Building Products Farmington NM
Choosing Building Products
Now that winter is almost history, many of us will turn our thoughts to those construction or remodeling projects we’ve been putting off. Whether you’re redesigning your kitchen or bath, installing a sprinkler system or deciding between different siding options, in order to make your home as eco-friendly as possible you should carefully evaluate the attributes of the different products and materials that are available before you make your final choice.
With the tremendous growth of the greenbuilding industry over the past few years, there is much “greenwashing” creeping into the marketplace. Simply stated, greenwashing happens when companies or individuals make claims about a product with respect to its environmental benefits or impacts that are either false or misleading. You should avoid materials and their manufacturers who make these types of claims.
With that thought in mind, here are three factors to consider when evaluating building products for your home projects.
1. Recycled content. An important feature of many greenbuilding products, recycled content can add to the sustainability of your project, because part of the make-up of the products comes from waste material that would have otherwise been sent to a landfill. Generally, building products made with post-consumer recycled content are preferable to those made with post-industrial recycled content because post-consumer recycled materials are more likely to be diverted from landfills.
Post-consumer content can come from almost any recycled waste from our homes. Examples are newspapers used to make homasote sheet goods for decking and insulation, two-liter plastic soda pop bottles used to make carpeting and glass bottles used to make attractive countertops.
Post-industrial content is waste from industrial operations, such as fly ash from coal-fired power plants, which is used as an additive in concrete. Other examples include wood chips used for engineered lumber and clothing material from blue jean factories, which is used to make cotton-fiber batt insulation.
Many manufacturers have realized that the greenbuilding industry is viable and have started making high-quality products that contain recycled content. These products do not necessarily cost more and are readily available throughout North America, so there is really no excuse for not considering recycled content products for your next project.
2. VOC emissions. Another key material component to consider is the amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) a building product emits. When you’re painting and you smell the paint, you’re actually smelling VOCs, and much like concrete continues to cure over time, paints, adhesives and other coatings continue to off-gas VOCs for many months after installation.
VOCs can negatively affect human health and should be avoided, so use products that do not release significant pollutants into the home. Options include zero- and low-VOC paints, caulks and adhesives, as well as products with very low emissions, such as nonformaldehyde manufactured wood products.
You can find sources and more information about low-VOC products in the GreenSpec directory, which is located online within the www.buildinggreen.com website. The directory provides many pertinent articles about VOC content, and illustrates how low the VOC level needs to be for a given product to qualify for inclusion in GreenSpec.
Ideally, any standard regarding VOCs should be based not only on simple VOC content, but also on resultant VOC concentrations in the space after a given period of time. The EPA is working on such data for paints (including a way to factor in higher impacts for more toxic VOCs), but this information is not yet available.
3. Place of manufacture. Reusing materials or purchasing from within your local geographic location can also pay big greenbuilding dividends. For example, products salvaged from the demolition of an existing building and reused in their current state can be considered a greenbuilding product.
Energy and resources are saved when a building material is reused. There are many salvaged building materials, including bricks, steel beams, millwork, framing lumber, siding, piping, plumbing fixtures and hardware, that are commonly reused. These products are usually available regionally through demolition sites or salvaged building material yards.
Local or regional building products that are sourced within close proximity to the project location save the fuel required to transport materials from other parts of the world. Using this strategy will also help to boost your local economy and add to the sustainability of your project.
As an example, I recently evaluated some exterior siding options for a client who wanted to use the most sustainable building materials possible. After considering different types of siding, he chose fiber-cement siding as the best option for his project, and then started to zero in on manufacturers who produced the product.
One siding manufacturer claimed to have a high volume of fly ash in its formula for the siding mix, which when taken at face value seemed to be the most logical choice, as fly ash is a recycled industrial waste product. The use of fly ash also allows for the reduction of cement in the mix, which reduces the embodied energy required to produce the fiber-cement siding product.
We were ready to choose that product, but then evaluated another fiber-cement siding product that did not use fly ash as a component of the mix design. However, this manufacturer had facilities located all across the United States, where the product was produced. Therefore, the material could be shipped to many different project sites throughout the country without burning as much fuel. To make a long story short, the second product proved to be the more sustainable choice, as many gallons of fuel would ultimately be saved because of shorter transport distances.
As you can see, many factors have to be considered when evaluating sustainable building products. What works for a particular situation today might not make as much sense tomorrow. So carefully consider product attributes such as recycled material content, VOC emissions and the location of manufacture to make your next project a green as possible.
Charlie Popeck is the president of Green Ideas Environmental Building Consultants and a contributing editor to Smart HomeOwner. He can be reached at 602-512-0557 or Charlie@Egreenideas.com . Green Ideas specializes in helping design, construction and facility management teams understand and implement building science and sustainability into their projects.