Sunday, May 1, 2011

Material Selection

By Vincenzo Burdi

Selecting the right materials for a project can often be a difficult process that architects should spend a considerable amount of time while working on a project. There are many variables to consider while selecting materials for any size project. Below I have outlined certain methods/strategies on selecting materials.

Design Based: Architects should consider materials that have aesthetics value. Do the materials selected add to “beauty” to the design? Architects have to make judgments to how these materials fit into the context of the site (interior and exterior) conditions. Do the materials coincide with the original design features integrated by the Architect? Materials play a large role in the design of a space. We need to carefully select materials that promote our design intentions.

Minimizing Cost: Unfortunately, most clients have a budget. We tend to forget the value of dollar when we design in school, but figuring out how we can stretch our clients’ money can be an art form. Cost of materials plays a very significant role in their selection; however we should not forget that the materials should always meet our product performance goals.

Life Cycle Assessment: A technique which takes into account the environmental impacts associated with all the stages of a product's life from-cradle-to-grave (i.e., from raw material extraction through materials processing, manufacture, distribution, use, repair and maintenance, and disposal or recycling). An Architect can use the LCA and avoid a narrow outlook on environmental concerns.

Geography Based: Using materials native of the land just makes sense. Using native materials makes for less traveling cost and that means cheaper costs for your client. An Architect needs to consider how far a material has to travel in order to be part of the project? Is the material going to be available for future renovations?

Product Performance: Selection of the best material for a given application begins with properties of the materials and the goals of the design. Creating a list of candidate materials allows the Architect to evaluate and select the best materials for the job. The best material may be too expensive to obtain, but that’s just another aspect the Architect must consider.

All of these methods/strategies coincide with one another. As architects we need to consider all the variables from design, client expenses, environmental impact, availability, and product performance.

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