January 5, 2024

Sourcing of Raw Materials – Material Reuse and Recycled Content

Lauren Richardson, Sustainability Manager at Green Badger

There are five distinct avenues for achieving contributions towards the Sourcing of Raw Materials credit for LEED.

This credit poses a significant challenge for most LEED project teams–reaching at least 15% of total materials costs for one point or at least 30% to receive two points–but Green Badger is here to help. This can be a bit tricky, and the strategies encompass a diverse range, each contributing to meeting the credit requirements in a unique way. They include:

  • Extended Producer Responsibility (valued at 50% by cost)
  • Biobased Products (valued at 50% by cost)
  • Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Wood Products
  • Material Reuse (valued at 200% by cost)
  • Recycled Content

By strategically incorporating these options, teams can not only enhance their chances of meeting the credit thresholds but also promote sustainable sourcing practices that align with LEED objectives. Each avenue offers a distinct approach, allowing teams to tailor their strategy to the specific needs and constraints of their projects. This blog focuses on material reuse or salvaging of materials and recycled content. 

Material reuse or salvaging

Maximizing material reuse and incorporating recycled content from the get-go in your project planning is important. Before starting, it’s essential to identify what materials can be salvaged or repurposed without altering their original form. For instance, relocating furniture to your current LEED project site requires documentation, including photos, and estimates from trade partners assessing the present-day replacement value. Salvaging items is a double-win; you not only save costs but also reduce your carbon footprint. Rather than discarding materials into recycling bins, consider salvaging items like metal studs, wood studs, ACT tiles, wood flooring, paneling, decking, and bricks. The retained materials stay under the control of the general contractor, causing no delays in lead times or purchases. Building Green has created a useful resource map to connect design teams with reclamation organizations, facilitating the process. You can read their Waste Not, Want Not article here.

Recycled content

If salvaging materials isn’t feasible, focusing on recycled content becomes crucial. Seek out costly metal items like structural steel, rebar, joists, interior metal studs, doors, aluminum glazing systems, hardware and reinforcing wire. Even small and less expensive components like metal stairs, drywall, ceiling grids, ceiling panels, insulation, and flooring can contribute to reaching recycling goals.  

Documentation for recycled content must specify pre-consumer and/or post-consumer recycled content separately. For materials like structural steel, rebar, and metal decking it’s best to have the subcontractor reach out to the manufacturer to obtain a plant-specific recycled content letter. There are also third-party verified letters, like this one from Green Circle, for products that contain recycled content. 

Example of third-party verified recycled-content letter:

Note that LEED reviewers require explicit breakdowns rather than total recycled content summaries. We recommend utilizing a cover sheet to streamline the collection of this crucial data, along with costs. 

For interior projects, where steel and rebar might not apply, achieving high-recycling content percentages can involve planning for furniture reuse or collaboration with a company like Steelcase. Steelcase dealers offer guidance and documentation aligned with LEED requirements, contributing significantly to meeting recycling targets. In its interior fit-out project, Carbice, a Green Badger customer and finalist in the USGBC Chrysalis Awards, garnered LEED points by integrating 30% recycled  materials into an interior fit-out project.  Steelcase furniture items, boasting significant recycled content, accounted for half of this overall contribution.


Although the process of identifying recycled content candidates in submittals demands effort and time, collaborating with subcontractors to obtain costs and documentation can bridge the gap effectively. It’s important to remember that LEED strives to drive the market forward by responding to the requests of design-build professionals. Even in cases where achieving the credit might be challenging, the positive impact made during the process ensures smoother pathways for future LEED projects. Emphasizing collaboration and thorough documentation not only aligns with sustainable building practices but also contributes to the overall advancement of environmentally conscious construction methods. The benefits extend beyond the immediate project, fostering a culture of responsibility and innovation that can positively influence the broader construction industry.

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