By Harry Spaulding
Materials such as insulation, paints, stains, carpeting, flooring and countertops can produce significant off-gassing in the home so manufacturers have responded with some environmentally friendly innovations.
The idea behind green building is to increase the efficiency of buildings and their use of resources like energy, water and building materials to protect human health and the environment. The U.S. Green Building Council is leading the movement with its LEED program — Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The LEED Green Building Rating System is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of green buildings.
LEED promotes sustainability through five key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. Fortunately, the list of product offerings that address these topics is constantly growing.
A carbon footprint is a measure of the impact human activities have on the environment in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases produced, measured in units of carbon dioxide. Fiberglass insulation tends to have a high carbon footprint from energy intensive production, and some have associated health concerns in terms of off-gassing. Now there are some interesting insulation alternatives to pick from.
Dryvit Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems (EIFS) is a cladding system for commercial and residential construction, offering a highly energy-efficient, lightweight engineered cladding system in a vast array of finish options. Dryvit is available in a number of system configurations to match any climate or building condition. In testing by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Dryvit proved to be 84 percent more energy efficient than the next best performing cladding material. When a building uses Dryvit’s systems, energy consumption for heating and cooling the building is reduced on average by 20 to 40 percent.
Tex-Cote Super-Cote Cool Wall coatings from Textured Coatings of America Inc. have been shown to reduce air-conditioning demand by nearly 22 percent. The exterior coating’s heat reflective finish reduces exterior wall temperatures by as much as 40 degrees F when compared to traditional paints and coatings, and they lower interior temperatures in both concrete block and stucco and wood-frame homes. The coatings utilize the same heat reflective technology used by the military to reduce the heat signature of planes and other vehicles. Since the increase in reflectivity occurs in the infrared spectrum, it is invisible to the naked eye. These thick coatings are available in more than 500 heat reflective colors and can be applied to virtually any type of surface including stucco, wood, masonry and fiber cement.
“A dark-colored home absorbs as much as 90 percent of the solar radiation that strikes it, and even white walls can absorb 70 percent of the solar radiation that strikes them,” explains Jay Haines, president and chief executive officer of Textured Coatings of America Inc. “By reflecting this infrared radiation rather than absorbing it, the Cool Wall exterior coatings dramatically reduce the load on a home’s air-conditioning system.”
InsultCot offers insulation made from 80 percent cotton fibers and 20 percent polyester. The product is safe, efficient and environmentally friendly. InsulCot insulation contains no hazardous materials and requires no respiratory or safety equipment for installation. And installing InsulCot allows homeowners to claim a tax credit of 10 percent of the cost of energy saving home improvements.
Using GreenFiber’s Cocoon cellulose insulation contributes to LEED certification. Made with reclaimed newsprint, GreenFiber’s natural fiber insulation products consist of 85 percent recycled content with the remaining content consisting of fire-retardant and stabilizing additives. Based on data from the National Solid Wastes Management Association, recovered newsprint is one of the largest components of the residential waste stream. Insulating a typical 1,500-sq.-ft. home with cellulose insulation recovers as much newsprint as an individual will consume in 40 years. The products contain no asbestos, formaldehyde, mineral wool or fiberglass. Cocoon is treated with permanent fire-retardants to meet and exceed the ICC standards for a Class 1/A fire rated building materials.
To help customers select paint based on green coating standards, Sherwin Williams created their “GreenSure” designation. The company’s Duration Home Interior line features the GreenSure designation for environmentally preferred products with maximum performance. This interior finish promises superior washability and burnish resistance, and is available in matte, satin and semigloss finishes along with deep, vivid accent colors. A patented cross-linking formula prevents stains from penetrating, and this finish is antimicrobial so it inhibits growth of mildew.
MechoShade’s Mecho/5 with EcoVeil shade cloth is a complete solar shading system that is an environmentally friendly system. Mecho/5 is a manual solar shading system that installs easily and operates smoothly with accessories including fascia, pockets, closures and side channels. The EcoVeil shade cloth is made from a new material — a thermoplastic olefin (TPO) based yarn — and is washable, UV-resistant and flame-retardant. Mecho/5 is also antimicrobial, does not support staph and mildew and contains no VOCs, so it does not contribute to sick building syndrome.
Reclaiming the Floor
According to Frank Endrenyi, vice president of sustainable development for Mohawk, “our studies show that half of U.S. consumers now recycle either bottles or newspapers. In 2004, 21 percent said they voted for candidates in part based on their environmental records. Ninety-nine percent of school children now have access to environmental classes.”
For Mohawk SmartStrand, petroleum is substituted with corn sugar to create Bio-PDO — a key ingredient in the carpeting made with DuPont Sorona polymer. SmartStrand promises superior stain resistance for substances including mustard, red wine, bleach, acne medication, and others. Mohawk recently launched a new umbrella program called “Greenworks” that places all green projects under a single platform for their customers and shareholders.
EcoTimber is the first flooring company in North America to offer bamboo flooring made with formaldehyde-free adhesives as a standard product. EcoTimber uses top-quality mature bamboo stalks and a low-VOC European adhesive that falls far below the European E1 standard for indoor air quality. The flooring is prefinished with an aluminum oxide enhanced acrylated urethane system with a hardened acrylic anti-scratch topcoat to protect against abrasion and scratching.
WaterSense is a partnership program sponsored by the EPA. Its mission is to protect the future of our nation’s water supply by promoting and enhancing the market for water-efficient products and services. Many manufacturers offer products that meet WaterSense standards, but some go above and beyond the standards for water conservation with maximum efficiency.
Toto’s Aquia Dual Flush Toilet allows the user to select the amount of water the toilet flushes: 0.9 gal. per flush (gpf) or 1.6 gpf. This feature matches water consumption with the needs of the user. Aquia is designed for residential installations where the users understand and appreciate the function of the dual flush system.
The Kohler San Raphael is the company’s first one-piece, 1.0-gpf high-efficiency toilet with pressure assist technology. The toilet uses compressed air within the reservoir to propel water to the rim and a siphon jet for robust flushing power. The 1.0 has the potential to save a household of four between 7,000 and 10,000 gal. of water annually. The San Raphael toilet features a sleek one-piece design, with Comfort Height seating and an elongated bowl for ease of use. This toilet has garnered the EPA’s WaterSense label.
Kohler also offers cast iron products that are comprised of 93 percent recycled and reclaimed material. The company’s cast iron bathroom and kitchen sinks, bathtubs and shower receptors come in more vibrant color options than any other material. Cast iron won’t chip, dent, crack, stain or lose its luster.
There are many green options when it comes to countertops and most integrate recycled content into their make-up. Recycled glass and reclaimed paper are excellent environmental choices for durable, nontoxic, resource-efficient countertops.
Vetrazzo countertops have mixed colors of recycled glass chips embedded in a masonry binder for a terrazzo-like look. Vetrazzo is available in a wide variety of colors and in thicknesses from 1 to 1 1/2 in. The manufacturer has certified each product contains 80 to 90 percent post-consumer waste and is proud to say they recycled over 100 tons of glass last year. Vetrazzo is an environmentally friendly alternative to stone and resin countertop materials.
PaperStone is a new composite surface material that is designed to give the beauty of stone, the strength of steel, with ease of workmanship. The surface is smooth to the touch and features the look of soapstone or slate using a proprietary blend of more than 50 percent post-consumer recycled paper and resin, and is offered in a variety of sizes from 30 in. up to 5 ft. PaperStone countertops are heat-tolerant, stain-resistant and repairable.
EnOcean has developed the world’s first battery-free wireless control modules to integrate energy harvesting, sensors and RF communication in a single, powerful solution. The company’s goal is to help bring truly sustainable, green buildings within reach. The modules eliminate battery purchasing, maintenance and disposal. The three modules are the PTM 200C for wall-mounted light switches, the TCM 200 Transceiver and the STM 110 Sensor Transmitter. EnOcean provides the modules to original equipment manufacturers who package them into their own products.
“EnOcean control modules create their own electricity and you can’t get much more sustainable than that,” says Jim O’Callaghan, EnOcean vice president of sales and marketing.
The DOE predicts that within the next 10 years, LED lighting will be the primary light source in residential settings as it offers energy efficiency and environmental friendliness. LED Lighting Fixtures Inc. (LLF) offers a 6-in. down light for residential and commercial markets. The fixture is recessed and delivers approximately 650 lumens from a fixture at 10 to 12 watts (approximately 60 lumens per watt). The product features a unique installation mechanism that allows it to be used in a standard 6-in. recessed housing and it is dimmable.
Going green means finding the balance between sustainability and practicality. Now there’s a wide array of products on the market that surpass green requirements and offer style and efficiency. And as the green movement continues to grow, so will the product selection.