Greenbuild and San Francisco: Sustainable Superheroes

The LEED-certified San Francisco International Airport

What do you get when you combine the world’s largest green building conference with one of the most sustainable cities in the U.S.? Well, we’re about to find out as we pack our bags for the Greenbuild 2012 International Conference and Expo.

Ever since the City of San Francisco made the bold move to ban plastic shopping bags five years ago, there’s been somewhat of a spotlight on the city and its environmental initiatives. Fast forward to 2012 and you’ll find that their commitment to a healthy, sustainable community continues to thrive.

Last month, San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee announced that the city is diverting 80 percent of waste from landfill disposal — the highest rate in the country. In addition, a new city ordinance will require commercial buildings to publicly share information on energy performance.

According to the Northern California Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, the area boasts an impressive 384 LEED-certified buildings, which includes the Moscone Center — the first convention center on the West Coast to achieve LEED Gold certification and Greenbuild 2012 venue.

On a lighter note, environmental issues appear to be deeply engrained in the city’s culture. There’s a robust lineup of sustainability-related “meet ups” on an ongoing basis. Many restaurants feature menus with locally grown ingredients. They even host an organic beer and wine pavilion at the annual San Francisco Green Festival.

All in all, we’re eager to land at the San Francisco International Airport — also LEED certified, of course!

Greenbuild 2012 Here We Come!

Moscone Center in San Francisco

The Saint-Gobain family of businesses are on their way to the “city by the bay” for Greenbuild 2012 with some very exciting, innovative products that are ideal for green building projects. Products such as VOC-scavenging materials, photovoltaic roofing technology, highly-sustainable countertops and hybrid insulation solutions will be on display along with information on high-profile installations.

You will not want to miss seeing the new carbon calculator developed by CertainTeed Building Scientist Lucas Hamilton and Sustainable Solutions Corporation which will make its debut at the show in Booth #4359N.

We’ve also launched a special landing page just for Greenbuild 2012 that serves as a hub for people interested in following the show. Whether you are at Greenbuild or back in your office, you will want to bookmark  to check out the posts from our bloggers about the show.  You will get a ‘feet on the ground’ view of the exhibitors, demonstrations and much more.

Join us in sharing thoughts and insights from the show by using hashtag #SGgreen.

If you’d like to have an in-person conversation that spans beyond 140 characters, stop by our booth. We’re always interested in engaging in conversations about the latest green building trends.


Saint-Gobain Businesses Heading to GreenBuild 2012

Saint-Gobain and its family of businesses are gearing up for GreenBuild 2012 in San Francisco, CA from November 14 – 16.  We are excited to be sharing some new technologies with attendees at four locations on the show floor.  The Saint-Gobain family of businesses will be in booth 4359N.  In addition, attendees can also visit NOVA External Venturing in Booth 4463N; Saint-Gobain ADFORS in booth 4459N and SAGE Glass in booth 4353N.

Also, thought leaders within Saint-Gobain businesses will be sharing their insights and observations of this year’s show through the Building Knowledge blog which will feed to a webpage dedicated to GreenBuild 2012. 

Stay tuned!  There will be more information about the webpage and how to stay connected to GreenBuild 2012 with Saint-Gobain, CertainTeed and other businesses of Saint-Gobain in future posts.

The Road to GREENBUILD 2013 is Paved with Corporate Commitments to Sustainability


Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed Corporation

I went to the Best of GREENBUILD session that was held by the Delaware Valley Green Building Council (DVGBC) as part of the Road to 2013 GREENBUILD Conference which will be hosted by Philadelphia. Philadelphia GBC members are very excited about hosting the Conference and are committed to putting on the best GREENBUILD ever. A component of this is to transform all 5 million people living in this region into good will ambassadors to the show through education and awareness. To this end the DVGBC is taking a variety of actions to challenge and engage.

As good corporate citizens, many of the DVGBC sponsoring companies and firms have made public pledges of positive actions they will accomplish between now and the show.  As an example, in addition to the multitude of sustainability programs we have as a corporation, CertainTeed and our parent company Saint-Gobain have committed to saving more than 10 thousands gallons of gasoline in our personal cars between now and the time of the 2013 GREENBUILD show. This will be accomplished through a combination of “work smart” scheduling and carpooling to our facilities. The Philadelphia Chapter is planning to show these commitments of the sponsoring companies at the 2012 Convention in San Francisco to promote the 2013 event.

I smile a little on the inside because it is also such a “Philly” thing to do. Please try to remember that when we threw snow balls at Santa Claus during half-time of that Eagles game it wasn’t because he was Santa- it was because the guy wearing the cheap Santa suit could have done a much better job of making us believe. Don’t think us cruel; we’re as hard on ourselves as we are on everyone else.

You can be certain you will be hearing much more about his event as we get closer!

Greenbuild 2010 – The Disney World of Sustainability

Greenbuild 2010

I have been at Greenbuild 2010 this week at the McCormick Place Conference Center in Chicago.  The event is sponsored by the U.S. Green Building Council. There are 1,800 exhibitors and it feels like attendance at the event is up again this year.  Most other construction related trade shows that I have attended this year have seen a decline in attendance but not Greenbuild. The traffic in the aisles was genuine. The attendees are not just there ‘kicking the tires’ they are engaged, want information and are asking questions. It is safe to say that the sustainability movement is on very solid ground.

At the show this year I’ve noticed that there seems to be a greater number of manufacturers offering competitive products. This should help create competition within product categories and in the end drive down the prices for certain types of green products.  This will help to encourage the use of more sustainable products and processes.  Examples of categories where I saw this was an increase in exhibitors who support rainwater harvesting, sustainable wood flooring, and renewable energy sources. These are positive indicators that we are not only on the right track with sustainability; we are on the right train and moving at a faster speed to improve efficiencies in commercial and residential building practices.

It was announced at the opening event that California has adopted Green Building Codes. It will be interesting to watch how this trend develops.  There are some challenges with taking this step but now that one state has put a stake in the ground, others will follow.


Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed Corporation

Ecobuild is an Eye Opener for the Green Movement

Saint-Gobain booth at Ecobuild 2010

Saint-Gobain booth at Ecobuild 2010

In early March, I attended the Ecobuild 2010 Conference and Expo in London, England to see how the sustainable and green awareness message and activity level is handled in the United Kingdom and Europe.  Our parent company, Saint-Gobain was an event sponsor and large exhibitor at this event displaying our sustainable solutions and systems. This show is the equivalent of the GreenBuild Conference and Expo held annually in the U.S.  It was an eye-opener, to say the least.  The U.K. is far ahead of us in the development and integration of energy efficient products. The show had 1,000 exhibitors, attracted 41,000 attendees, and hosted 600 speakers on sustainable topics. The enthusiasm on the show floor ran high. It is clear that even in this time of downturn in the construction industry, the goal of a lower carbon built environment continues to accelerate in other parts of the world.

The heavier emphasis on energy efficiency at Ecobuild verses the trade events I have seen here in the U.S. could be because the cost of energy in the U.K. is higher for both homes and automobiles. In addition, government regulations are more stringent with regard to requiring industry to reduce carbon emissions.

Not surprisingly, there was a strong emphasis on insulation products, primarily fiberglass but also reflective foils and foam insulations.  I am an Insulation guy so I was particularly interested in these products. A new product I saw was a wood fiber insulation product that is used in side walls as a replacement for other types of insulation. Solar panels, either for roofs or ground installation, were also heavily displayed.

But most intriguing was the fact that in every product display, regardless of its place in the building structure, for example a roof truss or steel stud, the marketing story had some energy efficiency twist to it.  They weren’t just selling wood, roofing or insulation every product had an element of how the product contributes to saving energy and reducing the carbon footprint.  The small effort to include more energy efficiency visuals and words in terms of the products we promote would go a long way in raising the consciousness of energy efficiency in the U.S.

The construction industry could learn a good lesson from the activities that the U.K. is undertaking in terms of the development of energy efficient products, and in generating awareness of energy efficient products.  We shouldn’t wait until regulations change or mandates kick-in to step-up sustainable product development and implementation.  The momentum started over there could easily be transferred over here which would not only be good for our planet but also for our pocketbook.




Eric Nilsson

Eric Nilsson

Eric Nilsson is Vice President, Corporate Marketing for CertainTeed Corporation



Retrofitting for a Green Future

Gerding Edlen renovated and retrofitted the Portland Armory for mixed use.

Gerding Edlen renovated and retrofitted the Portland Armory for mixed use.

It is clear that in order to reduce our energy consumption in existing buildings, we need to retrofit these structures.  Dennis Wilde, a principal at Gerding Edlen Development (GE) addressed this issue during the 2009 Greenbuild Convention and Expo in Phoenix, Arizona.  According to their corporate philosophy, Gerding Edlen exists to do one simple thing: to create vibrant, sustainable and inspiring places where people can work, learn and live. Creating places that offer fresh air, foster creativity and incorporate art and culture help us achieve this goal. Their Principles of Place document expands on this philosophy.

GE was responsible for the first new construction LEED Gold condominium in the US, the first LEED Gold condominium in California, the first LEED Platinum condominium in the US, and the first building on the Nat’l Historic Register to become LEED Platinum. Because LEED Platinum has become easier to achieve, GE is focused on the Living Building Challenge which is the next benchmark for the green/sustainable movement. A growing part of GE’s development and design work is in retrofitting existing structures for energy efficiency under the name Sustainable Solutions.

When evaluating an existing building, GE focuses on energy, waste and human comfort as well as optimizing the operations and maintenance of the building.  The challenge they face  is that few owners/operators put a sufficient amount of resources into training the people who need to maintain the buildings.   The day-to-day maintenance staffs are not trained in how to properly maintain a green building, and maintenance is critical in order to keep these buildings operating at peak performance. You can’t just create a green building and walk away; you have to hold people’s feet to the fire regarding the operation of the building. These are part of the green jobs of the future.

The absence of financing is another challenge to retrofit projects. Traditional financing requires either a high percentage rate or a quicker return on investment. The current financing system isn’t really suitable for the green/sustainable movement because the return on investment takes longer, with a long-range benefit in energy consumption, waste and use of resources. The financing system needs to be reworked to better understand the benefits of green/sustainable building.

Dennis offered some examples of successful GE projects:

  •  The Portland Community College in Oregon was a retrofit project on systems, assemblies and usage and included interior and exterior changes.  It is the first net-zero community college. The project cost to redo the campus of 122 acres with more than three-quarters of a million square feet of space was $15.4 million, but they are saving $1.1 million in energy costs per year. This project will pay for itself in 15 years. They are saving almost $71, 000 in water costs alone.
  •  The Portland, Oregon public school system installed photovoltaic roofing on nine schools with over 500,000 square feet of roof and they are saving $58,000 per year in energy costs. They will recoup the costs of this project in 34 years.

We need to retrofit existing buildings if we are going to lower our energy consumption. The goal of net-zero energy is achievable and the rewards are too great to ignore. To learn more about net-zero building, check out the U.S. Department of Energy Building Technologies Program.

Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications at CertainTeed Corporation. 

The Competition Between Man and Machine

Mike Loughery

Mike Loughery

Do you ever follow one of those folks that drive a Prius and wonder why they’re going so slow?  I never did until last week.  CertainTeed was fortunate to co-sponsor a luncheon event at the Greenbuild Convention and Expo with Gerding Edlen Development , a leading developer of sustainable investment properties from Portland, Oregon.  Dennis Wilde was our featured guest and speaker and he gave an interesting and very thought provoking presentation on how his firm is working on retrofitting existing building stock to dramatically improve energy and water consumption.

During the conversation he started talking about the Toyota Prius and asked us if we ever wondered why drivers of these very innovative cars drive slow?  “Because it’s a competition between man and machine,” quipped Wilde.  What, you say?  The Prius, for those of you not familiar with it, has the ability to instantaneously give you your current mileage rating based on your speed.  The slower you go, the better the mileage, the faster you go, the worse, etc.

His point was, if we were all able to, in real time, monitor our energy consumption, we may be a lot more diligent about conserving.  It’s true. Some of us really make efforts, like turning lights off when not in use, unplugging appliances, etc.  But, how much do we really save?  We’re never quite sure except our heart quivers with excitement if we see a lower energy bill.

Here’s a nifty trick.  We presented Dennis with a Kill-A -Watt as a modest token of our appreciation for supporting our event.  What’s great about this device is that you plug your, say, computer into it, and then plug the Kill-A-Watt into the wall.  With the computer on, it tells you how much energy that computer will cost you that month.  Now, turn the computer off and leave it plugged in.  The Kill-A-Watt will now tell you how much energy you’re consuming with the device off, but still plugged in.  AHA!  Now you have a real-time way of calculating savings. 

This seems so simple, but the lesson is bold and telling.  We now all have an easy way of monitoring our energy usage and subsequently reducing it through a simple, inexpensive tool.

Many thanks to Dennis and the folks at Gerding Edlen for an outstanding presentation and a real treat for CertainTeed and our customers.

Mike Loughery is Director, Corporate Marketing Communications at CertainTeed Corporation.

Walking the Walk at Greenbuild 2009

Mike Loughery

Mike Loughery

An interesting thought occurred to me this week at the Greenbuild  International Conference & Expo, the world’s largest Green Building Products exhibition, held in Phoenix, Arizona.  A couple of years ago, as “green” was really taking off, many of the recycling practices and sustainability efforts at the show seemed foreign to many of us. 

Now, it just seems so natural.  We went to the show this year knowing that the 2010 rules for exhibiting at the show are going to be much more stringent in terms of booth specifications, and the sustainability requirements for manufacturers shipping, building, dismantling, and discarding of their booths.  This year, you had trash “hawks” telling you which recycling receptacle to use when discarding waste.  Gone were the piles of magazines lining the walls that simply end up in the trash.

It’s now ingrained in our thinking and “feels” like it really makes sense.  The excess and waste demonstrated by many manufacturers (including us) over the years is really under a microscope.  At this year’s show, there were booths that were going to be chipped up and recycled into mulch and you really had a sense that, in most cases, the manufacturers who were exhibiting had solid products and services that truly represent sustainability.  There are some really interesting and creative products being developed.

In an earlier blog, I commented a bit about what I termed “greenwashing” that still goes on;  however, at the latest Greenbuild, I sensed a more subdued, more responsible approach toward promoting sustainability.  There were smaller booths, for one thing.  Whether that’s a sign of the economy or just a smart way of cutting the carbon footprint, I’m not sure.  But next year, we’re all told that we can’t exceed the size of the booths that were present this year.  We’re told it’s due to space constraints at McCormick Place in Chicago.  However, I know that it will keep the mega-monster booths away and the tremendous negative carbon impact they have away from the windy city.

Let’s also take a look at the other shows we typically attend.  Why can’t simple rules like the ones we’re required to follow at Greenbuild go into effect at the International Builders Show, the Remodeling Show, AIA, and so on?  Straightforward, green-oriented practices at all trade shows could save us all a lot of money, reduce the tremendous waste these shows generate, and allow us to focus on what’s really important—one-on-one conversations with our customers.

It was a good show this week.  It always is.  Traffic was the best I’ve seen at any building products show this year and the quality of the attendees and their questions was far superior to the others.  Now, let’s apply the lessons we’ve learned from Greenbuild to our other shows.

Mike Loughery is Director, Corporate Marketing Communications at CertainTeed Corporation.

It’s About Systems Not Just Products at Greenbuild

Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton

I’ve noticed a trend in trade show booth design incorporating computers that show visitors products via websites. This technique cuts down on the amount of materials being shipped to and from show sites.  CertainTeed has tried that as well.

But as I watch and talk to people at trade shows, I’ve noticed that they want to see and more importantly, touch products.  So CertainTeed has decided to go in a different direction with our booth (921) at Greenbuild, November 11-13, in Phoenix, AZ.

In our booth, we are constructing wall and roof systems from our materials, and instead of just having a panel that shows insulation systems or a panel that shows roofing systems, we are building the walls and roof to show those materials from the inside out and the outside in. We want visitors to see how high performing, very green materials can be used to assemble sustainable systems. CertainTeed is unique because we manufacture everything in these constructions but the 2 x 4 framing.

We’ve always had sustainable materials in construction but we were not using them to their maximum potential because we viewed them as individual components.  It’s not about materials alone.  It’s about creating systems and assemblies that not only come from sustainable resources but that perform in a manner which both reduces the energy consumption of a building and extends its life-cycle.  As a manufacturer, we are conducting our research on performance and product interaction. We think about products in terms of systems and want to help design professionals and builders to put together products in a green or sustainable way?

That’s what I like about our booth at Greenbuild: we enable visitors to not only feel the difference between an insulated backed vinyl siding product compared to a fiber cement siding but then show how they perform within an assembly. 

 Another aspect of sustainable systems is the indoor environmental issues like acoustics, ventilation/air quality, and durability.  Depending upon where you live, you want to create systems with appropriate products to meet your maximum goals for R-value, moisture management, ventilation and other variables. Properly designed ceiling products are critical to controlling the acoustics and light reflectance which also contribute to indoor environmental quality, comfort, and visually pleasing aesthetics.

As I have mentioned in previous blogs, retrofitting existing structures to make them more energy efficient is a major challenge.  How do we go back and fix them and make them last longer and perform better?  Dennis Wilde from Gerding Edlen Development Company will share the success they are having with their Sustainable Solutions program at our CertainTeed-sponsored luncheon at Greenbuild. They are mastering the process.  The challenge with green and sustainable building is that everyone is afraid of the learning curve. Everybody wants to be on the leading edge but they don’t want to be on the bleeding edge.  Gerding Edlen has bled the blood and figured out how to do it. They have paid the price in pain and it is a great gift that they are willing to educate the rest of us. 

The room is filling up fast so if you want to attend the luncheon at Greenbuild, email Kristen Harter,

Remember: a building that lasts twice as long is twice as green. Stop by and see us at Greenbuild Booth 921!

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications, for CertainTeed Corporation