainability criteria are increasingly becoming part of the decision process, but are typically further down the priority list compared to functional performance and design team influences. To quote an engineer who took part in the survey: “Sustainability does come into it a lot more now than it did 5-10 years ago, and I would use it as a deciding factor if all else was equal.”
Decision making on choice of material is made by design teams, with clients in the background having a strong influence through budget and brief. There was little evidence to suggest that clients are seeking specific material outcomes based on material sustainability criteria at this time.
Feedback indicated that the existence of responsible sourcing schemes would be welcomed as a way to ensure the sustainability of purchased materials. They were also deemed to offer benefit as a means to respond to future trends, specifically the desire for greater access to information, demonstration of corporate responsibilities, and to ensure future alignment with green building rating scheme objectives. However, at least at this point, responsible sourcing of materials would have influence on the procurement and specification of materials, but not on the decision of which material to use.