Green products are an essential component of green design. But,
putting a finger on exactly what a green product is can be difficult.
Products require assessment in terms of their entire "life-cycle";
meaning from raw material through processing, transport, installation,
use, reuse, recycling or disposal. (For a full discussion of life-cycle
analyses, visit the Environment Australia site at http://www.ea.gov.au/industry/eecp/tools/tools1.html#intro).
This analysis process can be quite intensive. Yet, the green product
issue doesn't need to be complex. As with all resource efficient
design it requires forethought, and an integrated whole house approach
to allow for tradeoffs between beneficial and negative environmental
impacts. A builder can follow general "green" guidelines
to choose most building materials and products. Then, if a questionable
product appears, fall back on the research provided by organizations
that do the more complex analyses, e.g. Center For Resourceful Building
Technology, Environmental Building News, GreenSeal, U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency, Construction Specifications Institute and the
Office of Applied Economics BEES program, among others.
Green product choices are available for every stage of construction.
They can contribute to the environmental benefits of a design, i.e.
using certified wood in conjunction with optimum value engineering
(OVE) or stand alone. To ensure that green products are included
throughout the project, include discussions with distributors in
the design process and specify purchasing practices for subcontractors.
(For a more detailed discussion on incorporating green purchasing
practices into a business, visit the Green Purchasing Topic Hub
The following sections will provide guidelines for choosing green
products, finding standards and locating vendors.
Generally, green products are those that have lower environmental
and health impacts than other products that serve the same purpose.
As with green design, product choice is aimed at reducing pollution,
resource consumption and waste generated throughout the entire process
of home construction, operation, renovation, and demolition.
More specifically, products should be purchased from local or regional
sources whenever possible to reduce energy expended during transportation.
An effort should also be made to purchase products from companies
with reputable environmental reputations. Products with "green"
qualities can be identified using the following guidelines:
1. Products that are made from "green" materials
- Materials that represent the most efficient use of resources
such as reused (salvaged) and recycled waste materials from households,
industrial and agricultural processes. For example:
- salvaged doors and beams
- recycled glass aggregate backfill, landscaping or road mix
- strawbale insulation, sunflower shell flooring
- Materials produced from renewable, quick reproducing sources,
especially if environmental impacts such as water and pesticide
application clear-cutting, erosion, etc. are minimal during plant
and animal production. For example:
- certified wood
- form-release agents made from plant oils
- natural paints
- flooring materials made from coir (husk of coconut), organic
cotton, wool, sisal (native Mexican plant)
- Natural materials that require a low level of processing, thereby
reducing energy and pollution. For example:
- rammed earth blocks
- clay tile
2. Products that reduce environmental impacts during production,
construction, renovation, demolition and building operation
- Less hazardous alternatives and products designed to reduce
pollution, waste and resource consumption. For example:
- carpet tacks vs. adhesives
- drywall clips vs. corner studs
- erosion control products, e.g. compost bags, silt fences,
- compact fluorescent bulbs
- low-maintenance engineered or composite siding
- photovoltaic or wind turbine systems
- structural insulated panels (SIP)
- water conservation fixtures
3. Products that enhance safety and health of workers and occupants
- Less toxic alternatives, products that block or remove pollutants,
and detection or warning devices for hazardous emissions. For
- low VOC paints, caulks, adhesives
- non-formaldehyde containing products
- systems to capture mud and moisture upon entrance
- tile versus carpet
- carbon monoxide detector
As mentioned above, many organizations are working to provide builders
and consumers with guidelines, standards and model purchasing specifications.
The following are some of these organizations for quick reference:
- The National Institute of Standards and Technology,
BEES (Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability)
- Green Seal
- The U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Star Program
- Forest Stewardship Council
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- Environmentally Preferable Purchasing
- Recycled-Content Product Database
- American Society of Heating Refrigerating and Air-conditioning
Engineers, Inc. (ASHRAE)
- Construction Specifications Institute (CSI)
Click on "Only Green Product Links" in the left-hand
navigation bar to find articles, reports, standards, directories
and news regarding everything from efficient lighting to healthy
indoor products to foundation systems. Check there to find guidelines
or important issues concerning particular types of products. For
a quick list of product and vendor directories click here: Product
|Why use them?
Green building is about creating a system that protects and
enhances the site, saves energy and water, maximizes the usable
lifetime of the structure, promotes a healthy indoor air environment,
and minimizes waste products during the construction and use
of the home. By implementing the use of green products in
this system, builders and consumers can most effectively create
the system they desire.
Additionally, builders will have fewer liability concerns
and increased marketability of the homes. (To learn how businesses
achieve benefits visit the Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention
Center at http://pprc.org/pprc/pubs/newslets/news1199.html#answers
). Homeowners will gain greater satisfaction from their home
due to improved comfort, less noise, reduced maintenance,
operating and health costs.