What’s in a Green Building Product Label?

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This recent article in Professional Remodeler, written by Michelle Desiderio, director of Green Building Programs, NAHB Research Center, provides an overview of the major green product certification programs for the home building industry. The following briefly outlines the various programs involved in green product certification.

What’s in a name?

In the residential construction industry, third parties test, certify or verify that a product meets the criteria of an established industry standard or code. For green product labeling specifically, third parties provide scientific expertise in testing, assessing and auditing a wide range of environmental attributes. While there are multiple legitimate third parties providing green product certifications within the construction industry, it would be impossible to be comprehensive in a brief article. The article provides a summary of some of the third-party product certifications that currently touch the broadest array or volume of building products, including who offers them and what they mean when you see them on products and materials.

ICC Evaluation Service Sustainable Attributes Verification and Evaluation
What it is: The ICC-ES SAVE Program provides independent verification of manufacturers’ claims about the sustainable attributes of their products.

Who runs it: The ICC-ES is a subsidiary of the International Code Council. ICC-ES is a non-profit company that evaluates building products, components, methods and materials for compliance with code.

How it works: ICC-ES provides verification in accordance with one or more of nine ICC-ES SAVE program guidelines.

NAHB Research Center Green Approved Products
What it is: Green Approved Products have been pre-approved by the NAHB Research Center as being eligible for specific points in the ICC-700 National Green Building Standard. The NGBS is the first green rating system to be approved as an ANSI consensus standard.

Who runs it: The NAHB Research Center is an independent subsidiary of the NAHB.

How it works: Manufacturers apply to have products pre-approved and labeled Green Approved for specific points in the NGBS.

Sustainable Forestry Initiative Certified Forest Content & Certified Fiber Sourcing
What they are: The SFI labeling programs are designed to help buyers understand more about the origin of wood and wood-based products. An SFI Certified Content label indicates that some or all of the product’s fiber content comes from forests that are certified to one or more specific forest management standards — primarily standards from SFI, the Canadian Standards Association and American Tree Farm System.

Who runs them: SFI is an independent, charitable organization dedicated to promoting sustainable forest management.

How they work: All aspects of SFI are based on written criteria and standards, namely the SFI Forest Management Standard, SFI Responsibly Sourcing Standard and SFI Chain of Custody Standard.

UL Environmental Claims Validation & Sustainable Products Certification
What they are: UL’s Environmental Claims Validation (ECV) confirms a specific environmental attribute or performance element of a product. UL’s Sustainable Products Certification (SPC) means that a product has been tested and certified based on its overall sustainability characteristics as compared to a standard of reference.

Who runs them: UL Environment is an environmental evaluation company that provides independent testing, confirmation of claims, certification to standards, and development of standards across numerous industries and is part of the UL (Underwriters Laboratories) family of companies.

How they work: Manufacturers submit products to UL Environment for independent testing to validate their environmental claims. Once the product claims have been validated, details are posted on UL Environment’s online Database of Validated and Certified Products, a tool that allows users to identify labeled products by product category, company name, product name, or type of claim.

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