Taxonomy Term en 11691 Videos from Greenbuild '08 at Greenbuild 365

From the Father of Green Chemistry to that guy from This Old House, a couple dozen videos of speakers and presentations from Greenbuild '08 have been posted at Greenbuild 365, "USGBC's interactive green building learning portal." Among them, there's a very special episode in particular. You may have heard that our own Alex Wilson received a Leadership Award from the USGBC during Greenbuild. (Okay, the story's getting old, but the quality keeps getting better.) Check out Mister Wilson now!

2008-12-24 n/a 11697 Touring the Greenbuild Expo with CNN I'm not usually all that comfortable in front of a camera, but I had fun walking the Greenbuild 2008 Expo floor with a video crew from and Fortune magazine. We focused on four or five technologies in our tour, only two of which made it into the final two minute video (after a nice lead-in by Scot Horst of 7group). The CNN crew were looking for photogenic presentations, while I was looking for products I believe in to talk about. I'm pleased with how it came out in the end — though it would have been nice to cover a lot more stuff!
2008-12-07 n/a 11647 Other's efforts to bring clarity to product certifications I promised participants at my GreenBuild session (Nutrition Labels for Products: Taking control of deciding what is green for you) a list of the efforts to bring clarity - through summaries, comparison tables, databases, whatnot - to the plethora of green building product certifications out there. I should have done this in the session, but here it is now: Building Products only: A lot of different areas:
  • Ecolabeling's wiki-like database of now 301 labels across the board. It's a bit clunky, and not made for comparison, but it exists, and they're open to suggestions
  • Consumer Reports Eco-labels center from their website provides a consumer reports take on things, but they don't really cover building products (other than wood). I haven't made up my mind whether we should try to convince them they should – or not.
In the session Q&A I said what we really needed was a coordination of these independent efforts to bring clarity – to save everyone's energy and so there really was one place for building professionals and consumers to go for clarity. One other way out of the mess, is a real game changer where a couple of big players define THE overarching label to cover all product areas and eliminate consumer confusion... like what USDA organic was meant to do, or the model in many countries where one organization is contracted by the government to set standards, verify, and label. That's tricky though, because these different certifications and standards do have different niches in the ecosystem of environmental labeling... some aim for a really high aspirational bar that only a few products meet but can inspire companies to creative genius in the direction we really need to go, while others aim to certify the top 25% of products to incrementally pull along the majority, etc., etc.... I'd love to see something happen that eliminates the greenwash, but puts the others in context somehow without eliminating the range of aspirations – so people don't see the midlevel stepping stone as the end goal. There is hope for coordination of some sort – in the variety of collaborations (or at least the intellectual/political mating dance that proceeds collaboration) that are cropping up here and there around the need to address this issue in a comprehensive way. I'm looking forward to seeing what the next year or so brings. PS: The session was actually about product information systems, which give you real information to make up your own mind – not just a checkmark. I'm excited about these, and again, there are stepping stones here today – but the other game changer is when we really get a environmental & sustainability information on a product over its lifecycle in a form that can be aggregated up to the building level and integrated into BIM tools (note to the LCA folks - I mean adding carbon + carbon, not necessarily creating a single score for carbon + IAQ). The foundation is there, and people are working on it, but it still seems like a LOT of work to collect, verify, understand, and use all that info. My hope is someday soon, all these efforts will make it so, as with financial information, collecting and using data on sustainability implications of processes, products, companies, households, policies, societies is just standard operating procedure, and we base decisions on those indicators just like we do now with cost, profitability, GDP.
2008-11-26 n/a 11648 Homebuilder's Day speaker: Homebuilding "Not so much a system as a bad habit" Greenbuild 2008 included the first ever Green Homebuilder's Day, a conference within the much larger overall conference. Homebuilder's Day welcomed old hands and newcomers to the field of green building, and the sessions were full. BuildingGreen organized the event, which coincided with the announcement of our soon-to-be-available, residentially oriented Green Building Advisor. That this day of educational sessions took place at all is a good sign for the future of houses in America and for softening their environmental impact. But in a general session on that topic, three speakers--Kevin O'Connor, host of "This Old House"; Tedd Benson of Bensonwood Woodworking Company; and Steve Kieran of architecture firm Kieran Timberlake--all expressed the view that American homebuilding is fundamentally flawed, and that the current mortgage meltdown is only one symptom among many. In a brief view of American housing in the last century, O'Connor rallied statistics to show that our houses have gotten bigger, more elaborately equipped, more sparsely inhabited, and, in recent times, less urban. From the typical 1,000-square-foot house with seven residents and no toilet in 1900, the typical house by 2000 had only two residents, a thousand square feet for each of them, two bathrooms, and panoply of electrically powered gadgets. Although the world's population is now, for the first time in history, more urban than rural, 54 percent of American houses are either suburban or rural, and if past trends continue (a big if, to be sure) even more of them will be so in the future. While there is plenty of subjective judgment that contemporary houses are less satisfying in subtle ways that old houses, it is beyond dispute, O'Connor said, that they are far more comfortable. All that comfort comes at an environmental cost, however, and with the number of houses expected to be built in the next century outstripping the population increase, due to the trend toward fewer people per house, that cost is going to be growing quickly. An even bigger problem than these new houses, however, is the far greater number of older, inefficient houses that will continue to be sucking up resources. Despite changes in the size and mechanical systems of the American house, a great deal has not changed much at all: they are still, on the whole, built on site, of wood, by small teams of carpenters and subcontractors. The residential builder of today approaches a project with about the same skills and methods that were in place a century ago. That builder, self-employed or part of a small crew, recapitulating the patterns of work that he learned as an apprentice, working with trades whose special tasks are fitted around the pattern set by the carpenters, is a figure of some romance in this age of mass-production, corporate ownership, and technological flux. But the prevalence of the independent housewright is a problem, according to these three speakers, and Benson has said that the American way of building houses is not a system, but a bad habit. None of the three talked about the need for better insulation or more solar hot water heaters or the importance of ensuring that timber is cut from sustainably managed forests, though each would no doubt acknowledge all these things are beneficial and important. Instead, they focused on the inefficiency and inferior quality that results from trucking piles of materials from various suppliers to a building sites and fashioning them into houses on the spot. The assembly in controlled factory conditions of house parts, with minimal waste and a high degree of precision, is essential to the modernization of American housebuilding, they say. It was clear that pre-fabrication, in their eyes, need not be synonymous with repetitive, bland, standardized housing; rather, on the model of doors and windows, which are already factory-made and only assembled on-site but are still available in a multitude of sizes and styles, pre-fabrication would streamline construction without necessarily hampering the production of creative, beautiful houses well fitted to their sites and inhabitants. Benson, a timber-framer by training, argued for the disentanglement of a house's parts-- the separation of structure, envelope and mechanical equipment --in the interests of longevity and flexibility. A house's structure might last for a century or two; its skin may be good for half that; the useful life of its mechanicals is likely to be even shorter. By making each element independent, materials of appropriate durability can be used and renovation can be accomplished economically. Lamenting the ugliness of much modern housing, he suggested another aspect of separating houses' elements: though most houses are built without the benefit of an architect's involvement, due to the expense, it would be feasible for far more to have their exteriors professionally designed while builders sort out the insides. Raising the quality of houses' external composition would do a great deal to improve the aesthetic qualities of our cities and towns. Among the improvements today's architects need to make, Kieran said, is to cease regarding their creations as finished products that are over and done with when the owner takes possession, instead treating their buildings as good doctors treat their patients, checking up on them and making sure they continue to function well. He expressed his disappointment that members of his profession have too often pursued novelty and style instead of developing excellent buildings that meet the needs of the multitudes in of them while making responsibly modest demands on the world. Despite the emphasis on the shortcomings of American housebuilding, a conspicuously missing aspect in this discussion was the issue of where houses are built. Given the imperative to mitigate global climate change and the challenge of peak oil, the suburban growth pattern that has dominated American house building since the end of World War II is unlikely to remain viable. Dwellings will need to be smaller, closer together, and less dependent on automobiles to cope with the climate change/peak oil crisis. And giant cities in the desert are in a perilous position as their water supplies dwindle and droughts threaten to increase in frequency and severity--it is questionable whether it is possible to build green at the edge of Las Vegas, no matter how superb the building. Adding the dimension of settlement patterns to the wastefulness, poor-quality and ugliness of much existing and new housing makes for a daunting collection of problems for builders and designers to grapple with. But Kieran, while lamenting that, in his words, the United States has become a collection of toxic waste sites now burdened with toxic finances, declared that there has been no better time to be an architect, because there is so much that needs to be fixed. And Benson reminded his audience that house building is sacred work because it creates the places where people's most important and intimate experiences take place. I heard at Homebuilders Day that a lot of builders have been too busy to catch up with developments in green construction, but now, with their industry set back on its heels by the mortgage crisis and recession, there is time to study up. Stepping back and considering what has gone wrong is sound preparation--along with learning new methods, discovering new materials and products, and revising expectations, for getting back to work when things get moving again. 2008-11-24 n/a 11649 A Pedicab at Greenbuild
(A Project Frog zero-energy classroom is in the background.)
2008-11-23 n/a 11650 "Listed on GreenFormat" - What Does That Actually Mean? There were quite a few of these placards in booths on the expo hall floor at Greenbuild. They were nice-looking signs, and seemed to give some green cred. But... no. As it says on GreenFormat's website, " GreenFormat is open to any manufacturer that wants to list a product." Now, I don't want to dis GreenFormat — BuildingGreen is actually working with CSI on this project, which is sort of an offshoot of their MasterFormat system — but being listed doesn't actually mean anything. Product manufacturers pay a fee to be listed; they input their own data; and GreenFormat takes no responsibility for the relative greenness of anything listed. Their FAQ answers the question "What about greenwashing?" like this:
GreenFormat does not seek to determine whether a product is green. Instead, using a comprehensive questionnaire, GreenFormat reports on the properties of a product, referencing specific industry standards wherever possible, and allowing space at the end of each category for individual manufacturer input.
This system is designed to allow users to compare product data and make their own judgments — and the potential for it to be exceptionally valuable is high if there's enough buy-in from manufacturers. We're excited about GreenFormat and are pleased to be assisting in its ongoing development. The day when it's de rigeur for any building products being introduced to the market to be added to this database is going to be a mighty fine day. The placards at Greenbuild were really publicity for GreenFormat, to help achieve its purpose... but were easily misconstrued as some kind of endorsement — which unfortunately means that those signs were helping to create the very mess that the program is intended to help clarify. That said, this well-intended misstep doesn't diminish GreenFormat's ultimate goal. Check it out if you haven't already.
2008-11-23 n/a 11651 Being 22.1% (give or take) of the Top Ten Feels Darned Good! Preston Koerner, over at Jetson Green, posted his "Top 10 Tidbits from Greenbuild 2008." Check out numbers 2, 4, 6, and 7:
2. The LEED AP Program undergoes major overhaul and the GBCI talks about LEED Green Associates, Legacy LEED APs, LEED AP Fellows, and the other family of LEED APs (ID+C, BD+C, Homes, O+M, and ND).
This item links to a post our own Tristan Korthals Altes wrote here on's blog.

4. BuildingGreen soft launches a new online information resource on residential green building and remodeling called
That's us.

6. The USGBC gives 2008 Leadership Awards to Alexander Karsner, Alex Wilson, Scot Horst, Ted Strickland, CB Richard Ellis, San Diego Gas & Electric Sustainable Communities Program, and the founding members of AIA COTE.
Alex Wilson! BuildingGreen's founder.

7. BuildingGreen announces their seventh annual list of green building products with the 2008 Top-10 Green Building Products
That's us, too.

Seriously, it's great to be a contributing cog in an organization that was a major player in defining the green building movement at its inception and is still at the forefront after all this time. Here's to the next 23 years.
2008-11-22 n/a 11653 New Residential Green Building Website Posted live from Greenbuild. Press release:
BuildingGreen, LLC, announces a new online information resource on residential green building and remodeling., which will be officially launched at the International Builders Show in Las Vegas January 20, 2009, is an online suite of expert advice, proven construction details, and real-world tools for residential architects, builders, remodelers, and highly engaged homeowners. "GBA builds on the decades of experience and depth of the two partner companies that came together to create this resource: BuildingGreen, publisher of Environmental Building News and The Taunton Press, publisher of Fine Homebuilding," says BuildingGreen director of residential services Peter Yost. "In the works since the two companies joined forces in early 2008, will be the most comprehensive, useful, and easy-to-use online resource serving the residential green building community," noted Yost., which was previewed at the Greenbuild Conference in Boston, will include seven primary components:
Green building encyclopedia. is an encyclopedic resource on green building and remodeling, providing a wealth of information. For recent entrants into the green building field, introductory information makes it easy to get up to speed quickly. Green product guide. BuildingGreen has produced the leading national directory of green building products, GreenSpec, since 1997. GreenSpec products relevant to residential construction are all available through, along with links to other articles and discussions. Construction details. The site includes more than 1,000 highly sophisticated yet clear and thoroughly vetted green building construction details. Illustrations build on the well-known visual presentation and technical detail of Fine Homebuilding magazine, and are supported by the know-how of top building science experts. Users can paste the more technical CAD drawings directly into architectural drawings or print them out for subcontractors. Green building strategy generator. Users can enter information about a building project and will generate tailored green strategies. In-depth advice. is a forum for the exchange of information through blogs, forums, and Q&A­, drawing heavily from the 15 experts serving as Green Building Advisors. The website also links to detailed background information from Fine Homebuilding and Environmental Building News. Code issues. serves as a clearinghouse for information and advice on building codes as they relate to green building — providing clear, concise advice on streamlining the approval process. Real-world examples. provides a place to see how green building practices are being successfully used in hundreds of homes nationwide­including both new construction and remodeling. is a fee-based information service. Members will pay an annual or monthly fee for access, with annual access priced at $149.99. "Our primary goal is to serve the people who need and will use this information — builders, remodelers, architects, and designers," said vice president and publisher Bill Tine. "By offering subscriptions we ensure that our information is objective. BuildingGreen has proven this model for years as a way to provide high-value information that will help the industry advance." In addition to fee-based information, includes extensive free content, including the product listings, case studies, news, blogs, a community forum, and more. At the heart of this new resource are the "Green Building Advisors" — 15 of the nation's leading experts on green building, green remodeling, energy efficiency, and building science. This team includes builder John Abrams of South Mountain Company on Martha's Vineyard; mechanical engineer Joe Lstiburek, P.E., of Building Science Corp. of Westford, MA; remodeling contractor Eric Doub of Boulder, CO, who specializes in carbon-neutral houses and renewable energy; architect and green building materials expert Ann Edminster of Pacifica, CA; architect and used building materials expert Jennifer Corson of Halifax, Nova Scotia; green remodeling consultant Carl Seville of Decatur, GA; building inspector Lynn Underwood of Norfolk, VA; developer Vernon McKown of Ideal Homes in Norman, OK; and natural building expert and structural engineer Bruce King, P.E., of San Rafael, CA. The full list of Advisors can be found at once the site is launched January 20th. In addition to online delivery, a monthly print newsletter will be provided to members. "We will fully utilize online delivery of our content,"says managing editor Dan Morrison (until recently an editor at Fine Homebuilding), "but a lot of people still like to hold something in their hands and read it." Members will be able to receive the print newsletter in the mail or download and print it themselves. Also on the editorial team for are Martin Holladay, until recently the editor of Energy Design Update, and Rob Wotzak, a former remodeler specializing in historic preservation. Alex Wilson, the founder and president of BuildingGreen, is enthusiastic about this new online information source. "Since we launched Environmental Building News nearly 18 years ago, we have covered both residential and commercial green building," he said. "As the green building industry has matured, it became clear that we needed to target readers more precisely; with we are doing that," he said. " will be the most useful resource available on residential green building and remodeling." BuildingGreen, LLC, has been providing the building industry with quality information on sustainable design and construction since its founding in 1985. BuildingGreen's publications include Environmental Building News, the GreenSpec Directory of green building products; and the BuildingGreen Suite of online resources. In early 2008, BuildingGreen entered into a partnership with The Taunton Press.
2008-11-21 n/a 11654 A "Year of Greenwash" Update Posted live from Greenbuild. I ran into Michelle Moore, senior vp of policy & public affairs for the USGBC, yesterday. I asked her if she had any new thoughts on the "year of greenwash" prediction that she made during her visit to our offices last May — if the market and movement will survive the growing onslaught of confusion, misinformation, and misdirection. She was characteristically optimistic, expressing her opinion that the waters will be choppy for a while, but that the state of the world is well enough understood by enough people that truth and goodness will prevail. Yay for voices of hope. 2008-11-21 n/a 11655 Jute Ceiling Tiles, Soon Posted live from Greenbuild. I mentioned Armstrong Ceiling Systems' booth earlier, and the fact that they don't use any wood that's not FSC, and that they don't have any added formaldehyde in any of their products. I didn't mention that all their ceiling tiles are Class A fire rated, because it started to feel I was cheerleading. There's one other thing that I didn't mention. In February, they're slated to roll out a ceiling tile made with 46% jute. The stuff goes from seed to harvest in 90 days; talk about rapidly renewable. Like all their tiles, no added formaldehyde. There was a sample there... it looked and acted just like fiberglass. These tiles will have the standard scrim facing that most of their lines use. No word on what the line will be called. 2008-11-20 n/a 11657 Alex Wilson Receives USGBC Leadership Award Posted live from Greenbuild. This has been long in coming, and judging by the response of the audience this afternoon, I'm not the only one who thinks so. Yes, I work for the guy, but I'm no sycophant. He's one of the most focused, dedicated, knowledgeable people I've ever known. A press release sent out from the USGBC today said this:
Executive Editor of Environmental Building News, Alex Wilson, received the award in the Education category. For more than 25 years, Wilson has been bringing unbiased, reliable information, tools and resources to the building industry. He is the author of numerous books and textbooks on sustainable building, and has written hundreds of articles for publications outside of EBN, including Popular Science and Architectural Record. He served as the executive director of the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association and on the board of directors for the USGBC, and is currently a trustee of The Nature Conservancy — Vermont Chapter.
Take a couple minutes to listen to this... it's audio of the announcement and a very short film (kinda like the Oscars). The recording is poor but understandable, and lasts less than three minutes. Check out the enthusiastic crowd response.

(here's a link, in case the player doesn't display)
Unlike the tale of woe I told last year, this time I got to see the award given. It was great to be on hand to witness the well-deserved moment. (The following are photos of the movie... which, argh, were the best shots I got.)
Link to BuildingGreen press release

2008-11-20 n/a 11658 Major changes announced for LEED AP credential program 7/1/09 Update: If you're looking to keep up to date on LEED 2009, I recommend checking out our own, which was recently launched Posted from Greenbuild '08. Update posted 11/24/08, below: Do existing LEED APs need to retake the exam? If you thought the proliferation of various different types of LEED rating systems was confusing, wait till you find out what the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) has in store for LEED Accredited Professionals (LEED APs), the folks who can pass an exam to be recognized as an expert in LEED. (GBCI, by the way, took over the LEED AP program about a year ago from USGBC.) First, I'll explain what GBCI has planned for the 65,000 people (like me) who are already LEED APs. These people will be known informally as Legacy LEED APs:
  • With LEED 2009 being launched in March 2009, the current LEED AP exam will be phased out. The final opportunity to take the current exam under the current rules will be May 2009.
  • Starting in June 2009, Legacy LEED APs have two years to opt in to the new system. Once you decide to opt in, you have another two years to complete the requirements. If you haven't updated your credential by then (a maximum of four years if you're deadline-driven), you can no longer use it and must start from square one.
  • Legacy LEED APs must sign on to a disciplinary policy, which is basically a code of ethics for LEED APs. (Interestingly, there may be some kind of peer enforcement system here.) There will also be credentialing maintenance (continuing education) requirements, which haven't been outlined yet, and a biannual "maintenance fee" of $50.
Sometime in Spring 2009 (probably around June), a new LEED AP regime takes effect. The most radical feature is multiple tiers. (Quotes are from a back-of-the-room handout at GBCI's announcement, which was just posted to GBCI's website.)
  • Tier I: LEED Green Associate. "Evoking both environmental protection and growth potential, the LEED Green Associate credential attests to demonstrated knowledge and skill in practicing green design, construction, and operations." To be eligible, you must "Be employed in a sustainable field of work or engaged in an education program in green building principals [sic] and LEED." Beth Holst of GBCI explained that this is intended for students, or employees at companies supporting LEED such as manufacturers. You must pass the basic "Green Associate Exam" to earn the credential. Biannual education maintenance of 15 hours.
  • Tier II: LEED Accredited Professional. "Signifies an extraordinary depth of knowledge in green building practices and specialization in a particular field." To be eligible, you must "Document work on a LEED project, within the last two–three years." LEED APs at this level will be distinguished by a specialty, including ID+C (interiors), BD+C (new construction), O+M (operations & maintenance), HOMES (um, homes), and ND (neighborhood development). Biannual education of 30 hours.
  • Tier III: LEED AP Fellow. "LEED AP Fellows enter an elite class of leading professionals who are distinguished by their years of experience." To be eligible, you must demonstrate "Major contributions to the standards of practice and body of knowledge for achieving continuous improvement in the green building field." Applicants obtain the credential by peer review. According to Holst, the GBCI Board of Directors has approved the creation of this credential but has not "framed out" in detail what it means.
In support of this new regime, the LEED Green Associate exam will go through beta testing with volunteers in February 2009. You can volunteer for this by emailing The exam will be launched in Spring 2009, probably around June. There will probably be a short period of downtime, about a week, when no exam is available. Exams for LEED AP specialties (the Tier II folks) will go through beta testing starting in February 2009 with OM, in March with HOMES, and later in the spring with BD+C and ID+C. Those actual exams will be launched in spring and summer. There is no timeline offered yet for ND. The credentialing maintenance program will also launch in the summer. Why all the trouble? GBCI is responding to the fact that there are 65,000 LEED APs and counting, some of whom have in-depth experience with dozens of LEED projects, and specialized knowledge in the rating sytems. Some of those, on the other hand, may have taken the exam years ago when it was easier and before LEED went through quite a bit of development, and have not maintained LEED expertise since then. A lot of people fall somewhere in between. The new regime creates an objective distinction among different levels of expertise, which has obvious benefits for all. GBCI is also attempting to comply with ISO 17024 as part of its evolution into a more standards-driven organization. Will there be confusion? I'm confused. I spent 10 minutes in the back of the room with a GBCI rep, and I still don't understand what happens to legacy LEED APs -- if they become fully rolled into Tier II with its specializations, or if they remain generic LEED APs. The GBCI website, as usual, isn't very good at anticipating and answering actual questions. Try to figure out how the LEED AP exam is scored, for example. If you're thinking about taking the test sooner than later, here are two posts from me on studying to be a LEED AP and taking a practice exam. Update: The key question for many existing LEED APs is "Do I need to take an exam to keep my credential?" Despite attending the program's rollout, I remained unsure about this, because it didn't seem clear how Legacy LEED APs fit into the new structure of specialty LEED APs. (By the way, GBCI's new FAQ introduces yet another term for this Tier II group: LEED AP+.) The answer from GBCI's Holst: When a Legacy LEED AP opts into the new system by signing the disciplinary policy, they are placed directly into one of the Tier II designations based on the exam they originally took, and general expertise. No exam needed.
2008-11-20 n/a 11659 2008 Top-10 Green Building Products Posted live from Greenbuild. Here's another little scoop for you. The press conference announcing this doesn't start for another 15 minutes... but since I'm the co-editor of GreenSpec, I'm going to take this liberty.
BOSTON, MA, November 20, 2008 — BuildingGreen, LLC, publisher of the GreenSpec® Directory and Environmental Building News™, today announced the 2008 Top-10 Green Building Products. This seventh annual award, announced at the U.S. Green Building Council's Greenbuild Conference in Boston, recognizes the most exciting products drawn from additions to the GreenSpec Directory and coverage in Environmental Building News. "Our selections of the Top-10 Green Building Products represent a wide range of product types in many different application areas," noted BuildingGreen president Alex Wilson. There are a particularly large number of interior products in this year's group of winners: the first FSC-certified and formaldehyde-free bamboo flooring; doors made with wheat-straw particleboard; a line of zero-VOC paint; a transparent finish produced from a byproduct of cheese making; and a line of organic fabrics. Three of the products this year save energy, including a low-cost, solar water-heating system; a combination heating, water heating, and heat-recovery ventilation system; and a system for monitoring real-time energy (and water) use in buildings. Water saving products are represented by a line of rainwater storage tanks — the first rainwater storage equipment ever recognized in our Top-10 lists. Fully half of the products this year are green in part because they are made from natural, rapidly renewable, or agricultural waste materials; natural materials often require significantly less energy to manufacture. A new compressed-earth masonry block is particularly noteworthy in this regard. "Most of the Top-10 products this year have multiple environmental attributes,"said Wilson. BuildingGreen's Top-10 product selections, as in previous years, are drawn from new additions to the company's GreenSpec product directory. More than 200 product listings have been added to the GreenSpec database during the past year. "New products seem to be appearing all the time, making it a challenge for our staff to keep up,"said Wilson. The GreenSpec database the company maintains now includes more than 2,000 product listings. A big driver in the development of green products continues to be the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED® Rating System (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), which awards points for the use of certain product types, such as certified wood, or for the energy or water savings that green products can achieve. "Designers of LEED buildings are looking for green products, and manufacturers are responding," said Wilson. In the online version of GreenSpec, users can find products organized by LEED credits. The 2008 Top-10 Green Building Products are listed below. More complete descriptions and contact information is provided on the linked pages:
About GreenSpec GreenSpec is the leading national directory of green building products. Products are selected by editors of Environmental Building News (EBN) based on criteria developed over the past 15 years. Manufacturers do not pay to be listed in GreenSpec, and neither GreenSpec nor Environmental Building News carries advertising. "Our policy of not accepting money from manufacturers allows us to be objective in our review of products," said Wilson. The GreenSpec product database is also available online as part of BuildingGreen Suite. Environmental Building News, founded in 1992, is the oldest and most widely respected newsletter in the green building field. BuildingGreen, LLC., celebrates its 23rd year in business this year. For information on BuildingGreen resources, visit
2008-11-20 n/a 11660 Sculpting his way to LEED credits Posted from Greenbuild '08. As my colleague Nadav Malin has written, attempts to achieve LEED credits, particularly in the materials and resources category, sometimes involve "magical," that is, wishful, thinking. At a session this morning on green blogging, a guy popped out of the audience who wields a much more interesting and perhaps even more audacious type of magic toward achieving LEED credits... sculpture. Dwayne Bass of Twovital takes on-site construction waste and turns it into permanent on-site sculpture. I didn't catch which LEED credits he has successfully achieved, but this kind of work would clearly contribute to MR Credit 2: Construction Waste Management (although more durable materials that could be sculptural, like rebar, are likely to be recycled anyway), and particularly if a project leaned on the educational angle, could earn a point for Innovation in Design. In Dwayne's words (from his website):
In 2007, Dwayne Bass, a seasoned sculptor, had contacted Dave Radlmann, a green builder/developer, to discuss opportunities that there may be in any of Dave's projects for a sculpture. After hours of discussion, they came to the conclusion that there is a need in green building and development for sculpture and art. Thus, the birth of Twovital's pioneering sculpture out of construction waste. Dwayne worked with Dave to receive a green credit under the UGGBC's LEED program and has the first sculpture placed at Commonwealth Braselton in Braselton, GA. Successful completion of the project yielded both approved LEED credit and an engaging sculpture to greet building visitors. The majority of construction projects do not recycle waste that is accumulated while building. Twovital provides a positive alternative solution to simply hauling off waste to landfills. Even the construction of our sculptures takes the sensitivity of the environment into account. Environmentally sensitive adhesives are used in all sculptures rather than using welded joints. The end result is a synergy of artistic value, environmental stewardship, and recreational functionality.
Green or greenwash? You be the judge. I would be careful to not overstate the environmental benefit, but this seems like a win for art and education, and a win for the environment. More press and photos are here.
2008-11-20 n/a 11661 Failure and Success - Which Do We Learn More From? Posted live from Greenbuild.
This morning we had our annual breakfast at Greenbuild with invited participants from the top green firms in the industry — taking their pulse, getting their take. Architects were in force, but engineers and builders were also represented. Much of the discussion revolved around the 2030 Challenge — who has signed up and who hasn't (the room was split roughly equally); why and why not; what the vague Challenge actually means (does it include occupant transportation, etc.?) and how to specifically measure it (Btu/sf? Energy use? Carbon?). Meanwhile, the first threshold, 2010, is looming. The state of the economy and the uncertain future didn't seem to shake the confidence of the room much... project type and focus tends to shift in downturns, but things go on. One participant said, "We're going to have to admit that we can't ignore existing buildings. This is a sea change. We have to think like Europe and parts and Asia." On the other hand, in a recent Turner survey of all building industry markets, 3/4 of respondents said that an economic downturn wouldn't affect the decision to build green. Education, as always, was a big topic. Institutions are churning out unprepared, undereducated students. The public doesn't really get the concept of energy conservation — they just want to save money. So do building owners. But, it was pointed out, "the right kind of knowledge can change behavior" (and also, cheekily, "the right person can defeat any system we design in"). The notion that we'll see some good changes when people learn how to compete against each other to save energy was floated, and it was good. For the industry at large, dispassionate, deep data is needed — data that's normalized and consistent. And anonymous if necessary. There needs to be more POE, more measurement and analysis. There needs to be a wealth of numbers and details available, a track record. I'm going to make an abrupt turn here and go gooey... A participant stated that we need to learn from what doesn't work — and this is a thing I've always agreed with strongly. I always want to know about the failures. But another perspective was given in response: If we focus on successes, won't we not only learn just as much, but also be contributing to a movement that's more inviting? (— except it was better-worded, to the point where it somehow put a chink in my cynicism. I wish I'd been recording...). Afterward, walking back to Greenbuild from the hotel where we had the breakfast meeting, Nadav Malin and I fell in together. Waiting at an intersection, we saw a suit-and-tie security guy from the convention center out in the street thanking the traffic cops for their help, offering to get them hot chocolate (it's in the high 20s — F). While this was going on, one of them was holding up traffic against a red light to let pedestrians cross, and a car honked. "Who the **** honked!?" the cop muttered. Nadav said, "Isn't that a great Boston scene? Thanking the traffic cops and offering to get them hot chocolate?" I replied with snark, continuing his sentence for him, "... while one of the cops yells 'Who the *** honked?!" I know this isn't what this post started out being about, but this is where it led me. Nadav was focusing on the positive, while I was focusing on the negative. Even though I didn't mean it that way, that's how it immediately felt. If there had been a third person with us, what would they have learned? Which comment would they have preferred to carry with them? Back again to the topic of which we learn more and better from — success or failure. I'd have to agree with Forrest Gump. I think maybe it's both. UPDATE — Jane Kolleeny's post "Optimism marks the first day of Greenbuild" over at GreenSource is a good adjunct to this...
2008-11-20 n/a 11662 The Strip Show at Greenbuild Posted live from Greenbuild. There are a couple booths that warrant special mention. This year, the Armstrong Ceiling Systems booth is a metal greenhouse frame (below banners reading "Come see what's growing") that, after the show, will be donated to the Massachusetts Horticultural Society. Nice. Most of the companies at these trade shows, especially the big players, spend scads on high-concept booths — shiny, gleaming, lots of lights, computer screens, motorized gizmos — that may only see a few shows, if that. I'm not cynical about Armstrong's motives. Sure, it doubles as a sweet marketing device — so what? I think it qualifies as permaculture. (And guess what else? Where wood is used in Armstrong's Ceiling Systems, that wood is FSC. You can't not get FSC from them. And none of their products have added formaldehyde. I think they've made a commitment, and I don't believe it's entirely market driven.) But there's another big-player booth that's taken this sort of concept to an awesome extreme. Antron, the carpet fiber maker, has a booth that's not a booth at all. There are a few used chairs, and a couple old schoolhouse chalkboards sort of defining a space. It's got mismatched, used (really used) carpet underfoot. There's no lights. No computer. No booth swag giveaways. They don't even have cut sheets! What gives? I asked Henning Bloech, Antron's sustainability guy, to explain, and he did it in under two minutes. Listen.

Antron's "booth"

Henning Bloech

UPDATE — Thanks to Andrew's comment (below), I went to have a look at Forbo's booth. Turns out that they'd unboothed so well that I'd walked right by the day before. There were a couple tables — one with two computer stations set up on it — in an area that had some flooring tiles and sheet laid down. The tablecloths did say "Forbo" in big letters, and there was obvious signage in the corners on easels, so I don't really have a good excuse for missing it... I guess the fancy displays work for people in a state of overload. Anyway, Andrew was right — this one absolutely deserves mention too. I spoke with Eric Bower, northeast regional manager for Forbo Flooring Systems, and he explained how they reduced their booth's carbon footprint from 12,000 pounds to a slim 906. Listen.

Forbo's "booth"

2008-11-19 n/a 11663 Three of the Products I Liked at Greenbuild Today Posted live from Greenbuild.

Vortex Fine Filters by Wisy, offered in the U.S. by Rainwater Management Solutions, passively filter debris in rainwater collected from drains and downspouts. An offset input on the top of the unit spins draining water around a self-cleaning stainless steel mesh filter; 90-something percent of the water is filtered and exits to holding tanks or more processing. (The rest goes somewhere else.) A first-flush occurs by design at each rainfall. (Until they pointed it out to me at this booth, I hadn't realized that the convention center we're in was the first in the U.S. to use siphonic drainage — another thing I like.)

Big Belly Solar compacting public trash cans and recycling kiosks. I saw these things last year, maybe even the year before, and they're still a favorite. The real savings they can offer aren't immediately apparent under the glare of novelty. They increase capacity by five times over ordinary receptacles of the same size; and they signal wirelessly for pick-up when full, further reducing — by lots — the emissions generated and energy expended for pickups. The standard black side panels and hopper cover are made from 80-100% post-consumer recycled ABS. The exterior is 85% recycled galvanized steel (which is about normal for steel anyway).

Tournesol VGM modular green wall planting system. No PVC! Their grid is 100% recycled polypro, with a steel mounting system. The soil depth... er, thickness... is a choice of either 4.5 or 8.5 inches — unusually generous for living wall systems, and great for the plants. This is a brand-new product that they rolled out at this show; it's not even on their website yet.
2008-11-19 n/a 11664 IES VE-Ware Add-Ons for SketchUp Posted live from Greenbuild. Yesterday, the president of Integrated Environmental Solutions (IES), Don McLean, stopped by our booth at Greenbuild to run through the features of his company's Virtual Environment energy and carbon footprint simulation tool for SketchUp and Revit. The new version of the software already works with the new features in SketchUp 7. While this was going on, an attendee whose office uses SketchUp for preliminary design and Revit for the hard stuff (an increasingly common configuration) happened by, and was surprised to find out the depth of information this software pulls out of SketchUp models. It's pretty amazing. There's the free version, which has limited capabilities, and purchasable modules for energy, lighting & daylighting, solar, value & cost, egress, mechanical, and more — or the whole schmear is available in a suite. Today Don and I had an unscheduled quick bite of lunch together up in the food court. Faced with the prospect of trying to explain his product here, I asked him to do it for me — using as few words as possible while providing the most meaning. He spoke extemporaneously while I scribbled: "It enables SketchUp users to incorporate more of their model in more effective ways into the analysis process." And then we talked about Greenbuild over the years, the rising trend of greenwash, the increasing difficulties that professionals new to green have in cutting through the crap, and European sitcoms. UPDATE: Check out the following from the Google SketchUp blog — if you're here in Boston, or know somebody who is, this could be a sweet thing:
Guess who's going to Greenbuild 2008? Well, not us, but our friends at IES are! We wanted to let you know because they are offering Google SketchUp Pro customers a discount on their new Architectural Suite and Architectural Suite Plus software. Here's the deal: If you go to the Greenbuild Expo in Boston next week, visit the IES Booth (#1447) and you'll receive $250 off their software using the promo code GB08. This offer is also available on their website. If you're going to the conference to learn about building green, you may as well save some green while you're there.
2008-11-19 n/a 11665 Greenbuild. It's a pretty big show. Posted live from Greenbuild.

A shot of the trade show floor. Click for bigger. Scuttlebutt is that total registrations are expected to be on the order of 30,000.
2008-11-19 n/a 11666 Vertical-Axis Wind Generator Area Lighting Posted live from Greenbuild.
At the Selux booth, I'm told that these will be introduced to the market shortly, intended for grid intertie.

Their standalone PV area lighting has been on the market for some time.
2008-11-19 n/a 11667 Stormwater Detention in a Parking Lot at The Boston Convention and Exhibition Center Posted live from Greenbuild.

Rock-filled channels between parking rows drain to a large detention area beside the lot.

In the background, rental cranes dance in the sky.

2008-11-19 n/a 11668 Breakfast for 10,000 with Desmond Tutu Posted live from Greenbuild. Stream it if you aren't here. (You'll have to set up a username and password.) About ten minutes before show time, the room (seriously, they tell me there's seating for 10,000) was about a quarter full, but people were pouring in. Ten minutes after start time, they still are. No biggie — if history is an indication, Desmond won't mount the stage until after a lot of self-congratulatory remarks from a handful of green building industry types. This year, they're serving breakfast right in the hall so people can take it to their seats. I think that's a good idea. It's also a good way to marshall the crowd into filling the front of the room first. (Has anybody heard preliminary registration numbers for this year's event?) I'll be watching the plenary from the press room, the same stream that I linked to above. And I fully expect to be mocked for that. My wife's cousin took a semester at sea, and Desmond joined them for a leg. I figure hearing her talk about that is closer than I'll ever get to him. And for this address, I don't feel like I need to be in the room to get just as elevated as the throng. I'll update this post below as thing progress. 1, 8:10. And the first update will be right now: the streaming video, at least on the press wifi at Greenbuild, sucks. A lot. I've gotten about four seconds of audio and a pixellated, generally frozen video. 2, 8:30. The stream is working better now, the only problem being out-of-sync audio. Rick Fedrizzi, USGBC head honcho, is talking about how green building will save the world. For most of us, the things he's saying are not new news — but the green building industry is growing by leaps and bounds, and it's important to bring new adopters up to speed as quickly as possible. 3, 8:40. There's a bunch of little kids singing, drumming, clapping, dancing. I'm not sure what's going on, but they're pretty good, doing some kind of African thing. The crowd loved 'em. OK, it was the African Children's Choir — they'll perform again during this plenary session, Rick promises. 4, 8:45. Desmond is live. 5, 9:00. He opened by chastising the crowd for being non-responsive — pretty funny — he was just loosening them up. He tells the crowd that he wants to "clap you," praises the movement for the changes it's introducing in the world. Green building has helped usher in a new era. He speaks to the global stage, of course — human rights, politics (he said "On November the 4th [election day, remember?], God looked down and said... God sort of rubbed God's hands... and said Thank you, thank you, because you just don't know what you have done for the world.") He smiles, and he's serious, and he likes to laugh, and he cares. And the audio on the stream is properly synced now. 6, 9:20. Desmond wraps up his address to great appreciation. It will surely be archived at the USGBC website, and I bet it hits YouTube before long. It was a fairly short address — 20 minutes — but it was just about right. The African Children's Choir is back on; this will be my last update to this post. 2008-11-19 n/a 11669 Affordable Housing Summit at Greenbuild - Report By Peter Yost and Allyson Wendt, posted live from Greenbuild. It's common knowledge that green building is anything but affordable. Or is it? You would have had a pretty hard time convincing the 100 or so folks at the USGBC's Affordable Housing Summit. They are convinced that green is actually affordable, both in terms of investment and operations budgets. Heather Clark — from one of the largest property owners of housing in the U.S., Winn Development — stated that water efficiency improvements alone in 76 of their properties cost only $376,000 and saved them over $1.2 M in the first year! In this case, they were paying the water bills, but even if the retrofits had benefited the tenants directly, saving money is still saving money. And saving water is saving water. I (Peter) have to confess that if I hear the term net present value one more time in the context of green building, I may pass out. Net present value is based on an assumed discount rate. And just what discount rate should we use for the next 5 years, much less 10, 20, 30, or 40 years? We have to stop supporting the myth that we can evaluate the "worth" of really long term investments in high performance building enclosures (energy-efficient and durable) by "predicting" just what the price will be 25 years from now for materials much less energy. We continue to do this when, in less than one business quarter, oil went from nearly $150 a barrel to nearly $50. Lenders, investors, insurers, appraisers — they all need to stop this Ouija board nonsense. Our hyperfocus on payback periods simply does not work for conventional buildings, much less green affordable ones. Another myth that got some busting at the Affordable Housing Summit was single-minded green building. We could call this "green damage." It happens when we focus on just energy efficiency and ignore moisture. It happens when we reduce green building to the right product selections rather than the right construction processes that go with those materials. Considerable time was spent discussing ways to document and value comprehensive building performance, rather than just one or two aspects of it. While Peter was learning about net present value and green damage, I (Allyson) was learning about the struggles of building green when you can't pass the incremental costs onto your clients, homeowners below the median income. Payback figures don't mean much to the developers in these cases, since the savings are realized by the homeowner, who hasn't paid for the up-front costs. As we enter a recession, finding funding for all projects is getting more difficult, and "extras" like solar hot water or super insulation are almost out of the question. And certification? Unless you're lucky enough to get a grant, forget it! The summit attendees spent the afternoon in ten groups: charrettes for a wide range of real housing projects, ranging from hundred-plus unit partial rehabs to one single family detached Habitat for Humanity (HFH) home on Nantucket. It felt to me (Peter, in the HFH Nantucket group) that we did a lot of green wondering and wandering. But interestingly, our group and the others felt that they had learned a ton — from what in the world is a vapor profile to how USGBC and The Home Depot Foundation financially support LEED certification for affordable housing projects. In my (Allyson's) group, we were looking at a retrofit of an old mill building in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Un-insulated brick walls, solid wood floors, older double-pane windows — and restrictions because of historic building tax credits. The group discussed options for insulating the walls and insulating the units acoustically from each other. The design was already pretty far along, so we probably didn't affect the architect's choices much, but it was helpful to think through the issues as a group. I think we all learned quite a bit. The long and short of it is this: of all those who need durable, low maintenance, energy and water efficient homes, it is the folks dedicating the most of their income to those same costs that need green building. We can't afford for green building NOT to be affordable! For more information from the Affordable Housing Summit, go to the LEED for Homes website next week. 2008-11-19 n/a 11670 To the after-party Posted live from Greenbuild. Our BuildingGreen after-party starts in about a half-hour, and I'm the designated greeter/bouncer; about 300 people are expected. (It was decided to have our after-party on the first night, which I think was a darned good idea.) So probably no more posts from here tonight (from me anyway) unless I find some active brain cells and wifi. UPDATE - three pics after the jump...

2008-11-18 n/a 11671 Scoop! Breaking News - TimberSIL Wins EPA Approval Posted live from Greenbuild. We're fans of TimberSIL. We're such big fans that we named it a Top-10 product in 2004. And now, despite efforts by the chemically treated wood industry to have it classified as a pesticide (as well as a nearly disastrous situation with a licensee a while ago), they've received some news that should turn the tide. It's a few minutes before the expo floor opens at Greenbuild, and Karen Slimak, the environmental chemist who invented TimberSIL, has given BuildingGreen the scoop. It hasn't been announced anywhere else yet — so here's a world debut for you: After a four-year assessment, despite the aggressive lobbying of traditional wood treatment chemical companies which led to an unusually thorough investigation, the EPA has determined TimberSIL to be a nontoxic physical barrier product exempt from pesticide regulations. What's more, this is the first time the EPA has ever expressly stated that any product of this sort qualifies as a barrier product — though it had determined that such a thing could potentially exist within its regulations over two decades ago. Evidently somebody at the EPA 20 years back had some foresight. Specifically, TimberSIL is the first material to qualify for the 40 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) Section 152.1 Barrier Exemption which defines such products as "intended to exclude pests only by providing a physical barrier against pest access." Additionally, a letter signed by Frank T. Sanders, director of the Antimicrobial Division of the Office of Pesticide Programs of the EPA, states that "the product has no toxic mode of action." In other words, TimberSIL is everything its proponents have claimed it is all along. Congratulations! 2008-11-18 n/a 11673 @bglive Tweeting at #greenbuild Hey, you Twitterers (there must be a few of you out there)... in addition to posting here, we'll be microblogging from Greenbuild. You don't need an account to follow along. Additionally, there's a #greenbuild hash that people are already using — you can follow everyone's Greenbuild Tweets here. 2008-11-17 n/a 11681 BuildingGreen — Sessions at Greenbuild We'll be at Greenbuild in force this year — I think it's more than a dozen of us — checking out your booths, staffing our own (come see us at #1728, almost smack-dab in the middle), going to sessions... and giving a bunch of sessions as well. On Monday the 17th, during the two-day Green Affordable Housing Summit that happens before Greenbuild proper actually starts (but which is a little-known part of it), Peter Yost is chairing a panel on residential retrofit and rehab. My info is a little fuzzy, but it seems that our own Allyson Wendt may be on that panel, or somehow else involved. On Tuesday, Nadav Malin does a preconference LEED workshop on "Costs and Returns." Peter Yost pops up again on Wednesday at 2:00 to teach education session BL01 in room 104ABC, titled "Call it REGREEN," about the Regreen residential remodeling guidelines. Also on Wednesday, also in the 2:00 time slot, session BL07 in room 156ABC — "Nutrition Labels for Products: Taking Control of Deciding What's Green for You" — features our ace researcher Jennifer Atlee. The next day, Thursday, Nadav Malin sits on a panel talking about lessons learned from a couple case studies of high-profile LEED buildings. This is Specialty Update session SU16 in room 160ABC, at 2:00. And Alex Wilson has back-to-back presentations on Thursday. He'll announce the annual Top Ten Green Products during a Specialty Update session that also begins at 2:00... though, oddly, I can't quite figure out where. This is generally a pretty popular thing. When I find out, I'll post an update here. UPDATE: Room 104 ABC, on Thursday from 2 - 3 pm. Then at 4:30, Alex sits on a panel for a Homebuilder's Day presentation titled "Green Products and Technologies: Making Sound Choices in the Age of Hype" — session BR3d in room 257A. When Friday rolls around, Tristan Korthals-Altes is on the panel for a 9:00 a.m. session, PL16 in room 204AB, on "Greening our Historic Legacy: Sustainability and Preservation Standards." And finally, also on Friday, Peter Yost is giving a half-day workshop on those Regreen residential remodeling guidelines. 2008-11-11 n/a 11682 Getting ready for Greenbuild Here comes Greenbuild again. It keeps getting bigger. For instance, last year there were 480 exhibitors in the expo hall... this year, over 800. I've got the expo hall on the brain. Like last year, I've been mapping which of the exhibitors do and don't have products listed in GreenSpec. There's about 300 — something over a third of the hall. Frankly, I feel really good that there's about 500 exhibitors at this year's Greenbuild that don't meet the high GreenSpec standards. A couple days ago I wrote here that "GreenSpec is a 'best of the best' directory reserved for the top 10% or so of the most environmentally preferable products available... intended to be a reference to the best stuff we know about, and a launching pad for additional research," and that "Attempting to create and maintain a fully comprehensive compendium of everything that's even slightly green would not only be practically undoable, it would actually be much less useful in defining high benchmarks." Sure, there's undoubtedly a quite a good few new products that we'll learn about there, and some of them will end up added to the directory. Most of them won't. Here's a graphic of the expo floor; booths highlighted in green represent manufacturers with one or more products in GreenSpec. The variety of booth sizes is another encouraging sign to me — big fish or small fry, it doesn't matter.

(Stay alert! Here it Comes: The Year of Greenwash)

2008-11-10 n/a 11487 Desmond Tutu and Green Building? The U.S. Green Building Council has announced its Greenbuild keynote speaker for 2008: Archbishop Desmond Tutu. It's an interesting choice, following on the heels of Vice President Al Gore being given half of the Nobel Prize for peace, that reinforces the connection between social justice and environmental performance. What will Tutu have to say about green building? I think he might have something to say about globalism, about the effects that choices in the U.S. have on countries that are very far away geographically and culturally. He may have something to say about choosing materials based on their social implications as well their environmental ones. I think he might have something to say about how energy efficiency and water efficiency actually have a great deal to do with the quest for peace. I had the opportunity to hear Tutu speak in South Africa when I visited there in college--he spoke to a couple hundred people and riveted their attention with his hope that the humanity in people could overcome the institutionalized racism and violence that had long plagued his country. Tutu has much to say, not only about peace and change in his own country and continent, but about change happens. How will change happen in the building industry? How will we sort out environmental claims from environmental reality? How will we make our buildings and the materials in them safer for people even as we make them better for the environment? I'm sure that Tutu will have some guidance for us, and I look forward to hearing it in November. 2008-01-07 n/a