Sustainability is certainly not a new term in the AEC industry, but has become popularized with the advent of LEED, and now more rigorous programs such as the WELL Building Standard and Living Building Challenge. Green building products are an essential pillar to sustainability that can affect the energy efficiency, water efficiency, air quality and the overall building’s impact on the environment.
What are Green Building Products?
The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) defines green building as the “planning, design, construction and operations of buildings with several central considerations: energy use, water use, indoor environmental quality, material selection and the building’s effects on its site.”
Green building products are an essential pillar to green building and sustainability that can help lower energy consumption, increase water efficiency, improve indoor air quality and overall reduce the building’s carbon footprint on the environment.
Green building products are often characterized by the following:
- Amount of recycled content within the material itself
- How the material was extracted from the environment
- Manufacturing process to make the product
- Location where the product was sourced in relation to the construction site
Another quality of green building products that has become more prominent lately in the face of the infamous Hurricane Katrina and now Hurricane Harvey, is its resiliency to natural disasters. For example, the National Ready Mix Concrete Association (NRMCA) has dedicated resources to this resiliency as the new sustainability entitled “Pathway to Resilience – A Guide to Developing a Community Action Plan.” The plan outlines how the building community can help prevent losses of life and decrease the occurrence of destruction in the wake of natural disasters by using resilient building products.
Driving Forces of Green Building Products
Amidst this wave of sustainable building practices, one can often question what is driving the need for more green building products. One answer lies in the increase of green building codes as set by the International Code Council (ICC) that develops codes and standards used in the design, construction and compliance processes to construct safe and sustainable buildings. The ICC even has a sector dedicated to green building codes known as the International Green Construction Codes (IgCC). The IgCC is touted as the first model code to include sustainability measures for the entire construction lifecycle from design to construction to certificate of occupancy to years after the buildings is in use.
These green building codes are causing municipalities, states and federal institutions alike to create mandates for sustainability for their buildings. For instance, the City of Denver passed the Executive Order 123 that states that “all buildings constructed, renovated, or maintained with City funds or using City bonding capacity are to be designed, constructed, operated, and maintained according to the principles outlined in the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, the United States Environmental Protection Agencies ENERGY STAR program, and other applicable best management practices for sustainability and energy efficiency.”
Another driving factor for green building products includes the people inhabiting these buildings. Millennials, which are currently the nation’s largest living generation, already at 76 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest reports, are being dubbed as the “Green Generation” and are one of the main drivers of sustainability. In a Neilson report, millennials are found to be willing to pay more for sustainable products and housing.
Innovative Green Building Products
The widespread usage of green building products is identified as one of the top green building trends for 2017 according to the Survival Renewable Energy group. Some of those green building materials include:
- Metal roofing – when applied in the appropriate manner, the material itself absorbs heat and can add to the energy efficiency of the building; in addition, the metal roofing itself is composed of recycled materials
- Solar power – solar panels that use natural energy sources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, like those used at the Denver International Airport, are taking center stage as a widely used green building product, especially after the most recent United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (NFCCC)
Other innovative green building products that improve sustainability include those that help increase a building’s energy efficiency and decrease stormwater runoff. Below are some examples from the Top 10 Green Building Products for 2017 as identified by Construction Dive.
- Nextek Power Hub Driver – addresses the massive energy consumption in the conversion of alternating current (AC) to direct current (DC).
- This product serves as an all-in-one AC to DC power supply and minimizes system failures which can lead to cost savings
- Bro-Microbics d-Rain Joint Rainwater filter drain – this green building product mitigates stormwater runoff issues by serving as an expansion joint in a concrete slab that provides a means for subsurface drainage.
Tella Firma Concrete System as a Viable Green Building Product
Green building products can also be found in a building’s foundation. Tella Firma is a suspended concrete foundation system that is environmentally friendly with no chemicals used and minimal waste.
Associations like the American Concrete Institute (ACI), which RMG is a member of, are leading the way to educate the industry about the structural integrity and resiliency of concrete based structures. For instance, concrete is found to be a durable material that provides longevity in buildings with little to no maintenance. As a concrete based foundation system, Tella Firma protects the slab and structure from the shrinking and swelling of our Colorado soils.
To take advantage of this green building product in your next project, schedule your Tella Firma consultation today!