January 1, 2024
Healthy Building Materials Initiative
“Architects and designers today must grapple with the reality that toxic materials have become ingrained in the fabric of the modern world. Our participation in this course has presented a wonderful opportunity for our team to actively engage in the issues related to this fundamental design challenge—all through the lens of social equity, material health, and lifecycle. As material specifiers, architects and designers must actively advocate for the use of healthier products to steer our industry towards positive change.” – Matthew Richardson LEED AP BD+C, CPHC, Director of Sustainability
In 2022, our staff organized a Healthy Building Materials Committee in response to a growing concern for the safety of the planet and humans and the materials used in the architecture and construction industry. Five of our staff members completed a course with the Healthy Materials Lab at Parsons School of Design. “Healthy Materials Lab, is a design research lab at Parsons, is dedicated to a world in which people’s health is placed at the center of all design decisions. We are committed to raising awareness about toxic chemicals in building products and to creating resources for the next generation of designers and architects to make healthier places for all people to live.” To learn more, visit healthymaterialslab.org.
BKSK has long participated in the healthy materials movement for some time through our completion of some of the earliest LEED Platinum buildings in New York City. In those early days, the pursuit of high indoor air quality and clean material specification was novel and sometimes difficult. While the market has shifted greatly in the past 20 years, there is still much work to do. While we have always championed these principles, we have used this course as a springboard to kick off development of fresh guidelines for how our firm can engage in a more meaningful way in the selection, use, and recommendation of building materials that are healthier for the planet, installers and for occupants of spaces we design. Throughout the year, we undertook an audit of our materials library with the objective of eliminating toxic products and building a knowledge base to be shared with clients and collaborators. We wrapped up 2023 at BKSK with a materials symposium that shared our lessons learned from the course and personal experience on recent projects, concluding with outlined action items for this year. Big plans are ahead of us and a cleaner future is within our reach!