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Materials Matter For Outdoor Applications

Selecting materials is an integral part of specifying site furniture products. But the process has grown more complex as architects and designers today are faced with choosing materials that balance aesthetics, durability, performance, and increasingly, environmental impact. While many product options exist, the materials that comprise these products are not created equal.

Site Conditions & Constraints

Exposure to any or all of the following can impact the materials used in outdoor environments. The wrong materials are liable to perform poorly against desired end results. The right materials can endure beautifully.

Climate and weather play a significant role in the durability of materials. Fog, mist, rain and high humidity can result in rot, oxidation and corrosion. Exposure to deicing and coastal salts can have a similar effect. Seasonal freeze-thaw cycles and extended periods of sun and heat can cause material distress.

Intended site usage also factors in. Public spaces destined for large crowds or assemblies, urban environments, and security-conscious settings, for example, need products made of materials appropriate to the tasks at hand.

Finally, the targeted lifespan of the materials and products chosen for a given setting is important to consider. Longevity has become increasingly important to material selection as we shift from a disposable mindset to designs and materials that last.

High-Performance Materials

Materials, too, are constantly evolving as conventional options give way to newer choices.

At Forms+Surfaces, the materials we use in our products offer high degrees of versatility and success when it comes to balancing aesthetics, durability, and sustainability requirements. All are selected to give you high-performance options you can feel good about specifying.

FSC®-certified Hardwoods

The hardwoods used in F+S site furniture products are FSC® 100% or FSC® Recycled.

The FSC 100% rating means that 100% of the wood is harvested from forests that are legally run, environmentally sustainable, have a long-term management plan, and are socially responsible to their local villages and communities. Yearly audits and re-certifications ensure that products and suppliers are in full compliance with the FSC 100% designation.

The FSC Recycled rating indicates that the wood has been reclaimed from built structures, including wood-consumptive boardwalks and piers, that were demolished or otherwise retired, and that no new trees were cut down—an especially compelling aspect when you consider that the world's forests are so heavily compromised.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is the basis for many of our site furniture designs. We use it in place of carbon steel in most of our outdoor products that incorporate steel—even under powdercoat finishes—because it helps ensure that our products won't succumb to damaging, unsightly corrosion.

Stainless steel affords numerous surface treatment options. Within the F+S line you’ll find intrinsic High-Durability finishes, eco-friendly Eco-Etch designs, and decorative, functional perforation patterns.

In addition to its exceptional corrosion resistance, stainless steel has many other advantages, including superior longevity and performance, minimal maintenance, long lifecycle, and high-recycled content and recyclability.


Aluminum blends the best of many worlds: it’s durable, corrosion-resistant, lightweight, and has high recycled content and recyclability. Like stainless steel, it offers a wide range of design options. Our ultra durable powdercoat finishes improve the material’s long-term wear and resistance to weathering. They're also anti-graffiti, so paint, permanent markers and dirt can be easily removed. Standard F+S powdercoat colors are no-VOC; non-standard finishes are no- or low-VOC, depending on color selected.

TENSL Ultra High Performance Concrete (UHPC)

Known for its remarkable strength and durability, TENSL Ultra High Performance Concrete can be cast into beautifully thin profiles that are relatively light in weight yet able to withstand the most demanding outdoor environments. Over four times as strong as traditional precast concrete, it performs exceptionally well in harsh conditions that cause most concrete to crack and degrade over time. UHPC does not absorb water and therefore is highly resistant to freeze/thaw and marine conditions and corrosive environmental contaminants.

VividGlass Architectural Glass

VividGlass offers tremendous creative potential. Strong and highly durable, VividGlass consists of one or more decorative interlayers laminated between two lites of glass. The interlayers function as design elements with colors and graphics in standard and custom variations. Because the glass protects the interlayers, the colors and patterns retain their integrity over time—they can’t wash off or be damaged by abuse to the glass surface.

VividGlass can be used in any exterior environment, regardless of weather or temperature conditions. It’s corrosion- and wear-resistant, requires minimal maintenance and has a long lifecycle.

Green Building Standards & Rating Systems

Green building standards and rating systems are constantly evolving. From a materials standpoint, it’s important to understand that there is no “one size fits all”. Different rating systems evaluate and rank different sustainability criteria and different projects can adhere to different rating systems.

While the potential for confusion is real, it can help to work with product suppliers who can help you navigate this ever-changing playing field so you can confidently make informed decisions.

Suppliers Matter

Just as materials and sustainability requirements aren’t created equal, neither are product suppliers. Partnering with a knowledgeable source that can address your sustainability concerns and help you efficiently cut through the hype can make all the difference in ensuring that the materials and products you’re considering for a project are what they claim to be.

At F+S, we give you online access to environmental impact data for all of our outdoor products, materials and processes. Because specifics vary per ranking system, we provide product- and material-specific details so you know how our products contribute to meeting sustainability goals as measured by one or more green building standards. To see more, head to any of our website product pages and scroll down to the “Environmental Data” tab.

You’ll also find a robust Environmental Sustainability section on our website that clearly outlines our environmental impact management initiatives, policies and programs.

And we have a dedicated sustainability team that stays up-to-date on evolving green building standards and is available to work with customers around the world. Have a specific need or question? Simply email them:

Quality End Results

Because Forms+Surfaces products emphasize high-performance materials, there’s no wrong answer when it comes to material selection. Each product balances aesthetics, durability and performance, helps meet different green building standards, and contributes to quality end results.

Between our growing materials palette and extensive global customer support, F+S gives architects and designers endless opportunities for creating beautiful, functional outdoor spaces that meet sustainability goals.

Earn CEU Credit

Interested in earning CEU credit on this topic? Through our CEU course - Selecting Materials for Outdoor Applications - you can earn 1.00 HSW AIA Learning Unit. Follow one of the links below to learn more and get started.