Green Thought Leader – Lucas Hamilton, manager, Building Science Applications

While at Greenbuild 2014, we asked our technical thought leaders the following question:

What is the most compelling thing happening in your universe with regard to sustainability?

Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton: The most compelling thing for me is transparency and transparency documentation. I think it is one of the coolest things going on because it drives human behavior. It drives consumer behavior because now they have a chance to choose materials that they can get information on and it drives manufacturer behavior because when you have to show the world what you are doing you are more inclined to make positive changes with regard to the impact you are having on the environment. It pushes and pulls and does it for all the right reasons and without mandate. It uses the best part of our human nature on both sides. I think five years from now we will look back and see just how much of an impact is has made on how we make and purchase products.

A Sustainable Behemoth in the Making – The Saint-Gobain/CertainTeed New Headquarters

Image 01There is an old saying “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”  Well, that is exactly what Saint-Gobain and CertainTeed are doing at our new headquarters in Malvern, PA.

This is a very exciting time for our Company as we ‘walk the talk’ when it comes to sustainability and performance of our own products.  We are engaged in a full renovation of a building that was the former home of a large insurance company but has been vacant for a decade..  With our building products we are transforming the building – inside and out – to a state-of-the-art sustainable, living laboratory for our products and systems that should qualify as USGBC LEED Gold.

Because this is our building it gives us the opportunity to practice all the things that we preach on a daily basis to the market about our products. This is an opportunity to create our environment, live in it and monitor how our products perform. It is also an opportunity for all of our sister businesses to come together and address challenges such as indoor air quality, managing office acoustics, daylighting issues and overall comfort throughout the work day.

This project has generated a great deal of excitement for all our employees and we will have a great deal to talk about over the next year in our blogs because it is a living, breathing example of building sustainably with sustainable materials and with an eye on the future.

There is no other building on the planet that will have this unique suite of dynamic products all working together to make a material difference in how we work so we can help others change the places where they work.

I hope you will check back frequently, follow our journey, along with the pains and woes that all people go through when building a building sustainably.  It should be educational and fun!

 

The Transparency Movement Sets a New Standard

Think about it, metrics for sustainability provide fact based defenses for faith based decisions. A Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) on an individual product is an example of a fact based defense for choosing a specific material.

For example, say that you set a criterion of global warming potential as your decision making criteri0n. How could you compare vastly different types of material to learn which has a greater impact? Now you can because the LCA provides that level of information. 

Now, if you look at sustainable buildings as opposed to sustainable materials the LCA is the natural way of taking the information and expanding it to the building level. Setting the correct discrete limits up front creates a potential for the limitless. We can take this same measurable – global warming potential – and expand it across the whole building assembly.  Can we say that this building is more sustainable than another?  Absolutely we can – the metrics are in place. Simply pick what is important to you.  After all, sustainability means different things to different people.

There are a whole range of important metrics that people can use in their consideration process. All the information is available and there are systems in place to be able to expand across the building such as the LCA.

So it is now possible to defend your faith in sustainability with facts; as long as you understand the systems like LCA and the information that is available.  Maybe faith is making a comeback.

What do you think?

 

Transparency and Green Labels for The Home

Product Life CycleWhile I was waiting for my coffee to brew this morning in the office, I started reading the ingredients on the back of the sweetener I planned to use. There was one ingredient that I didn’t recognize. Being a scientist, I am naturally curious so I looked it up. I was shocked to find out that the sweetener contained an ingredient that emits formaldehyde above 92 degrees Fahrenheit. So I chose a different sweetener.

How fortunate am I that I caught that and had the resources to understand what it was telling me. But how many people have no idea what some of this means? It made me think about the benefit and value of the emerging forms of transparency about the products that we buy and use in our homes. This information is very insightful and when we make it available in a form that people can digest and employ it has real value to customers and consumers.  An informed consumer is a better consumer and manufacturers are beginning to embrace the concept of transparency through Life Cycle Assessments, Environmental Product Declarations and Health Product Declarations. If you are interested in learning more about transparency in the building materials industry, I addressed this issue in a blog post.

For a more in depth and current discussion of the topic, please consider attending the webinar I am conducting on Tuesday, February 18 from 12:00 – 1:00 pm EST titled Publications for Product Life Cycle Assessment.  This course is accredited with the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI).

 

Wall Assemblies for Maximum Efficiency: How Many Layers is Too Many?

SimplexOPTIMABuilding professionals spend a lot of time dealing with production construction which has dialed in efficiencies and productivity to provide the maximum assembly for the cost per square foot.  The reality is in standard construction you build things in five or six layers. This is the standard in terms of building a wall system more efficiently and we have gotten it down to a science.  Generally a six layer home will give you a solid, energy efficient, comfortable home.

Occasionally, I work with builders on projects that remind me of possibilities beyond what is the status quo.  I recently had an opportunity to work with a builder who was building a custom home whose wall systems had 13 layers.  This wall had so much redundancy and robustness built into it that I just had to ask for a chance to visit the project and see this masterpiece being built.

This was the homeowner’s instruction: They wanted a thick wall, they wanted a silent wall, they wanted a highly efficient wall for them to own.  That’s one of the key’s to this discussion- the owner is focused on what comes afterwards- not what happened before. To achieve this goal the builder is employing a combination of traditional masonry materials and cutting edge products and systems.   

In a similar fashion, a project that CertainTeed has been involved with at the Navy Yard in Philadelphia with Penn State achieves a similar goal but in a lighter and perhaps less massive assembly – to create a highly efficient wall system that can provide comfort, improve indoor air quality, better acoustics but, and here’s the rub- to still be affordable by more typical consumers.  This was done by using a 2 x 8 construction – providing a deeper wall cavity – A Blown-in-Blanket Insulation System, Weather Resistant Barrier, a Smart Vapor Retarder and Air Barrier System, a Wallboard Solution, Rigid Insulation on exterior and Insulated Vinyl Siding. This created an R30.5 exterior wall.

In both homes, products were used to address acoustics, indoor air quality and moisture control.  Do you need 13 layers?  Probably not but the pressure is certainly going to be on what layers remain to do more than they have in the past.

Thoughts?

 

Small is Beautiful in this Contemporary Cabin from Simplex Homes

When you start to think about downsizing  you may want to consider modular construction if you are building.  At Greenbuild this year, the Green Zone exhibited a wonderful option.Simplex House

The Greenbuild Cabin, designed by Resolution:4 Architecture and built by Simplex Homes, was an excellent example of more efficient living similar to the types of residential options you would see at the Solar Decathlon.  Attendees at Greenbuild could see products at work in a modular one-room retreat that was aesthetically very pleasing.

The 806-square-foot cabin is designed to have a strong connection to the exterior, with abundant natural lighting achieved through low-e, Argonne-filled, double-pane glass. With a LEED Platinum certification as the goal, the cabin employs a number of green technologies, including rainwater collection, a greywater system, photovoltaic array, EPDM rubber membrane roofing system and a super-insulated envelope.

The cabin houses a fully functional kitchen and, through its creative use of space and natural lighting, invites residents to live large.  

An Insight from Green Building Guru: David Gottfried

GottfriedAt Greenbuild 2013, we were thrilled to welcome David Gottfried, the founder of the U.S. Green Building Council to our exhibit. His visit coincided with the launch of his newest book, “Explosion Green”. In this excerpt from Building Design + Construction magazine, David offers the following advice to green building professionals:

Don’t give up. We started with nothing — no money, no board, no brochure, no green building rating system. A lot of people did not take us seriously. However, we were able to collect those who had passion, a spirit for change and wanted a bigger purpose in life. And then, we supported each other when mountain climbing got steep and we kept at it. We found our way and invented the fasting growing industry for changing earth and the economy…and built a core around the world of millions of people. Stay the course and don’t give up…

Well said, Mr. Gottfried. We agree and look forward to reading your new book!

Greenbuild 60-Second Stopby: Kohler

KohlerTolietOne of the best hands-on demonstrations I saw at Greenbuild this year was the Kohler Toliet Tour (Booth #401). There were a wide array of functional toilets on display that showcased performance benefits such as the amount of waste that can be removed; glazing that enhances cleanliness; and, water-saving features. According to Kohler, the demonstration in the picture above tests the exchange of water in the bowl in conjunction with light waste removal. In layman’s terms, a cup of plastic beads are dropped in the bowl. If the toilet is flushed and more than 125 beads remain in the bowl, then the toilet is not up to par. In this case, only one bead remained, so the toilet had passed with flying colors. If these experiments peak your interest, you can get ongoing updates by following the hashtag #KohlerTolietTour.

Greenbuild 60-Second Stopby: Davies Office

homebanner-Custom-Private-OfficeIf you are in the midst of a major office remodel, refurbishing your existing furniture might be easier than you think — and save you money. A quick stop by the Davies Office exhibit (#2837) included a radical transformation of outdated office furniture into a modern, colorful workspace. With a 40-year track record, Davies Office continues to help companies significantly reduce their environmental impact. For example, a recent project for Computer Science Corporation in Falls Church, Va., resulted in initial savings of $250,000 in warehousing cost, 346,822 pounds of waste material diverted from landfills and 1,005,784 pounds of raw material conserved. If you’re at the Greenbuild Expo, it’s definitely worth a stop by!

Greenbuild 60-Second Stopby: Bike Lid

Screen shot 2013-11-21 at 8.28.58 AMAccording to the New York City Department of Transportation, the main reason people do not ride a bike to work is lack of secure, long-term parking. As a result, companies such as Bike Lid (booth #4240) are bringing new products into the marketplace to help change this perception.

Bike Lid offers a unique alternative for bike storage — a durable  “clam shell” design with industrial spring-loaded hinges. Its easy for bikers to use and even more easy to maintain since the lids are resistant to graffiti, scratches, rust and dents. An added benefit? Their sleek design can offers revenue potential, with plenty of surface real estate for sponsors and advertisers.