FOR THE FIFTH consecutive year, BuildingGreen Inc. announced its top 10 green building products at the U.S. Green Building Council's Greenbuild Conference, held this year in Denver in mid-November. The publisher of Environmental Building News, a monthly newsletter, and the GreenSpec Directory, a national directory of green building products, creates its list from products added to the directory and covered by the newsletter over the previous year. This year's list (see “BuildingGreen's Top 10 Products for 2006,” page 40) includes materials, glazing, an air conditioning system, products for greater water efficiency, a system for salvaging timber, and a process by which building owners can earn renewable energy credits.
“Part of the purpose in recognizing the top 10 products is to convey the breadth of green building products entering the market,” says Alex Wilson, executive editor of Environmental Building News and co-editor of the directory. Yet keeping up with what's available can be a challenge at times. In just the past year at least 250 products have been added to the GreenSpec database (which now has more than 2,100 listings), and Wilson admits there is a backlog of products being reviewed and written up. “More and more companies are coming to us with products to evaluate,” he says.
Not all of those companies are acting in good faith, however. In an effort to get in on the growing business of sustainability, some manufacturers engage in “greenwashing”—portraying a product as environmentally friendly when in fact it is not, or at least not to the degree touted. Wilson says the issue has “probably gotten more common” but notes that BuildingGreen's editors and researchers approach manufacturer claims with a “healthy skepticism.”
BuildingGreen publishes “very specific” criteria for what constitutes a green product, says Wilson (go to www.buildinggreen.com). The five basic principles are products made with salvaged, recycled, or agricultural waste content; products that conserve natural resources; products that avoid toxic or other emissions; products that save energy or water; and products that contribute to a safe and healthy built environment. BuildingGreen's criteria are reviewed and modified at least yearly, Wilson says, usually to tighten the standards.
But BuildingGreen does not do any testing itself. Instead, it relies on certifications from such independent organizations as Green Seal (www.greenseal.org), the Greenguard Environmental Institute (www.greenguard.org), and Scientific Certification Systems (www.scscertified.com), which verify environmental claims or measure environmental performance. Editors and researchers also talk with users and building professionals to learn whether products perform as claimed.
“Because we don't carry advertising in any of our publications, and because manufacturers do not pay for listings in [the directory], we are able to be fully objective and independent in our designation of products as green,” says Wilson.
Learn more about the top 10 products at www.buildinggreen.com.