Construction Forecasts

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Green Building Products

09/30/2008 by RSMeans Engineering Staff, RSMeans

Green building products can best be identified by the following characteristics:

  • Local supply
  • Low embodies energy
  • Non-toxic
  • Recyclable
  • Biodegradable
  • Improved sustainability

With these characteristics in mind, one can now go about determining if a product is truly green. That, however, is easier said than done. Many manufacturers market their products as being “green.” Yet there is no established criteria for green. In general, a material that is locally supplied and renewable, such as wood from managed forests, is considered green. Similarly, recycled products, such as steel, aluminum or nylon for carpet, are considered green. And finally products with low VOCs (volatile organic chemicals) are green.

The above represents some of the products that that are easily identifiable as green. There are, however, many products that may or may not be green depending on your perspective. Consider, for example, bamboo flooring. Bamboo is very sustainable, biodegradable and non-toxic. Therefore by the above criteria it is green. What are its non-green attributes, though? Bamboo is grown half a world away and must be shipped great distances requiring fuel to get it to the end use. This surely negates some of its green appeal.

In addition to the products listed above, the following is a partial list of green products based on diverse criteria.

  • Recycled acoustical tile panels
  • Recycled rubber flooring
  • Synthetic gypsum
  • Lockers from recycled HDPE
  • Electric hand dryers
  • Solar hot water heaters
  • Photovoltaic systems
  • Wind power
  • Waterless urinals
  • Energy efficient lighting
  • Grey water recycling
  • Agrifiber board
  • Permanent insulating concrete forms

The responsibility for selecting and specifying green building products and systems, then, rests with the entire design team. Products must be investigated in light of the above criteria. Hopefully in the near future manufacturers will provide even more data on which technical decision can be made.


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