portrait of Annie Bevans

Specify Hot List: Annie Bevan

The executive director of mindful MATERIALS explains how a resource that began as an in-house library grew into a powerful specifying tool for the entire architecture and design industry.

Specify: What inspired HKS to share the platform of sustainability information they’d developed in 2014 with the larger design community?

Annie Bevan: HKS’s designers wanted to know more about what was in the products they were using, but they didn’t have (a) a consistent [method for asking] their manufacturer partners or (b) a streamlined way to [record] which products had transparency and optimization information and which did not. 

The label (and an associated spreadsheet for manufacturers to complete) gave them a way to tie transparency to materials—by physically attaching a simple indicator to products in their library.

Specify: Right. Now designers recognize that label as meaning a product’s manufacturer is practicing transparency.

AB: From the start, the label generated interest among other design firms. And HKS realized the system could have far greater impact if the [information request] to manufacturers was much larger. So the firm took its system and the underlying data and made that publicly available in a digitized format (enter the mindful MATERIALS Library!) to drive a larger, more unified ask of the industry. 

Specify: How does the platform sustain itself now? 

AB: Currently, mindful MATERIALS enables a cross-functional, industry-wide collaboration hub. The pledges of various stakeholders in the hub drive create an aligned set of standards, and that powers a curated and connected digital materials library with a vision that “mindful materials” are clear to identify, easy to find, and the standard on every building. 

Specify: Is it geared toward any particular green certifications?

AB: As a certification-agnostic collective, representing all stakeholders in the built environment, our biggest value is in the act of convening the industry to build the hub of central, aligned resources and solutions. 

That’s why our biggest initiative right now is building a Common Materials Framework to support achievement of the material sustainability 

 components of all stakeholder pledges, such as the AIA Materials Pledge and the Interior Design Pledge for Positive Impact, among all others. The Framework will enable sustainability as a product decision point in every project in the future. 

Our next frontier is working with owners on assembling an Owners Forum (a cross-sectional group representing all different types of owners).

Specify: What feedback have you received from designers and manufacturers? 

AB: Designers seem to be eager for next steps and accountability. They want to know how they can make better choices, and mindful MATERIALS allows them to do that by making the connection between sustainability documentation and materials data explicit. From the manufacturers’ standpoint, we’d love to hear examples of how their products supported the sustainability goals of projects. 

Specify: What are your latest updates to the system? 

AB: We recently updated the library to reflect five buckets, according to the AIA Materials Pledge: Climate Health, Human Health, Ecosystem Health, Social Health and Equity, and Circularity. Project teams seeking products that align with these buckets can search the library for options addressing them.

In the future, the library will be evolving, in which case the mM team will be focusing on digitizing the Common Materials Framework (the materials road map) and having that digitized filter system follow the products into all technologies where product decisions are made. This will further reduce the time it takes to find sustainable products, while also aligning the industry on an agreed-upon definition of what a sustainable product is; mM is seeking to become the United Nations of sustainable materials 

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