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The Minnesota Building Materials Database (MBMD) Project is the result of ongoing work between the Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance, The University of Minnesota College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture/Center for Sustainable Building Research, and a wide variety of professionals, construction industry organizations, and other governmental agencies which originally began with the development of the Minnesota Sustainable Design Guide (MSDG). Ongoing educational programs, further evolution of the MSDG, development of sustainable building programs and guidelines throughout the nation and within Minnesota, and continued requests from designers, practitioners, and owners have made it obvious that additional tools are needed to supplement the expansion of sustainable design in our region.

With that in mind, the most logical first step was to develop a tool that would offer evaluations based on local requirements and availability, along with regional cost information. Hence, the Minnesota Building Materials Database (MBMD).

The aim is to improve the practice of sustainable design in our Midwest Region. The more we seek, evaluate, and educate, the easier the process will become for all of us.

DEFINITIONS for the Minnesota Building Materials Database


It's important throughout this decision-making process to use terms you're familiar with. The following definitions are have been gleaned from a variety of sources, including other product guides and research sites, and represent a reliable consensus.

A set of goals based on principles with rules and instructions which, when followed, facilitate the successful completion of a desired outcome.

Certification Process
A tool with weighted values and reporting procedures for verifying compliance and rewarding adherence to guideline requirements.

Third-party Certification
A process by which an organization is authorized to certify compliance with regulatory requirements. The organization may be an industry body, a standard setting body, or another organization formed with the specific purpose of certifying products, materials, or systems.

Product Qualities (from SDRG)

A material that will decompose into naturally-occurring harmless components with prolonged exposure to air, sunlight, and moisture.

Plant species that require less water to survive and withstand greater heat over periods of time than most plant species.

Has a longer life-expectancy and better performance compared to products intended for the same function.

Energy Efficient
Requires less fuel to function than similar products performing the same function; or a material that provides more thermal control than similar products performing the same function.

Locally Produced
Manufactured in the Rocky Mountain region.

Low Maintenance
Requires less time, supplies, and energy during life-expectancy than other similar products. Does not mean maintenance-free.

Contains or emits fewer harmful substances than other products performing the same function.

Plant or animal species known to have evolved in the ecological area and climate of the project.

Does not emit gases that are harmful or poisonous, and is not made of substances that are harmful, hazardous, or poisonous.

Recycled content
Composed of materials that are waste products or have been used in other materials.

Made of materials that are not finite resources or materials which can be regenerated as fast as they are used.

Resource Efficient
Uses less material than similar products or systems serving the same function.

Can be included in new construction without re-manufacturing or recomposition.

UL listed
Meets the quality and safety testing requirements of Underwriter's Laboratories.

Guaranteed by the supplier to function over a stated period of time.

Water Efficient
Requires less water than other products or plants that perform the same function.

A strategy or guideline based on or stipulating a norm or standard as the means for meeting a goal.

A strategy or guideline stipulating a calculable and measurable outcome for meeting a goal.

A proxy or surrogate is any score-keeping, award or credit that is not a direct measure of impacts on the environment, the economy, the community or people.


Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)
A systematic study of environmental impacts that arise throughout a product's life - from the winning and processing of raw materials, through component production and product manufacture, to use and ultimate disposal. LCA considers environmental impacts in a number of categories, such as resource use, climate change effect, water pollution, waste production, etc. From ISO 14040:

"LCA is a technique for assessing the environmental aspects and potential impacts associated with a product by:

LCA studies the environmental aspects and potential impacts throughout the product's life (i.e. cradle to grave) from raw materials acquisition through production, use and disposal. The general categories of environmental impacts needing consideration include resource use, human health, and ecological consequences. "

Life Cycle Cost (LCC)
Financial impacts associated with the life cycle stages of a material, product, process, service, facility, or enterprise.

Life Cycle Stages
As defined for the purposes of this data collection, as follows:

Life Cycle Impacts

1) Air pollution contribution:
Includes inflows and outflows that contribute pollutants to the air, including but not limited to:

Greenhouse Gases
Carbon Dioxide (CO2, fossil)
Methane (CH4)
Nitrous Oxide (N2O)
CFC 11 (CFCl3)
CFC 12 (CCl2F2)
CFC 13 (CF3Cl)
CFC 113 (CFCl2CFCl2)
CFC 114 (CF2ClCF2Cl)
CFC 115 (CF3CF2Cl)
HCFC 22 (CHF2Cl)
HCFC 123 (CHCl2CF3)
HCFC 141b (CFCl2CH3)
HCFC 142b (CF2ClCH3)
HCFC 225ca (C3HF5Cl2)
HCFC 225cb (C3HF5Cl2)
Carbon Tetrachloride (CCl4)
Methyl Chloroform (CH3CCl3, HC-140a)
Halon 1301 (CF3Br)
HFC 23 (CHF3)
HFC 32 (CH2F2)
HCFC 43-10 mee
HFC 125 (CF3CHF2)
HFC 134 (C2H2F4)
HFC 134a (CF3CH2F)
HFC 152a (CHF2CH3)
HFC 143 (C2H3F3)
HFC 143a (CF3CH3)
HFC 227ea (CF3CF2CHF2)
HFC 236fa (CF3CF2CH2F)
HFC 245ca (CF3CF2CH3)
Chloroform (CHCl3, HC-20)
Methylene Chloride (CH2Cl2, HC-130)
Sulfur Hexafluoride (SF6)
Carbon Tetrafluoride (CF4)
Hexafluoroethane (C2F6, FC116)
Perfluorocyclo-butane (c-C4F8)
Perfluorohexane (C6F14)
Acidification Gases
Sulfur Oxides (SOx as SO2)
Nitrogen Oxides (NOx as NO2)
Ammonia (NH3)
Hydrogen Chloride (HCl)
Hydrogen Fluoride (HF)
Chromic Acid (H2CrO4)
Sulfuric Acid (H2SO4) Hydrogen Bromide (HBr)
Hydrogen Cyanide (HCN)
Hydrogen Sulphide (H2S)
Other Air Emissions CO
Particulate Matter
NMHC (total)
Metals (total)

2) Water pollution contribution:
Includes inflows and outflows that contribute pollutants to the water, including but not limited to:

Ammonia (NH4+)
Nitrogen (N, total)
Phosphates (PO4 3-)
Phosphorus (P)
COD (Chemical Oxygen Demand)
Nitrogenous Matter (Kjeldhal, as N)
Nitrates (NO3-)
Nitrogenous Matter (unspecified, as N)
Phosphorous Matter (unspecified, as P)
Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)
Nitrogen Oxide (NO)
Nitrites (NO2-)
Phosphorus Pentoxide (P2O5)
Other Water Effluents
Suspended Solids
Hydrocarbons (total)
Metals (total)

3) Material resource use:
The quantities of raw materials or intermediary products consumed, including water, during the processing or manufacturing of the product. For recycled materials, specify the percentage of recycled content.

4) Primary energy use:
The quantities of purchased energy and purchased fuels, itemized by energy or fuel type (e.g., electricity, natural gas, fuel oil), consumed during the processing or manufacturing of the product.

5) Solid waste contribution:
The solid waste, recovered matter (e.g., cardboard, metals) resulting from the production and delivery (packaging) process.

6) Global warming potential: The index used to translate the level of emissions of various gases into a common measure in order to compare the relative radiative forcing of different gases without directly calculating the changes in atmospheric concentrations. GWPs are calculated as the ratio of the radiative forcing that would result from the emissions of one kilogram of a greenhouse gas to that from emission of one kilogram of carbon dioxide over a period of time (usually 100 years). The chart below shows the original GWPs (assigned in 1990) and the most recent GWPs (assigned in 1996) for the most important greenhouse gases. For example, the EPA lists the following for greenhouse gases:

GAS GWP 1990 GWP 1996
Carbon Dioxide 1 1
Methane 2 21
Nitrous Oxide 270 310
HFC-134a 1,200 1,300
HFC-23 10,000 11,700
HFC-152a 150 140
HCF-125 NA* 2,800
PFCs** 5,400 7,850
SF6 A* 23,900

* Not Applicable. GWP was not yet estimated for this gas.
**This figure is an average GWP for the two PFCs, CF4 and C2F6.