CMD Group is a ConstructConnect® company. Learn more

Building Product Manufacturers & Green Products

06/06/2011 by By Mark Kalin, FAIA, FCSI, LEED AP


Claims by the product manufacturer that their products are environmentally friendly must be carefully evaluated. Several cases in point follow.

Claim 1: Sheet lead is a green product. When we requested information from product manufacturers, one of the first responses was from a trade organization from the lead industry. They maintained that lead was a green product because it was a natural material and had a successful history of long-term performance. They recommended we include lead in our list, but we didn’t. Is lead a green product? Do we accept the claims of the supplier, which include that there are very few, if any, EPA regulations against using lead in buildings? Or do we consider that lead content is regulated in commercial and residential paint products, as even small chips of lead paint are believed to cause brain damage in young children? Or that installers are required to regularly have their lead levels checked? Or that lead doesn’t migrate in the soil, and its use for hundreds of years verifies the manufacturer’s claims?

Our Opinion: Lead is not acceptable in an elementary school or any location where a young child can touch it. Lead is not acceptable as a roofing material where water runoff will enter a watershed or other environmentally sensitive areas. As major producers continue to eliminate lead from their product lines, the choice will be made for us, and alternative alloys with tin and zinc will replace lead.

Claim 2: Carpet pad manufactured from virgin urethane is greener than rebonded carpet cushion. Manufacturers of carpet cushion claim that less energy is required to manufacture carpet pad from virgin urethane than the energy and adhesives required to fabricate rebonded carpet pads. Should we only recommend the use of virgin urethane pads?

Our Opinion: Virgin urethane pads have more uniform density. Don’t feel obligated to use rebonded carpet pads. Depending on your perspective, both may be seen as green.

Claim 3: Latex paints are a greener choice than oil-based paints with higher volatile organic content (VOC) emissions. Water-based latex paints are considered greener than oil-based paints. However, manufacturers of oil-based paint claim longer service life and less repainting over the life cycle of the building. The cleanup of oil-based paints is controlled, while latex paint waste is frequently flushed down drains where the algaecides and fungicides in the paint kill the bacteria at the sewage treatment plant. Should we use oil-based paints?

Our Opinion: Zero-VOC and latex formulations have advanced paint technology significantly.Since most commercial repainting is done for new tenants or a new color scheme, longer service life isn’t necessarily the determining factor. The choice may be made for us, as state and regional limits on VOCs are established.

Claim 4: Linoleum is green because it is made of natural components.

The last linoleum plant in the U.S. closed in the 1930s (as vinyl asbestos tile pushed it from the marketplace), and now linoleum is manufactured primarily in Europe. Should we count the embodied energy in manufacturing as well as the fuel costs of transportation in our product selection? The manufacturing process for linoleum is energy-intensive; is the extra cost worth higher wear performance?

Our Opinion: Although an increase for the demand in linoleum has instigated manufacturing in the U.S. again, selection based on green criteria should include more than just the use of natural ingredients. It’s ultimately the designer’s choice.

Claim 5: PVC is a green choice for roofing and waterproofing. Use of PVC for roofing and waterproofing in Europe is considered a hazard, but high-performing PVC systems are readily available in the U.S. PVC didn’t exist 80 years ago, but now each of us has a measurable amount of PVC in our bodies. Do we know the answer?

Our Opinion: PVC roofing and waterproofing systems perform well and should be considered, as the intended purpose is to keep the building dry (to avoid all the material and health hazards of uncontrolled water in a building). But PVC contains dioxin which is a potent carcinogen, and associated with the manufacturing of PVC, as well as with disposal and accidental combustion in building fires or landfills. If your goal is to reduce the amount of PVC in your building, start on the inside rather than the outside with PVC-free flooring, wall base, casework, computers, pens, chairs, and furniture; yet without plastics, the planet could not sustain its current population.

Claim 6: Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood is the green choice for your projects. There’s even a USGBC LEED point you can earn for using certified wood. However, certified wood in architectural species has thus far been available only at a premium price. Most of the certified forests are mid-sized, and not all species are readily available. The program is excellent, but critics, such as the Canadian government and others, believe they have been managing their forests for decades, and the wood they produce meets other sustainable wood programs without being FSC certified. On a recent LEED project, once it was determined that 50% of the wood would not be certified, the requirement was abandoned for the entire project. Note that the current LEED (version 2009 as of this printing) still requires a minimum of 50% FSC certified wood content for credit, but now includes prorated FSC Mixed Credit products within the calculation.

Our Opinion: Why should only one certification agency be included in LEED? The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), developed by members of the American Forest and Paper Association, is one of several with legitimate credentials. The difference between “green” and “LEED” becomes more apparent. Identifying green products, just like defining sustainability, is an exercise in subjectivity. There are many different definitions of green, such as being 100% recycled and recyclable; using less energy in manufacture; improving the building users’ health through reduction in toxic materials; or employing more energy-efficient methodologies for heating, cooling, and lighting. Green is all of the above and more. By our definition, green products are those with excellent performance that maintain or improve the human environment while diminishing the impact of their use on the natural environment—in other words, sustainable.

Adapted from Green Building: Project Planning & Cost Estimating, 3rd Edition, available through RSMeans.

Recent Comments

Article Archive

Date Article
11/17/14 Top 10 largest construction project starts in the U.S. - October 2014
11/14/14 Non-residential Construction Starts Rose Gently in October
07/10/14 The Importance of Matching Volume to Contractor Capacity in JOC Procurement Strategy
07/10/14 Consider a Seed Project as Part of Your JOC Procurement Strategy
07/10/14 The Best Unit Price Book for Your Job Order Contract
07/02/14 ECONOMIC NUGGETS – July 1, 2014
10/23/14 Twenty major upcoming Water Treatment Plants and Manufacturing & Warehousing construction projects - U.S. - October 2014
10/23/14 Twenty major upcoming Alberta and British Columbia construction projects - Canada - October 2014
10/15/14 Trend lines of construction starts in Canada - September 2014
10/15/14 Top 10 largest construction project starts in Canada - September 2014
09/17/14 Twenty major upcoming midwest and northwest construction projects - U.S. - September 2014
09/17/14 Twenty major upcoming medical and educational construction projects - Canada - September 2014
09/17/14 Trend lines of construction starts in Canada - August 2014
09/17/14 Top 10 largest construction project starts in Canada - August 2014
08/15/14 Twenty major upcoming medical and educational construction projects - U.S. - August 2014
08/15/14 Twenty major upcoming industrial and water treatment construction projects - Canada - July 2014
08/15/14 Trend lines of construction starts in Canada - July 2014
08/15/14 Top 10 largest construction project starts in Canada - July 2014
07/24/14 Twenty major upcoming entertainment facility and stadium/arena construction projects - U.S. - July 2014
07/24/14 Twenty major upcoming Ontario and Quebec construction projects - Canada - July 2014
07/24/14 Trend lines of construction starts in Canada - June 2014
07/24/14 Top 10 largest construction project starts in Canada - June 2014
07/14/14 Top 10 largest construction project starts in the U.S. - June 2014
02/03/14 Infographic: Where Can You Use Project Leads in the Construction Process?
07/25/13 The Canadian Economy’s Two Great Blessings
02/15/13 Construction Economic Notes – February, 2013
11/05/12 Recycled-Content Tile
10/05/12 Fiber-Cement Siding
09/18/12 Return on Your Green Home Improvement Investment
08/09/12 Green Building Solutions to Stormwater Runoff
08/07/12 An “Aha” Moment Solves Challenge of Cost Estimating Local Circus Roof
07/19/12 Estimate Types
06/20/12 Ground-Source Heat Pump
05/14/12 Universal Design for Outdoor Living
04/23/12 What Is Universal Design?
04/09/12 Natural Landscaping
03/14/12 Green Material Alternatives for Plumbing Fixtures
03/02/12 Budgeting & Financing Green Construction
02/22/12 Greening Your Firm
02/10/12 Roofing Defects
02/06/12 Roofs: energy efficiency strategies
01/18/12 Commercial Real Estate and Green Construction
12/14/11 Renewable Energy & Distributed Generation Technologies
11/04/11 Tubular Skylights
10/04/11 Are Online Ads An Endangered Species?
09/27/11 Performance Bonds Guarantee Clients Receive Exceptional Service
09/15/11 Deconstruction for Green and Economic Benefit
09/01/11 4 Ways for Businesses to Create a Good First Impression on Twitter
08/11/11 Building Information Modeling (BIM) for Green Building
07/21/11 Green Alternatives for Concrete
07/12/11 Evaluating Products Over Their Life Cycle
06/30/11 Low-Cost Green Strategies
06/28/11 Bricks are from Venus, Clicks are from Mars
06/17/11 Zombie Avoidance Techniques for Building Product Manufacturers
06/08/11 Blogs & Websites: The 5 Signs of Website Wellness
06/06/11 Building Product Manufacturers & Green Products
06/01/11 Is Fear of Sharing Information Costing Your Company Sales?
05/26/11 What Are Green Products?
05/20/11 The Building Envelope
05/16/11 Blogging: Website Heal Thyself
05/03/11 Metals Compared to Wood for Sustainable Construction
04/12/11 Storm Water Collection & Infiltration
03/23/11 Commissioning the Green Building
02/23/11 Building Program for Green Design
01/21/11 Building Deconstruction Process
05/02/11 Why Building Product Manufacturers and Social Media Are a Marriage Made in Heaven
05/06/11 Building Product Manufacturers: How Understanding Architects Can Help Your Business
10/21/09 Distributors & Manufacturer Representatives
07/15/10 Estimating Doors: Tips from the Experts
07/06/10 How to Handle Construction Materials to Prevent Mold
06/21/10 How to Maximize the Benefits of Exterior Security Lighting
06/04/10 SmartBuilding Index
06/01/10 Regional Housing Construction Tracking and Forecast Information
05/28/10 How to Find Regional Construction Tracking and Forecast Information
05/24/10 Building Product Manufacturers
05/18/10 Practicing the Art of Sustainability - Why Atlanta's Current Building Codes Need Updating Now
02/23/10 Learning to use EE
01/11/10 Earn AIA CEU Credit Attending RCD Webcasts
07/17/09 Cost Estimators Winning Work With BIM
07/16/09 Becoming an Invited Bidder - More Tips
07/16/09 Becoming an Invited Bidder - Tips
07/16/09 Becoming an Invited Bidder
07/16/09 SmartBIM Object Modeling Guidelines for Revit
07/15/09 Interference Check and BIM
06/26/09 A Look at Contractor Failure: Part 2
06/19/09 RicciGreene Associates
06/19/09 Doug Thornton AIA, LEED A.P. of AERC, PLLC
06/18/09 A Look at Contractor Failure: Part 1
06/12/09 Owners and SmartBIM Objects – What You Need To Do
06/10/09 Dealing with the IRS
06/05/09 Getting Paid on Construction Contracts
06/02/09 BIM Coordination and Collaboration
05/28/09 Marketing Your Construction Firm on the Cheap
05/20/09 Little Habits with Big Payoffs for Contractors
05/12/09 SmartBIM Spaces
05/07/09 AIA Show Recap as Seen by the SmartBIM Solutions Team
04/27/09 Business Case Study - Survey Of Spending Patterns In Educational Facilities
04/23/09 Taking Advantage of the Recession: Hiring the Right People
04/20/09 Cork as a Green Flooring Option
04/08/09 Owners - It's Time to Substantially Increase Your Architect's and Engineer's Fees
03/05/09 There's a Solution to Performing Time Consuming Quantity Take-Offs
02/20/09 SmartBIM Library is Half-Off for a Limited Time Only
02/09/09 You are Wasting Your Money
01/20/09 Obama: 'Dramatic Action' On Economy Needed
01/14/09 Use of BIM Jumps Dramatically Over Last 12 Months
12/10/08 Minimizing the Size of Family Files (Revit Objects)
11/11/08 Maximize Online Advertising Dollars
11/07/08 Architects and Engineers, WE NEED YOU
10/29/08 Why Do You Need SmartBIM Objects
10/28/08 Why Building Information Modeling?
10/29/08 10 Questions To Ask About BIM Objects
10/08/08 The Object Mess
10/07/08 Implementing BIM to Your Office
10/06/08 Meeting the Needs for Governmental BIM Compliance while Avoiding Current Liability Obstacles
09/15/08 The BIM Transformation is Manageable with the NEW SmartBIM Library v3
09/14/08 KOLBE Windows and Doors vs. Building Information Modeling
09/12/08 The Evolution of Building Information Modeling: BIM 1-2-3
08/11/08 BIM 101 Overview - From Hand Drawings, CAD and now BIM
08/12/08 Draper, Inc. on BIM Object Developments
07/08/08 IFD Library Partners work to establish standards for creators of BIM software
06/23/08 Architectural Education
06/17/08 Parametric Revit Objects – Part I - Fundamentals
06/17/08 Window Glazing Coefficients
06/01/08 Frequently Asked Questions About Building Codes
06/05/08 Calling All Current and Prospective Revit Users - This Blog Is For You
05/06/08 System Requirements for SmartBIM Library
05/06/08 SmartBIM Library 2.0 Release Notes
05/05/08 Building Information Modeling Moves into AEC Mainstream, Adding Value to Project Delivery Process
04/08/08 Flooring: Cost Considerations
02/08/10 General Contractors & Trade Contractors
01/24/08 Building Element Models (BEM)
12/21/07 LEED Certification Primer
12/13/07 Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV)
09/24/07 Mixed-mode Building Design Combines Old and New Ideas
10/15/07 Checklists Identify Potential Envelope Design Improvements
10/24/07 Greenroofs as High Performance Design
10/21/07 What Makes a Building Product Green
10/24/07 Lighting Considerations in Green Building
10/24/07 Water Conservation in Green Buildings
10/24/07 Rainwater Collection Systems
10/24/07 Efficient Cooling Methods for Green Buildings
10/24/07 Controlling Heat Transfer in Green Buildings
10/24/07 Limiting Heat Loss Through Windows
10/23/07 Formaldehyde Use in Building Construction
10/23/07 Using Plants to Improve Indoor Air Quality
11/05/07 Greening Healthcare
10/19/07 Daylighting Controls
10/19/07 Use of Windows, Skylights and Light Pipes in Daylighting
10/19/07 An Overview of Daylighting
10/19/07 An Overview of Solar Ventilation Air Heating
10/19/07 Types of Collectors for Solar Water Heating
10/19/07 An Overview of Solar Water Heating
10/19/07 Cooling Load Advoidance
10/19/07 Components of Passive Solar Heating Designs
10/19/07 An Overview of Passive Solar Heating
10/23/07 Improving Indoor Air Quality
10/19/07 An Overview of The LEED Rating System
10/19/07 Cost Considerations in Building Deconstruction
10/17/07 Building Deconstruction
10/25/07 Roofing Considerations in Green Building
10/19/07 Green Site Selection and Development
10/24/07 Reducing Energy Use in Buildings
10/17/07 Green Demolition
10/18/07 Integrating Solar Power Generation into Buildings using Thin Film PV
09/10/07 Compost Company Promotes Green Environment
03/31/06 Green Roof Sets An Example For Minneapolis Sustainable Design

CMD Group- construction industry news-imageā€ title=