We are passionate about building a sustainable future. While becoming more ecologically-minded at home has been easier with products such as compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL’s), low-flow showerheads, solar panels, bamboo and cork flooring, no or low VOC paints, and basic recycling systems, it still can be daunting when faced with so many so-called “green” product choices. How do homeowners ascertain what is really friendly to the environment and what is greenwashing?
How green do we want our building projects to be? The National Association of Home Builders released figures from a survey of multi-family builders and developers:
• 74% of respondents said that their buyers and renters are willing to pay more for green amenities, although they’re willing to pay just 2% more.
• 89% of respondents said they are currently installing energy-efficient appliances and lighting in their projects
• 79% are installing low-e windows
• 64% are incorporating recycled materials
• 50% are installing greater insulation than required by local code (that figure jumps to 70% among respondents based on the West Coast)
Jetson Green recently posted an article with the Top 10 Building Products of 2009. The above statistics are evidence that Americans want their homes to be more eco-friendly. Sustainable Industries selected “Top 10 Green Building Products” based on several criteria, including their environmental performance, scalability/market impact, innovativeness, design aesthetic, value and compatibility with the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).
I am excited about preserving our environment, and this goal may be more attainable for builders and homeowners when choosing these Top 10 Building Products:
1. Acadia Combined Heating and Cooling System Made by Hallowell International is a heating and cooling system that maintains 200 percent efficiency even when outdoor temperatures drop well below zero. When heating oil prices were sky high, Acadia users saved up to 70 percent in energy costs.
2. ec-H20 , made by Tennant Co., is a scrubbing cleaning method that requires no chemicals. ec-H2O uses tap water to clean virtually any substance from any surface. Each machine reduces water usage by 70 to 80 percent– we could potentially save 245 million gallons of water each year if ec-H20 were installed in all new floor-cleaning machines!
3. InSpire Wall , made by ATAS International , is simple, elegant technology that essentially uses the power of the sun to heat outdoor air before sending it indoors, thereby slashing energy use while boosting indoor air quality. Depending on what kind of heating fuel is being replaced, this product can reduce heating costs by up to $5 for each square foot of InSpire Wall installed.
4. kama EEBS Structural Systems , made by kama Energy Efficient Building Systems Inc. , integrate light gauge metal stud framing system with expanded polystyrene insulation in a proprietary design that eliminates thermal bridging and helps to create a tight, energy-efficient building envelope.
5. PlybooPure Bamboo Plywood , made by Smith & Fong Co. , is a bamboo product — bamboo had not previously been eligible for FSC certification, because it is technically a grass, but in January 2008, after two years of lobbying, Smith & Fong propelled it to its deserved recognition and caused it to appear on this year’s Top 10 sustainability list.
6. RainTube , made by GLI Systems Inc. , received more Top 10 nominations than any other product this year. RainTube is a rain gutter filter made of 100 percent post-consumer high-density polyethylene – old milk jugs, for example. This product is also Cradle to Cradle-certified, meaning that GLI Systems Inc had to develop a Post-Use Recovery Plan that goes out with every product.
7. Separett Villa , made by Separett , is a urine-diverting composting toilet – 100 percent PVC fee – that uses no water and keeps solids separate from liquids, reducing odor and making it possible to reuse waste and urine for composting and fertilizing. The Separett Villa can be deployed where no plumbing exists, allowing for a greater reach of the technology.
8. Serious Windows , made by Serious Materials , are so efficient they can potentially eliminate a building’s heating system by allowing wasted heat from building appliances to serve as the main heat source. The windows have a full-frame R value of at least five and up to 11, which can cut a building’s energy bills by up to 50 percent per month.
9. Solatube Daylighting Systems, made by Solatube International , catches direct sunlight and redirects it down an adjustable-length tube, bringing daylight to parts of buildings that would not otherwise have access to natural light. The Visa, California-based company recently launched a product specifically designed for commercial applications, making it ideal for large-roofed warehouses and manufacturing facilities, as well as retail stores and schools – all places that have been shown to benefit from increased daylight, as daylight is linked to higher worker productivity, decreased absenteeism and better retail sales.
10. Your old light fixture, restored by Eleek, is always a sustainable solution. Eleek is the only business to make the Top 10 Green Building Products list all four years. Though not exactly a product, Eleek’s lighting restoration service speaks to the important concept of the re-use of existing goods. When Eleek restores a light fixture, every piece of a fixture is taken apart, repaired and restored to its original splendor. Eleek updates wiring to comply with modern standards and will install a new lamp base so it works with energy-efficient bulbs such as CFLs and LEDs.
Ronnie Citron-Fink lives in New York with her husband, two children (when they come home to the nest), two dogs and a cat. Ronnie is a teacher and a writer. She has been a contributing writer for Family Fun magazine. She currently writes articles about education and home design. Her writings are in four books including Family Fun Home and Some Delights of the Hudson Valley.
By Ronnie Citron-Fink