Building Materials in a Green Economy:

Community-based Strategies for Dematerialization


Brian Milani

University of Toronto Institute for Environmental Studies (IES)

Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, AECDCP


Chapter 1.  The Problem :  Materials Use and Sustainability

The Purpose of This Study

Personal Background and Context

Economics, Efficiency and Invisibility in Industrial Capitalism

Economic Growth and the River Economy

Key Sectors: Extraction Industry and Petrochemicals

Bad Rules and Wrong Signals

Changing the Rules: the Ecological Service Economy

Economic Biomimicry: the Lake Economy

Priorities for Dematerialization and Detoxification

Building Materials in a Green Economy


Chapter 2:  Evaluation

The Value Revolution: Information & Service in the Building Industry

       […or What is a Green Material?]


Quality, Information and Design

Extended Producer Responsibility      

The Life-Cycle Approach

Forms and Criteria of Evaluation:  What is a Green Material? 

Life-Cycle Assessment: the Holy Grail of Green Building

Objectivity and Purpose

LCA Challenges

Macro-Scale LCA

Building Assessment & Certification Systems


Wood Certification

Product Guides and Directories


Chapter 3:  Production

Materials In Green Industrial Strategy


The Form of Service

Eco-Industrial Development

Detoxifying Production

Design Strategies for Clean Production

The Carbohydrate Economy

Challenges and Pitfalls of Plant-based Production

Strategic Issues in Building Materials Production I:  Engineered Wood Products

Strategic Issues in Building Materials Production II:  Cement and Concrete

Strategic Issues in Building Materials Production III:  Plastics in Construction

Strategic Issues in Building Materials Production IV:  Indoor Air Quality


Chapter 4:  Recycling, Reuse and Deconstruction


Buildings: Time, Use and Change

Building Use and Adaptation: Shearing Layers

Design for Recycling, Reuse and Disassembly


Recycling and Community Development

Challenges in Closing Material Cycles



Chapter 5: Alternative Materials

Natural Building


Building with (the) Earth

Rammed Earth

Adobe and Compressed Earth Blocks



Straw Bale


Timber Frame and Stone

Cordwood Masonry


Earthbags and Papercrete

The Future of Natural Building Materials


Chapter 6: Consumption:

Green Consumerism, Local Markets and Bioregionality

Regenerative Consumerism

Information, Isolation and the Limits of Private Consumerism

Community Consumerism: the Green Communities Initiative

Information, Value and Green Markets: the SPPC

Building Supply Retailing

Building Centres as Conservation Utilities

Green Procurement 

Grassroots Regulation: Information, Value and Green Markets


Chapter 7:

New Rules and Regulation: EPR, Service and the State

Regulation and Development

The Corporate Attack on Regulation

The Design Perspective on Regulation

Postindustrial Trends in Regulation

Integrated Product Policy

Transforming Markets with EPR

Horizons for EPR: Intelligent Products and Product-Service Systems

Substance Bans and Phaseouts

The State, Taxes and Subsidies

Development By-Laws and Building Codes

The State as Coordinator


Chapter 8:  Conclusion

Building Materials in a Post-Materialist Transition


Knowledge and Value

Transforming Consumption

Labour, Materials and Invisibility

Development Strategy