The Green Thumb
What Makes it Green? (Part 2)
Last month in Part 1, we began our discussion of what makes a building product “green.” Prominently featured was the GreenSpec Directory from Building Green Inc., publishers of Environmental Building News. This month, we’ll discuss the criteria/selection process used by the editors of the GreenSpec Directory for inclusion in the directory.
Selection begins from an assortment
• Company press releases
• Trade shows
• Published articles
• Internet discussion groups
• EBN subscriber input
• Research by EBN editorial staff
Criteria for selection is continuously reviewed and posted on the Building Green Web site http://www.BuildingGreen.com. With the ongoing standardization of environmental building products typically, products are chosen based on their energy efficiency rating (e.g., mechanical equipment) or certification by an accrediting agency/organization such as the Forest Stewardship Council (for wood products).
The FSC is an international not-for-profit organization whose goal is to support environmentally beneficial and economically viable management of the world’s forests via independent certification of forest management and labeling of forest products. In more than 40 countries around the world, 27 million hectares of forestlands are FSC certified pursuant to their high standards (http://www.fscus.org).
Another such accreditation program, recognized by the FSC, is SmartWood. Sponsored by the Rainforest Alliance, an international conservation organization working to protect at-risk ecosystems, the program seeks to balance land use, business practices and human behavior. Founded in 1989, it is the longest enduring and most comprehensive certification program in the world (http://www.smartwood.org).
For some products, such as volatile organic compound-emitting paints, criteria for establishing the worthiness for inclusion in the directory is fairly straightforward. In other cases, such as whereby multiple criteria are applicable, the decision to include or not to include is more subjective. In general, the overall environmental benefit-to-burden ratio that is inherent in any given building product forms the basis of the decision.
There are six major categories, each with several subcategories, which form the standard for a building product’s inclusion in the GreenSpec Directory. The following is a summary of this categorization:
1. Products manufactured with/from salvaged, recycled and/or agricultural waste content:
• Salvaged products
• Products with post-consumer/industrial recycled content
• Products made from agricultural waste material
2. Products that conserve natural resources:
• Products that reduce material use
• Products with exceptional durability
• Products with low maintenance requirements
• Certified wood products
• Rapidly renewable products
3. Products that avoid toxic and/or
• Natural/minimally processed products
• Alternatives to:
– Conventional preservative/pressure treated wood
– Ozone depleting substances
– Products made from PVC
– Other components considered hazardous
• Products that:
– Reduce/eliminate pesticide treatments
– Reduce pollution/waste from operations
4. Products that save energy and/
• Building components that reduce heating and cooling loads
• Energy conserving equipment
• Renewable energy and fuel cell equipment
• Fixtures/equipment that conserve water
5. Product that reduce environmental impacts during:
6. Products that contribute to a safe and healthy indoor environment:
• Products that:
– Do not release significant pollutants into the building
– Block introduction, development and/or spread of indoor contaminants
– Remove indoor pollutants
– Warn occupants of health hazards in the building
– Improve light quality
The GreenSpec Directory was intended to always be a work-in-progress. As new products reach the market, new standards are set thus the directory’s selection criteria must and does change. As well, the phasing out of some products/applications requires new standards for selection.
In future articles we’ll take a look at many of the building products included in the directory that are directly relevant to the walls and ceilings industry.