the professionals blog

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.




Energy Efficient Home Landscapes

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Trees are being cut down to make way for new single-family homes, which then often sit on bare lots. These treeless lots not only have negative impacts on the climate, environment, and community health, but they also exacerbate the energy inefficient practices found within homes. This is a major problem given the average American home consumes 70 million BTUs annually. In fact, taken together, American homes account for 22 percent of total energy use as well as nearly 22 percent of carbon dioxide emissions (1.19 billion metric tons).

While homeowners can take low-cost steps to make the inside of their homes better insulated and therefore more energy efficient, the landscape isn’t often seen as a part of the problem… or the solution. Basic green technologies like smart tree placement and green roofs and walls can be used to dramatically reduce energy usage inside homes.

Weather, roof, and building size and location also have an impact on the amount of energy savings.

How to use the landscape to reduce the energy consumed by a typical suburban home. See how smart tree placement and green roofs and walls dramatically improve energy efficiency, visit this American Society of Landscape Architects website.




Demolition or Deconstruction?

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Demolition and Deconstruction – aren’t they effectively the same? In a sense yes, as each requires the removal of a building and/or its contents. But this is where most similarities end – here one day and gone the next day (or two…). Demolition is the destructive removal and disposal of the building and/or contents with a total disregard for material salvage. Tear it down, toss the materials in a dumpster and transport everything to a landfill for disposal. On the other hand, Deconstruction selectively dismembers the materials that make up the building. Today Deconstruction is “green speak” for the removal of materials with the intent to reuse, recycle, or incorporate into a Waste Management Plan (WMP).

What are the issues to consider when determining whether to select Demolition or Deconstruction? There are 2 fundamental factors to consider – costs and the environmental benefits associated with Deconstruction. First is the cost factor, and this can be somewhat difficult to accurately assess. Some studies show the cost to be 2 to 3 times as much for Deconstruction as opposed to Demolition. However, with Deconstruction you can factor in adjustments such as the market value and after-tax benefits of the salvaged materials. The leading authority on Deconstruction and Reuse is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA has recently focused a great deal of attention on Waste as it relates to Resource Conservation. Or as the EPA refers, the 3 Rs – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Additional information relating to cost comparisons can be reviewed at these sites: The ReUse People and Building Abatement Demolition Company, Inc.

Builder Magazine has an article titled Picking Up the Pieces that exemplifies the many benefits of sustainable deconstruction. The article follows the process of clearing an urban infill lot for the New American Home 2011.




California’s Carpet Stewardship Program

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From the USGBC California Regional Chapter:

Carpet alone is 3.2% of what is disposed of in California, according to the 2008 Statewide Waste Characterization Study. EPA ran the numbers on green house gas emissions and concluded for California that carpet is #4 in having the most GHG impact of any product after lumber, mixed paper, and cardboard. Most carpet is made from petroleum based products like nylon, and can be recycled indefinitely.

For all these reasons and the fact that existing carpet recyclers were laying off employees, in 2010 California passed a law, AB 2398, to increase landfill diversion and recycling of post-consumer carpet generated in California. The law requires all carpet manufacturers to add a stewardship assessment fee of $0.05/square yard onto all carpet sold in the state as of July 1, 2011.

Funds from this assessment fee will be used to increase carpet reuse and recycling, improve the recyclability of carpet, and, most importantly, grow the market for secondary products made from post-consumer carpet.

The Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE) estimates that over 400 million pounds of carpet are discarded in California every year. This legislation was supported by many stakeholders – from local governments and entrepreneurs to carpet mills — because it will create jobs, save valuable resources, and reduce the need for more landfills and the associated costs to society.

The law requires all manufacturers, importers, distributors, wholesalers and retailers who sell carpet into California to participate, and there is a penalty for non-compliance.

Additional information from the USGBC California Regional Chapter




Energy 101: Wind Turbines

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Developed for over a millennium, today’s wind turbines are manufactured in a range of vertical and horizontal axis types. The smallest turbines are used for applications such as battery charging or auxiliary power on sailing boats; while large grid-connected arrays of turbines are becoming an increasingly large source of commercial electric power. The use of wind turbines can be a great way to provide a source of clean and renewable energy for your home or business. There are a number of small wind energy devices that you can use to generate power and these can be very cost effective in providing a significant level of electricity. The demand for wind turbines for homes has been increasing over the past few years due to people wanting to seek alternative energy sources. Energy sources such as solar and wind power are being sought after as a way to cope with the ever increasing electricity bills.

As with solar systems, wind powered systems can be used in two ways: off-grid or on-grid. Off-grid is when your home or business is entirely disconnected from an electric utility company and you generate all of the electricity your home or business requires. An on-grid wind power system sends all of its electricity back into the public electrical network (grid) which the electric company gives you credits for. At the month, the electric company sums up your credits with how much your home or business has consumed, and issues rebates if you consumed less than you put into the grid.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s website ENERGY.GOV has a wealth of information as it relates to Science & Technology, Energy Sources, Energy Efficiency, the Environment and Prices & Trends. The EPA series of short videos related to Energy 101 topics are being posted on studio4llc.com to present entry level information related to Home Energy Assessment, Cool Roofs, Geothermal Heat Pumps, Solar PVs and Wind Turbines.




Energy 101: Solar PV

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Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems can generate clean, cost-effective power anywhere the sun shines. PV panels convert the energy of the sun into renewable electricity to power homes and businesses. A small solar electric or photovoltaic (PV) system can be a reliable and pollution-free producer of electricity for your home or business. And they’re becoming more affordable all the time. Small PV systems also provide a cost-effective power supply in locations where it is expensive or impossible to send electricity through conventional power lines.

As with wind powered systems, solar PV systems can be used in two ways: off-grid or on-grid. Off-grid is when your home or business is entirely disconnected from an electric utility company and you generate all of the electricity your home or business requires. An on-grid wind power system sends all of its electricity back into the public electrical network (grid) which the electric company gives you credits for. At the month, the electric company sums up your credits with how much your home or business has consumed, and issues rebates if you consumed less than you put into the grid.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s website ENERGY.GOV has a wealth of information as it relates to Science & Technology, Energy Sources, Energy Efficiency, the Environment and Prices & Trends. The EPA series of short videos related to Energy 101 topics are being posted on studio4llc.com to present entry level information related to Home Energy Assessment, Cool Roofs, Geothermal Heat Pumps, Solar PVs and Wind Turbines.




Energy 101: Geothermal Heat Pumps

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An energy-efficient heating and cooling alternative, the geothermal heat pump system moves heat from the ground to a building (or from a building to the ground) through a series of flexible pipe “loops” containing water. This edition of Energy 101 explores the benefits Geothermal and the science behind how it all comes together.

The California Energy Commission also has an excellent in-depth analysis on geothermal heat pumps. The Status of Geothermal Heat Pumps in California

The U.S. Department of Energy’s website ENERGY.GOV has a wealth of information as it relates to Science & Technology, Energy Sources, Energy Efficiency, the Environment and Prices & Trends. The EPA series of short videos related to Energy 101 topics are being posted on studio4llc.com to present entry level information related to Home Energy Assessment, Cool Roofs, Geothermal Heat Pumps, Solar PVs and Wind Turbines.




Energy 101: Cool Roofs

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Environmentally friendly “Cool Roofs” reflect the sun’s heat,  reduce both building cooling loads, lower utility bills, reduce the urban heat island effect and drastically reduce the amount of waste going into landfills.

Cool roofs for commercial and industrial buildings fall into one of three categories: roofs made from inherently cool roofing materials, roofs made of materials that have been coated with a solar reflective coating, or green planted roofs.

Cool roofs are one of the quickest and lowest cost ways we can reduce our global carbon emissions. Roofs and road pavement cover 50 to 65 percent of urban areas. Because they absorb so much heat, dark-colored roofs and roadways create what is called the “urban heat island effect,” where a city is significantly warmer than its surrounding rural areas. Cool roofs significantly reduce the heat island effect and improve air quality by reducing emissions. A recent study by researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) found that using cool roofs and cool pavements in cities around the world can help reduce the demand for air conditioning, cool entire cities, and potentially cancel the heating effect of up to two years of worldwide carbon dioxide emissions.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s website ENERGY.GOV has a wealth of information as it relates to Science & Technology, Energy Sources, Energy Efficiency, the Environment and Prices & Trends. The EPA series of short videos related to Energy 101 topics are being posted on studio4llc.com to present entry level information related to Home Energy Assessment, Cool Roofs, Geothermal Heat Pumps, Solar PVs and Wind Turbines.




Energy 101: Home Energy Assessment

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A home energy assessment, also known as a home energy audit, is the first step to assess how much energy your home consumes and to evaluate what measures you can take to make your home more energy efficient. An assessment will show you problems that may, when corrected, save you significant amounts of money over time.

A home energy checkup helps owners determine where their house is losing energy and money – and how such problems can be corrected to make the home more energy efficient. A professional technician – often called an energy auditor – can give your home a checkup. You can also do some of the steps yourself. Items shown here include checking for leaks, examining insulation, inspecting the furnace and ductwork, performing a blower door test and using an infrared camera.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s website ENERGY.GOV has a wealth of information as it relates to Science & Technology, Energy Sources, Energy Efficiency, the Environment and Prices & Trends. The EPA series of short videos related to Energy 101 topics are being posted on studio4llc.com to present entry level information related to Home Energy Assessment, Cool Roofs, Geothermal Heat Pumps, Solar PVs and Wind Turbines.




LEED Credential Maintenance Program (CMP)

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All LEED professionals are required to maintain their credential by earning continuing education hours. LEED Green Associates must earn 15 continuing education hours within 2 years of earning their credential. LEED APs must earn 30 continuing education hours within 2 years of earning their credential. You can earn hours through these activities related to green building: education, project experience, authorship and volunteering. Access the CMP Guide for additional information about LEED professional credential maintenance.

USGBC website link to download the LEED CMP Guide




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