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
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
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
- Products that either reduce heating and cooling loads, such as
building orientation, high-quality windows, and insulation.
- Products that use less energy, such as Energy Star-rated
appliances, efficient heating and cooling systems and florescent
- Products that produce energy, such as solar electricity
- Products that conserve water above and beyond what is required
by law, such as dual-flush toilets and under-sink flow restrictors
- Products that consume less water, such as native landscaping
and drought-tolerant plantings.
Contribute to a Safe, Healthy Indoor
- Products that don’t release significant pollutants into the
building, such as no-VOC paints, formaldehyde-free cabinets, and
non-toxic caulks, sealers and adhesives, CRI Green Label carpets
- Products that block the spread of or remove indoor pollutants,
such as duct mastic, effective ventilation equipment, and air and
- Products that warn occupants of health hazards, such as Carbon
Monoxide detectors and humidity sensors.
Protect Natural Resources
- Products with recycled content, such as carpet, tile,
wallboard, and wood replacements made from polystyrene.
- Products made from agricultural waste material, such as wheat
straw, sunflower stalks, and rice hulls.
- Products that reduce material use, such as drywall clips and
concrete pigments that turn concrete slabs into finished floors.
- Products made from rapidly renewable materials, such as bamboo
flooring, natural linoleum, cork and textiles made from wool,
sisal, hemp and organic cotton.
- Wood products from sustainably managed forests, certified
according to the principles of the Forest Stewardship Council
- Salvaged products, such as bricks, lumber and plumbing
Reduce Buildings’ Impact on the
- Products that mitigate the effects of stormwater runoff, such
as permeable pavers, green roofs and cisterns.
- Products that provide easy access to alternative modes of
transportation such as bike racks and storage units.
- Products that do not require chemical pesticides or treatment,
such as plastic lumber, physical termite barriers and native
- Products that contain no dioxin-producing polyvinylchoride
(PVC) or ozone-depleting HCFCs.