Building Hope for the Future with Habitat for Humanity

We all know that homeownership is considered the cornerstone of the American dream.  But many of us take that dream for granted.  I was reminded of this when I attended the dedication and blessing of a home with Habitat for Humanity in Chester, Pennsylvania outside of Philadelphia.

As a corporate sponsor of what we have come to refer to as the “CertainTeed House” because of the many CertainTeed products incorporated into the building envelop of this two-family house, I participated in the dedication and blessing of the house.  The family, a single mother with two daughters who will occupy half of the house, seemed simultaneously overwhelmed and excited.

The group of family, friends, sponsors and supporters clustered into what would soon be the family’s living room as the Reverend began the dedication and blessing.  The group traveled from room to room with the family carrying a candle as each area was given a special blessing – from the kitchen where nourishment is prepared to the dining room where bread is broken and shared to the bedrooms where sleeping safe and secure is desired.  Once the blessing was completed, the keys were presented to the family marking the final transformation of this building from simply a house into a home.

It was beautiful!

But there was an added sense of pride that I felt standing in this completed house that would be the dream home for this family. Over ten weeks during the building of this house approximately 80 of my co-workers volunteered time on the site to help with the build.  The opportunity to gain hands-on experience with CertainTeed roofing shingles, housewrap, vinyl siding and railing, insulation and gypsum products was as valuable as the satisfaction of giving back to the community in this very special way.  In some cases it brought employees together whose paths would not cross at work and in other cases departmental teams used this as a teambuilding exercise.

In the end, it was a learning experience for all and a lesson in community that has no equal.

Life Cycle Assessment Tells the True Green Vinyl Siding Story

In a previous blog, Who Says Vinyl Siding Can’t Be Green, I started to discuss the move to manufacturing vinyl siding products with recycled content making it a more sustainable product.  This began a quest to dispel the misconceptions about vinyl siding and the fact that vinyl is a more sustainable cladding solution than brick, stucco or even cedar.

Vinyl siding has long been viewed by some as a product assumed to not be environmentally friendly.  Well, I am here to tell you that following a very long and tedious process of conducting what is called a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) on CertainTeed’s vinyl siding products that vinyl siding is GREEN!  Based on all the elements that go into the LCA such as raw materials, transportation, production, and installation vinyl siding clearly leads the way in sustainability. CertainTeed’s vinyl siding LCA has been accepted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) through the Building for Economic and Environmental Sustainability (BEES) program which is a leader in the credentialing of LCAs.

The LCA provides full public transparency and ensures that manufactures are not engaging in green washing.

The LCA is an analytical tool used to quantify and interpret the flows to-and-from the environment over the entire life cycle of a product, process or service.  It is also referred to as cradle-to-grave analysis. The goal of the LCA is to compare the full range of environmental effects assignable to products and services in order to improve processes, support policy and provide a sound basis for informed decisions.

The term ‘life cycle’ refers to the notion that a fair, holistic assessment requires the assessment of raw material production, manufacture, distribution, use and disposal including all intervening transportation steps necessary or caused by the product’s existence.

Our first step was to create LCA’s for all of our vinyl siding lines.  In all cases, our vinyl siding outperforms alternative cladding products such as brick, stucco, Dryvit Outsulation and even cedar in all of the environmental impact calculations identified in the BEES methodology.

CertainTeed is committed to product stewardship and the LCA, as well as the entire process to complete the LCA because it provides us with information to continue to improve processes to reduce their environmental impact.

CertainTeed will continue the LCA process on all of our siding product lines as a firm commitment to our mission in sustainability.

What You Don’t Know About Vinyl Siding Could Cost You Money

Brian Kirn

When it is time to select an exterior cladding for a home, whether new construction or remodeling, having factual, objective information can help you make an informed decision.  All manufacturers have colorful brochures with glamour shots of homes but we recently found out that our customers wanted something more.

CertainTeed conducts many feedback programs with both contractors and homeowners and the number one request we consistently hear is the need for an educational brochure about vinyl siding.  Given the popularity of vinyl siding, that made perfect sense.

CertainTeed answered that request with our new Vinyl Siding Redefined brochure.  Since exterior cladding remains on a home for a long time, it’s crucial for homeowners to do their ‘homework’ before making so large an investment.  Understanding the comparisons between vinyl and other claddings with regard to cost, maintenance, warranty and aesthetics is critical to making a sound decision about your home, or, if you’re a contractor, in counseling your customers about the product that is best for them.

Today’s vinyl siding is not the same product that first emerged as a replacement for aluminum siding.  It is true that when vinyl siding first appeared in the marketplace the industry experienced some growing pains but, for the most part there were two key reasons why these occurred.  First, installers put the product on the homes using the same methods as they did for aluminum siding. This did not allow the product the needed room to expand and contract with temperature changes, and consequently product failures resulted.  Also, early versions of vinyl siding colors often experienced fading over time due to the lack of fade inhibitors that are routinely used today.   

Needless to say, these early growing pains have long been resolved and vinyl siding has, for sometime, been the number one choice among homeowners for exterior cladding. But despite this, there remain  many misconceptions about vinyl siding – it’s composition, it’s sustainability and life cycle benefits, it’s warranty coverage and it’s cost savings. That is why we produced Vinyl Siding Redefined – to set the record straight.

Brian Kirn is Marketing Manager, Siding Products Group for CertainTeed Corporation

Who Says Vinyl Siding Can’t Be Green?

Drew Brandt

Drew Brandt

It has long been a challenge in the building community to identify a cladding product that can be recycled. You can’t recycle brick or wood that has been painted. Aluminum siding can be recycled, but there is not much demand for aluminum siding these days. Vinyl siding is the only cladding product that can be recycled multiple times into new vinyl siding.

As consumers, not only do we need to understand what can be recycled but we need to know where the product is in its life cycle, because many products can’t continue to be recycled into equal quality products. For example, we all recycle plastic bottles but plastic bottles rarely get recycled into plastic bottles, they are typically downcycled into a lower quality product that will eventually be disposed of in a landfill.

In response to market demand for a sustainable vinyl siding product we created a “closed loop” (cradle to cradle) program that enables our CedarBoards™ Insulated siding product to be manufactured with 60 percent recycled content that includes post-consumer vinyl siding (tearoffs and construction scrap).

Using our distributors around the country, we developed a partnership with recyclers who leave bins at our partner distributors.  Contractors can bring old vinyl siding and scraps to the distributors.  This eliminates the tipping fees that the contractor would pay at the landfill.  The scraps and old vinyl are recycled to our specifications and we buy it back from the recyclers.  It’s a win-win-win-win situation.  The contractor can promote that he is recycling materials and he saves on fees. The distributor can sell the fact that he is “green” and has established this program for contractors which gains visibility with potential customers. The recycler has a committed, paying customer for the recycled product, and we are able to bring to market a sustainable vinyl siding product.  This is one way we can control the waste stream.

A plastic product is the best course for our sustainable future because it enables us to have that constant closed loop process.  Since we have already put all the resources into the product the following manufacturing process has minimal environmental impact.  By recycling and re-manufacturing, we are not further depleting natural resources, but are reducing energy consumption and our carbon footprint.

We will be providing life-cycle information on the CedarBoards products later in the year that will illustrate the life-cycle benefits based on science for these products.

Sustainability is not only about the product’s environmental performance, it also includes resource management. Manufacturers need to be developing products that the masses can afford that are environmentally sustainable.

Drew Brandt, LEED AP, CGP is Director of Marketing – New Product Development for CertainTeed Vinyl Siding