Daily Archives: October 6, 2009

SourceMap (or where things come from)

Many people make buying decisions based on the sticker affixed to the item that states “Made in <insert your favorite country>”.  Most country’s populations are influenced into being patriotic and told to purchase items built in their own country.  When Americans buy something that has that little sticker with the Stars and Stripes and “Made in USA” in bold letters we are to believe that item (and typically we assume that every single piece of that item) was built and assembled in the United States. (Here’s a little more information regarding Made in USA requirements.)   But is that necessarily true?

SourceMap is an MIT project that is beginning to map the different resources and materials used to create most everything we use and consume.  If you look at the sticker on a new car or truck it will state what percentage of parts and assembly occurred in each country, but for most other products we as consumers are left to believe in the “Made in” sticker.

SourceMap appears to be a work in progress, so a lot of the items listed on the site seem incomplete.  But it is interesting to see the source for these materials.  (Like where the different parts originate for a can of Coca-Cola.)

This same mapping could be applied for the design and construction of buildings.  For buildings attaining LEED certification, Material and Resources Credit 5 (within the LEED for New Construction Rating System) offers points for using materials within 500 miles of the project site – 1 point if 10% of the materials (based on cost) have been extracted, harvested, recovered, or manufactured regionally, and 2 points for 20% of the materials.  Obviously not every region provides all of the necessary raw materials for constructing a building, a car, a toy, or a computer, but at least having an understanding of where these materials come from gives us an idea of what’s required to construct these items.