Unpacking Materials: A Healthy Materials Primer for Architects. (1 HSW)



Materials matter. Their selection is among the most difficult sustainability goals to track and integrate into the design and delivery process. Though initially daunting, the entry-point for choosing healthier products is lower than most think, and there are numerous benefits to making healthier material selections. By doing so, architects have an opportunity to encourage the selection and availability of materials with reduced impacts to human and environmental health.

Broadly, this presentation will cover fundamental topics related to healthier building materials and introduce strategies for integrating these topics into the project delivery process. The presentation aims to provide clear, practical methods, tools, and case studies to navigate the world of healthier materials and to effectively translate awareness to practice.





Suzanne Drake; CID, LEED AP ID+C, WELL AP
Senior Project Designer

Suzanne is a Senior Project Designer at WRNS, a national architecture and design firm headquartered in California and one of the few to achieve a JUST label from the International Living Futures Institute. Suzanne’s career has focused on commercial interiors, specializing in creating healthy environments and being the conduit for healthy materials knowledge dissemination. As an interior designer, she draws on over two decades of experience in workplace, health care, and laboratory environments to support client initiatives and sustainability goals.

She was instrumental in developing the Precautionary List, and has co-authored three installments of the Healthy Environments whitepaper series, including Strategies for Avoiding Flame Retardants in the Built Environment, What’s New (and What’s Not) With PVC, and Understanding Antimicrobial Ingredients in Building Materials. Her book EcoSoul: Save the Planet and Yourself by ReThinking your Everyday Habits was published in 2013.


Sara Tepfer;

Sara Tepfer is a Chemistry and Materials Sustainability consultant in Arup’s San Francisco office. Sara took a unique, cross-disciplinary path that included research, fellowships, and internships in the fields of building science, chemistry, and architecture, while earning her Master of Science in Architecture from UC Berkeley and her BS in Chemistry from the University of Oregon. Her interests lie in how to use information about the human and environmental health impacts of building materials to inform architectural decision making. She is Co-Chair of the HPDC Hazards Technical Sub Group and active on the mindful Materials Outreach Working Group.


Learning Objectives:

  1. Participants will learn the potential human and environmental health impacts of building materials.
  2. Participants will learn how to develop materials impact reduction goals for their projects.
  3. Participants will learn what tools and resources exist to help them achieve those goals.
  4. Participants will see examples of how these considerations were incorporated into several case study projects.




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