Lower, Increase, Improve: The Power of Materials Selections

Architects put much more thought into their materials selections than simple aesthetics. Take bamboo, for example.
By Kevin Newman
August 9, 2023

In the dynamic world of building and construction, architects hold the key to creating structures that are not only visually appealing but also sustainable, cost-efficient and conducive to a high-quality living experience. One of the critical factors that architects must consider during the design process is material selection. The careful choice of materials can significantly impact the overall cost, sustainability and livability of a building.

Architects play a pivotal role in researching, advising and executing material choices that can lower overall building costs while enhancing sustainability and improving livability for occupants.

Understanding the Importance of MaterialS Selection

The selection of building materials goes beyond aesthetics. Architects need to consider factors such as durability, energy efficiency, maintenance requirements, environmental impact and overall lifecycle costs. With an increasing emphasis on sustainability and the need to reduce emissions, architects must carefully analyze the environmental impact of materials and select those that have a lower carbon footprint, are recyclable or biodegradable and have a longer lifespan.

Lowering Overall Building Costs

Architects possess the expertise to assess the lifecycle costs associated with different materials. While some materials may have lower upfront costs, they may require more frequent replacement and maintenance, leading to higher long-term expenses. By considering the total cost of ownership, architects can recommend materials that provide durability and require minimal upkeep, thereby reducing maintenance expenses over time.

Furthermore, architects can leverage their knowledge of local markets and suppliers to find cost-effective materials without compromising on quality. They can identify alternatives and innovative solutions that offer the desired functionality while being budget-friendly, enabling clients to save on construction costs.

For example, one material that is a preferred hard-wood alternative is bamboo. Bamboo flooring is an excellent option for reducing costs and promoting healthy living due to several key factors.

Firstly, bamboo is a highly sustainable and renewable resource, with its rapid growth rate and ability to regenerate quickly. This makes it an environmentally friendly choice that helps conserve forests and reduces deforestation. In terms of cost, bamboo flooring is relatively affordable compared to traditional hardwood floors, making it a budget-friendly option for homeowners.

Additionally, bamboo is naturally resistant to moisture, mold and pests; that contributes to a healthier indoor environment by preventing the growth of allergens and harmful substances. Its low-maintenance nature also saves on cleaning and maintenance expenses.

Overall, bamboo flooring offers an attractive combination of cost-effectiveness, sustainability and health benefits, making it a compelling choice for those seeking a practical and eco-friendly flooring solution.

Enhancing Sustainability

Architects have a profound impact on the sustainability of buildings through material selection. By choosing eco-friendly materials with low embodied energy, such as recycled or locally sourced materials, architects can significantly reduce a building's carbon footprint. They can also explore renewable energy solutions and integrate passive design strategies to further enhance energy efficiency.

The use of sustainable materials has a global impact. According to The American Institute of Architects (AIA), building operations are responsible for 39% of all the energy consumed in the United States. To combat this, architects can also employ sustainable practices by considering materials with high thermal performance, such as insulation, that minimize heat loss or gain. This approach reduces the reliance on mechanical heating and cooling systems, leading to energy savings and lower utility costs.

Improving Livability

A building's design and materials greatly influence the wellbeing and comfort of its occupants. Architects are instrumental in creating spaces that prioritize human needs and enhance livability.

For example, they can select materials that provide superior acoustics to minimize noise pollution, improving the overall indoor environment. The use of non-toxic and hypoallergenic materials can promote healthier indoor air quality, reducing the risk of respiratory issues.

Additionally, architects can incorporate natural light and ventilation systems that enhance occupant comfort, reduce the need for artificial lighting and improve energy efficiency. Material choices such as sustainable flooring, wall finishes and ergonomic fixtures contribute to creating aesthetically pleasing and functional spaces that promote productivity and wellbeing.


Architects are instrumental in conducting extensive research to identify suitable materials that align with the project's goals and objectives. They consider factors like climate, site conditions, structural requirements and the client's preferences to create a comprehensive material palette. Architects collaborate closely with engineers, contractors and suppliers to evaluate the technical specifications, availability and cost implications of different materials.

Furthermore, architects play a crucial advisory role by educating clients about the benefits and trade-offs associated with various materials. They provide detailed information on the sustainability, performance and maintenance requirements of each option, empowering clients to make informed decisions.

Material selection is a critical aspect of the building and construction process, and architects play a pivotal role in ensuring successful execution.

by Kevin Newman
Kevin Newman - CEO and Creative Director, Newman, Garrison + Partners

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