The products and materials in Global Green USA's Green Building Resource Center save energy, conserve water, protect natural resources, contribute to a healthy indoor environment, and reduce buildings' impact on the community.
Because each project is different and each person's reasons for building green are different, priorities need to be set when selecting specific products.It is important to carefully compare the characteristics of the products displayed in the Center. The choices you make will be the result of these comparisons and often priorities differ depending on the specific environmental issues in your community.
For example, in one place the most pressing concern might be overflowing landfills while in another it could be contaminated stormwater runoff. For children and some individuals, limiting exposure to toxic chemicals in the home is a major priority. Understanding these differing priorities is key in determining what green material is right for your project.
Green building is as much about design strategy as about selecting green materials.Integrated design -- thinking about how a building works as a system and designing that system to be environmentally-friendly -- is a key part of green building. Certain products, particularly those that deal with energy, are not inherently green but can used in ways that enhance the environmental performance of a building.
For example, a dual-pane, low-E window may not be green in terms of its material components or manufacturing process, but if used strategically it can reduce energy use by maximizing the collection of winter sunlight and blocking out the summer sun. Some design considerations that will help you choose the right materials include building orientation, use patterns, durability, and local availability.
There is no perfect green material. Trade-offs are inevitable!Building materials have multiple impacts on the environment, both positive and negative. One common way to assess these impacts is through Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), which considers the full range of a product's environmental impacts, from resource extraction to manufacture and then through installation and ultimate disposal. This type of analysis allows for comprehensive and multidimensional product comparisons. With flooring for example, LCA weighs the resource-extraction impacts and durability of hardwoods with the manufacturing impacts, emissions during use and potential recyclability of carpet.
Defining whether a building material is "green" is not an exact science. But there is still a role for objective analysis and testing.Most of the materials in the Center are included in GreenSpec, a database of approximately 2000 environmentally-friendly building products published by the Environmental Building News. GreenSpec screens its products based on standards and testing procedures established by third-party groups with an interest in green building. This scientific analysis helps to separate green products from "greenwashed" products.
Within the Center, those products which have made it through this filter are divided into five basic green building categories.
Contribute to a Safe, Healthy Indoor Environment
Protect Natural Resources
Reduce Buildings' Impact on the Community
Independent Certification Programs:Third-party certification and screening programs related to green building.
Carpet and Rug Institute Green Label -- A testing and labeling program for "low-emitting" carpet, underlayment, adhesives, and vacuum cleaners.
Energy Star -- A labeling program for energy-efficient homes, building products, and appliances.
Greenguard -- An independent testing and labeling program for "low-emitting" furniture and finish materials.
Greenseal -- a life cycle assessment based labeling program for building products and green operations and maintenance procedures.
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design -- A certification program for buildings that achieve performance targets in the five green building categories.
Scientific Certification Systems -- Independently certifies that products meet the EPA's environmentally preferable standards for federal government purchases; also certifies manufactures specific claims on product content and emissions levels.