In 2009, the Design Department and the Office of Sustainability at McGill University began to develop an internal rating system for material selection in order to assist their department, and ultimately the university, in making more sustainable material choices for construction and restoration projects on campus. This system was essentially an elaborate spreadsheet used to rate products using an internally developed list of weighted criteria and a good deal of information from manufacturers. As the spreadsheet grew, more time was required to keep the information complete and current.
This situation, in tandem with an ever increasing number of products on the market being marketed as “green” made it clear that a more manageable tool had to be developed to assist the Facilities Operations and Development and University Services Departments.
The Materials Analysis Tool (MAT) is a free online ranking system to assist designers with the specification of final products in building and renovation projects. MAT is most useful for those who already have an understanding of the nature of the material they are looking to use, but need help in evaluating the sustainability of various comparable products available on the market. MAT can also be helpful for those looking to understand how different materials might rank in accordance to certain sustainability criteria, however it cannot not take the place of a designer’s ability to choose the right materials for a given application.
The criteria used for this assessment are:
- Certification of the company, product or product attributes
- Durability of the product
- Health implications of the product on users and occupants
- Rapidly renewable content of the product
- Recycled content of the product and packaging
- Recyclability of the product and packaging
- Region of manufacture and extraction
How it works
Manufacturers are invited to submit their products to the MAT database and their entries are reviewed by the McGill University’s Facilities Operations and Development Department to assure that all manufacturer claims are complete and adequately supported. Users can search for products using MasterFormat numbers, material keywords or applications and select products they wish to compare using MAT’s criteria. The criteria’s default weighting are those set by McGill University – but the user can change the weighting [see below: How to customize the results] to better reflect their own values associated with the criteria being measured.
How to use the MAT search
MAT users can search the database using keywords, MasterFormat numbers or by clicking through our menu, sorted by MasterFormat divisions, subdivisions and McGill applications. McGill applications are McGill’s internal categorization and sorting of materials, generally based on common use and standards.
The results are displayed in a table where the columns represent the different criteria associated with the ranking. The score is weighted using McGill’s default setting and using McGill University’s downtown campus as the default location. A product summary sheet, including contact information, is available by clicking on the product name.
How to customize the results
If you are not logged in as a McGill user, the default location can be changed by filling in the “postal code” form at the top of the page and clicking “refresh”. The weighting of the score can also be modified to better reflect your assessment of these criteria by filling in the forms under each of the criteria icons. The total score has to be 100 before clicking the “refresh” button.
The user can further refine their ranking of materials by selecting a few specific products to compare to another, by clicking the button to the left of their name before clicking the refresh button.
MAT Tutorial for Account Holders: How to add a product.