Regional Materials: Benefits and Advantages

01/25/2013 | By Jennie Morton

Earn environmental benefits when you source your project close to home

Do you want to lower your carbon footprint? Use locally sourced materials from a nearby manufacturing site. Help make products greener by cutting down on transportation distances, which lowers greenhouse gas emissions.

When you think of sustainable products, does transportation distance, materials origin, or manufacturing site come to mind?

Beyond recycled content and green certifications, locally sourced products can also boost your sustainability credibility.

Regional materials are produced within a certain distance from your project site. Definitions vary between certification programs, but they often use a range of miles to qualify products.

LEED, the most common standard used, defines regional materials in MR Credit 5 as “building materials or products that have been extracted, harvested, or recovered, as well as manufactured, within 500 miles of the project site for a minimum of 10% or 20%, based on cost, of the total materials value.”

This radius typically includes several neighboring states and provides a wealth of eligible products. Read on to learn how to enhance your building project with regional materials.

Key Advantages
When specifying regional products, look at raw materials that represent the most weight and greatest transportation cost, such as brick, cement, steel, glass, wood, and sheetrock, says Patrick Nye, a senior consultant for the Bonneville Environmental Foundation.

Far too often, green products are defined by individual characteristics such as VOC levels or recyclability. By specifying regional materials, however, a product’s sustainability profile will extend to extraction, manufacturing, and transportation practices.

Consider how far a product must travel between its point of origin, the manufacturing site, and your building site. Each step of the journey burns transportation fuel. If you cut down on the travel distance, however, a product’s environmental impact is greatly lessened.

“This creates a much smaller carbon footprint for the materials,” explains Nye, “reducing what could be thousands of miles worth of greenhouse gas emissions related to product transport.”

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