The United States Green Building Council's LEED® Platinum designation and the Living Building Challenge list a number of requirements for all building materials used in construction projects. These criteria include limiting the amount of chemicals in the materials and sourcing all building materials from within a prescribed distance. At the Omega Center for Sustainable Living, building materials were selected to avoid hazardous chemicals, including cadmium, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), added formaldehyde, lead, mercury, and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). They were sourced from within 8,000 miles for renewable energy technologies; 1,000 miles for lightweight materials, including insulation, carpet, and fabrics; 500 miles for medium weight materials, including wood products; and 250 miles for heavy materials, such as brick, stone, and concrete.
All new wood materials at the Omega Center for Sustainable Living were certified to Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standards and the concrete used at the OCSL was locally sourced. The concrete is made up of 40% slag (a by-product from the production of steel), which greatly reduces its environmental impact. In addition, 99% of all metal, cardboard, rigid foam, and wood waste from the OCSL's construction was recycled or diverted from landfills.
We learned two important facts while trying to meet the criteria of LEED® Platinum and the Living Building Challenge at the Omega Center for Sustainable Living: many building materials include toxic chemicals, and most building materials are no longer made in the United States. For example, we had to make our own pipe insulation because we couldn't find any free of toxins. We also used many salvaged building materials to meet LEED® Platinum and Living Building Challenge criteria, including doors from an office building, bathroom partitions salvaged from a church, and even plywood from President Barack Obama's inaugural stage.