The Green Thumb
What Makes it Green? (Part 1)
With the implementation of the Green Building Rating System known as Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design—sponsored by the U.S Green Building Council—green building products have experienced a bull market for the past few years here in North America. Inherent in the definition of a green building product are characteristics such as its:
• Energy efficiency
• Eco-disruption level
• Health impact
Pursuant to the U.S. Government’s Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines, the critical determinant for what makes a product “green” is the recycled content of a building product. Environmental groups focus on life-cycle impacts for different materials/products. As well, they often provide information and/or guidelines for substitute/alternative eco-friendly materials and products. Health conscious organizations such as the American Lung Association measure the detrimental aspects of materials such as chemical “off-gassing” of volatile organic compounds.
Point of viewDefining the green aspect of a building product, like beauty, is oftentimes in the eye of the beholder. In an attempt to make life simpler for all concerned, with the new century along came the “GreenSpec Product Directory,” in January 2000, from BuildingGreen Inc. and its respected publication Environmental Building News. Aside from the GreenSpec Directory, there are about a dozen other green building product directories, as well as a host of books addressing the subject.
The “GreenSpec Product Directory” is a 300-page bound volume of 1,650 building products. Each product is selected by merit alone. Stringent criteria developed through many years by the editors of EBN ensures an objective selection of products. Each product listing includes:
• Product description
• Environmental characteristics
• Contact information
The Directory is organized in conjunction with the 16 divisions of the Construction Specifications Institute format. Aside from the directory, also available is the “GreenSpec Binder.” This includes the directory, along with more than 135 pages of enhanced product literature from product manufacturers.
LEED the way
The success of the LEED rating system has spawned a demand by private corporations, municipal governments, universities, etc., for manufacturers to provide LEED ratings for their products. For their part, manufacturers have met the challenge and have been consistently providing innovative new green building products following the LEED guidelines. New products are added and deleted each year from the directory. This keeps the directory current and up-to-date. For 2002, three of the “Top 10” green building products selected from the Directory are directly relevant to the walls and ceilings industry. One of them, Woodstalk Fiberboard, was featured in a previous article in W&C. The three products are:
Tuff-Strand OSB: This is the first oriented strand board to be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. This certification requires rigorous third-party review of the company’s forestry practices. The manufacturer also offers FSC certified: Plywood, Concrete Forms, Hardwood Lumber and Utility Poles.
WoodStalk Fiberboard and Underlayment: As featured in a previous article, this is a Fiberboard made from wheatstraw, a waste agricultural material. Available in a variety of thicknesses, it is used for manufacturing: cabinets, shelving, furniture and underlayment. Standard particle board and medium-density fiberboard are manufactured with a urea-formaldehyde binder that off-gasses formaldehyde—a toxic material. WoodStalk does not use an urea-formaldehyde binder in its manufacture. By utilizing a former waste material in lieu of a forest-based material (wood), the world’s forests are being preserved.
FiberGlass Insulation: A modified manufacturing process eliminates the industry-standard phenol-formaldehyde binder used to hold the glass fibers together. Now, an acrylic binder is used. As well, FiberGlass insulation has a high-recycled content—up to 25 percent.
Next time, in Part 2, we’ll examine some elements of the five categories by which the “GreenSpec Directory” determines the worthiness of a building product.