Attendees at the CAMX educational session, “Designing for Composites Sustainability” received a thorough overview of the challenges and rewards that incorporating sustainability into the design process can deliver, as well as direction on establishing a sustainability initiative.

Gale Tedhams, director of sustainability for Owens Corning, led off the session with a macro perspective. She identified trends driving the increasing importance of sustainability, putting it at the intersection of economic growth, socio-economics, socio-environmentalism, globalization, social progress, environmental stewardship and eco efficiency. Energy reduction, water quality and end-of-life considerations are all on the table. Equally important are safety and health issues, such as the avoidance of toxic materials or emissions.

“Today’s composite designers should consider how they can enable sustainable solutions that will allow their product to shine and generate sustainable actions – lightweighting, durability, corrosion resistance and more,” said Tedhams. She noted opportunities for sustainable composites in housing and infrastructure in developing third world countries, the delivery of clean water to 7 billion people, the production of energy with no CO2 emissions and reduction of weight in various modes of transportation.

As engineering manager for Kalwall Corporation, presenter Ken Schmidtchen represented the manufacturer’s viewpoint on sustainable composites design. Schmidtchen is responsible for building code compliance for this manufacturer of continuously laminated FRP wall structures. Corporate stewardship – the desire to do the right thing for the environment, employees and customers – is important to Kalwall. Customer inquiries regarding sustainability are a factor, but process improvement is also a benefit. “Productivity, efficiency and reduced waste can be achieved,” said Schmidtchen.

“Customers are looking at their own environmental impact and the impact their design decisions will make on durability, maintenance and ultimately, the end of the product’s life cycle,” said Schmidtchen.

The building industry is being pressured by organizations such as LEED, Living Building Challenge, CalGreen, lgCC and others. Designers should be aware of product transparency programs such as Green Screen, Cradle to Grave, and the Environmental Product Declaration (EDP), Health Product Declaration (HDP) and Product Transparency Declaration (PTD).