By Cheryl Gladu
McGill has launched an online tool to help in the selection of more environmentally friendly materials for new construction and renovation projects. The Material Analysis Tool (MAT) is an online ranking system that distills manufacturer information to assist users in the selection of building products that are healthy and environmentally responsible. Designed to help McGill staff and contractors, the MAT is also available to the public.
Given the number of buildings owned by McGill it is no surprise that the University is a very large purchaser of new building material in the region of Montreal. It is currently managing approximately 500 construction and renovation projects and 50 to 60 per cent of project budgets are allotted to materials. Frustrated with the available tools for making sustainable building decisions, McGill’s Facilities, Operations and Development staff, with the support of McGill’s Sustainability Projects Fund, set out to develop something better.
“Figuring out exactly which products are best for McGill has always been a bit of a puzzle” says Emmanuelle Lapointe, an architect at McGill’s Facilities Operations and Development, University Services, and initiator of the MAT project. “There are a variety of criteria that could go into making a product sustainable. You might ask: Is it locally manufactured? Is it non-toxic? Was the raw material extracted in a responsible fashion? Is it durable? Once you start comparing multiple products along these various criteria, it’s easy to get confused or caught up in marketing language. This is an incredibly common issue in sustainable design. MAT will help all of us make better, more sustainable product choices, according to the sustainability criteria we believe are most important.”
MAT has seven criteria of evaluation: certification, durability, health impacts, rapidly renewable content, recycled content, recyclability, and region of manufacture and extraction. Each of these criteria are weighted and summed to create a score for each product in the database, allowing the designer to rank like-products. This will help McGill staff and contractors, as well as anyone else who uses the tool to identify materials in order to conform to green building rating systems such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.
“There are currently over 350 products listed on MAT, but we anticipate that to grow tremendously as the tool is more widely used,” says Lorraine Mercier, Director of Design Services, Facilities Operations and Development, University Services. “As a public institution, we felt it was important to make the tool available to the wider public, including other universities and building management companies, all of whom face similar challenges when it comes to selecting sustainable materials.”
For more information on MAT, click here.
For more information on sustainability at McGill click here.