Beautiful Signs for a Better Planet

Simple 4 Step ADA Sign Selection Guide

ADA Sign SelectionDoes sustainability impact your purchase decision?

Environmental sustainability and human health and well-being have become prominent purchase decision considerations.  The media has widely discussed this consumer trend in the food and fashion industries. However, green buildings and environmentally responsible building materials and products have not received much attention. This means that facilities buyers could remain unaware of signage innovation and new eco-friendly offerings that better fit their organizations’ values.

Green Dot Sign believes that sustainability is an important

ADA sign purchase consideration.


This ADA Sign Selection Guide was compiled to increase awareness of eco-friendly product offerings and provide a comprehensive guide to office sign selection. In conjunction with common signage purchasing criteria, we advocate evaluating sustainability and sign company reliability in order to maximize your return on signage investment. Choosing eco-friendly braille signs for your next building project does not necessarily have to cost more, and many options bring the beauty of natural materials into the built environment.

Sustainable ADA Signage Criteria

Because eco-friendly signs are durable, visually stimulating, and affordable, they appeal to interior designers, mass-market end users, and those passionate about environmental responsibility. 

Sustainability is especially important for those seeking LEED building certification. As the number of green building projects has grown, so has the number of eco-friendly sign options and associated manufacturer claims. It is no longer sufficient for sellers to assert that a product is environmentally responsible. Increasingly those who select ADA signage want transparency in regards to what signs are made of, how signs are made, and what a sign company values.  This means that manufacturers must inventory and verify what their products are made of in order to build customer’s trust. Green builders often use third-party rating systems, declarations, certifications, and databases to research building products and materials. 

For those without access to these resources, here are key sustainable facilities signage aspects to consider and ask potential suppliers about.

Sign Installation1. Materials: What is the sign made of?  

ADA signs have traditionally been made of fossil-fuel derived plastics and are almost never recyclable. Today there are better, alternative office sign options made of biodegradable and renewable wood or pre-consumer recycled aluminum or plastic. Green Dot signs are made of responsibly managed and harvested Forest Stewardship Council (FSC®) wood. 

In addition to a plastic substrate and raised features, ADA signs are also comprised of pigments, protective coatings, and adhesives. These signage components commonly contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs).  VOCs contribute to the greenhouse effect, diminish air quality, and can harm workers. Additionally, adhesives, including those used for room and door sign installation, are almost always derived from oil. This means they start with a high carbon footprint and then go through production processes with hazardous chemical inputs and outputs. 

To avoid the undesirable impacts of chemicals look for facilities signs with inventoried ingredients that include minimal harmful substances. Also, consider sign installation.  Negative environmental impacts can be reduced by using wood pegs or metal screws instead of foam tape.

2. Process: How is the sign made?

ADA signs are usually made via high waste processes involving machining and routing.  For every ADA sign produced, it is common that waste equivalent in weight to the actual sign is created.  For example, visualize the letter “O”. The letter may be cut out of a piece of plastic and the remaining, surrounding material is immediately disposed of. It is best to identify office signage companies that use low-waste manufacturing processes.

Commercial signs are generally custom designed which increases the incidence of waste because specific sign order inputs and processes are not optimized. Additionally, leftover custom signs are almost never reusable. For custom ADA signs, waste can be diminished by utilizing standard sizes and materials with inherently desirable design elements such as stone, finished recycled metals, and wood. 

Eco-friendly ADA braille sample sign3. Manufacturing: Where is the sign made?

Selecting American building materials and products has sustainability advantages. Sourcing domestic equipment and raw materials diminish the volume of fossil fuels used in shipping.  Additionally, those in the industry will tell you that U.S. designed and made ADA signs are usually of higher quality and last longer than those produced overseas. Finally, company management can fully monitor local manufacturing processes and diminish material waste.

American ADA sign companies support their regional economy and are proud to be a part of their community.  In the U.S. and other industrialized nations, environmental policies and worker safety protections tend to be stronger than those in developing nations.  Improved worker quality of life is an additional sustainability consideration for some signage buyers. 

4. Changeability & Recycling: What happens to the sign at the end of its life cycle?

ADA room and door signs are usually customized with a name or number.  For interior office signs, slide-ins are an eco-friendly option because they decrease the portion of the ADA sign that needs to be replaced. For example, if an office was occupied by Jane Smith and now it belongs to Mary Jones it is more environmentally friendly to discard and remake only that portion of the sign containing text. 

It is also worth considering what happens to a room or door sign when a building is renovated or torn down. Historically, signs would be sent to landfill and left for future generations to deal with. More recently, a few braille sign manufacturers have overcome barriers to recycle signs post-consumer use. In addition to having a robust end of life return and recycle program, Green Dot Sign® provides customers who choose to update their signage a credit for returning used signs. 

Common ADA Signage Selection Criteria

ADA signage purchasing has traditionally been driven by several decision-making criteria. Consider these points in conjunction with sustainability in order to select those signs that are best for your organization.

Light oak mechanical sign1. ADA-Compliance: Does the sign content meet legal guidelines? 

Facilities signs within the scope of the U.S. Department of Justice 2010 Standards for Accessible Design must comply with signage content regulations. As braille signs have moved beyond basic blue and white sign to a variety of attractive sign designs, sometimes ADA signage requirements are overlooked. Compliance challenges arise with some overseas and American sign companies that do not regularly work with ADA signs.

Well-intentioned graphic designers, who may not be fully versed in legal requirements, sometimes also do not specify signs that meet the nuance if of the 2010 ADA Design Standards.  

As an ADA sign purchaser, it is valuable to understand requirements at a high-level. While there are many web-based resources that review ADA signage requirements, it is often best to speak with an experienced expert when questions arise.

2. Longevity: How long will the sign last?

When selecting signage materials consider wear and tear that will occur over years of use.  While acrylic plastic has traditionally been used in braille signs, aluminum, glass, and wood are other signage options that stand the test of time. 

How a room or door sign is wall mounted also impacts longevity. Pegs and foam tape are the most common ADA sign hanging options. Some clients insist upon installing signs via pegs because in their experience adhesives do not withstand vandalism.  

Custom ADA Sign3. Graphic Design: Does the sign meet visual expectations?

Interior facilities signage, including ADA signs, are highly visible.  It is important that signs not only use the same standard colors and font but also have a consistent theme across different sign types.  Creating a contemporary, high-quality environment enhances organization first impressions and branding. 

Similarly, wayfinding signage should have a consistent, logical approach throughout a building. For example, if floor two has directional signs indicating that the restroom is to the left, directional bathroom signs should also be used on other floors in the same building.  

4. Budget: How much does the sign cost?

The price of an ADA sign can vary substantially, depending on quality and appearance. Low-end ADA signs typically sell for $15 to $30 each and are made of visibly cheap plastic. Higher-end braille signs sell for a wider price range and are generally $50 to $100 apiece. Signs at this price point balance customer budget and aesthetic selection considerations.

When ordering ADA signage consider your total investment.  In addition to the cost per sign, incorporate installation and shipping costs.  Additionally, evaluate if a visually pleasing interior space will appeal to potential new hires or clients.  Finally, remember that research has concluded that biophilic offices increase employee efficiency, creativity, and retention. 

The Right Sign Company

Employees Must Wash Hands SignThe selection of building products under Division 10 – Specialties, often pushes against building project deadlines. However, it is important to not rush office signage selection due to its high visibility.  Low quality or poorly designed signage reflects on an entire project. Even worse, non-compliant ADA signs diminish equal access for the blind, which can result in fines and damage the reputation of everyone involved in the project.  

When selecting a sign company, evaluate their product offerings and reliability. Most sign manufacturers post multiple product images on their website in order to show prospects in which office signs are ready to order.  Additionally, some higher-end vendors make custom ADA signs that meet unique interior design demands. 

Here are four considerations when placing an ADA sign order:

1. ADA sign knowledge

Does the company have years of experience with ADA signage, provide placement guidance, and guarantee that their products comply with regulations?

2. Signage consultant

Can the company review building plans to evaluate where signs are required, advise on custom ADA sign design, and provide options that meet your budget? 

3. Customer focus

Is the sign company easy to work with?  

4. Quality product

Are the company’s signs well-made, good looking and prepped for installation with high-quality hardware? Are they of an equal quality to the rest of the materials being used for the project or do they decrease the perceived value of building?

Call to Action

Sutainable ADA Sign SelectionAs technologies have evolved there are new and exciting ADA sign offerings available for building owners, architects, interior designers and project managers to consider. This is especially true for professionals passionate about sustainability.  As the number of U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified building projects in the U.S. grew from 41 to over 67,000 between 2000 and 2018, demand for environmentally responsible options has spurred green innovation.

In 2020 demand for better building products is expected to continue across many categories, including signage. For sign specifiers and buyers interested in eco-friendly signage, our recommended approach is to start by focusing on an ADA sign’s base or substrate because it is the largest sign component by weight.  Thus substrate material inputs and production processes have the greatest impact on overall product sustainability.  


Please reach out with any questions and thank you for considering sustainability while selecting office signs for your next project!