Mining Gold for the Future

Saint-Gobain's Research & Development Facility, Northboro, MA

Saint-Gobain's Research & Development Facility, Northboro, MA

CertainTeed’s parent company, Saint-Gobain, the world’s largest building materials company, just completed the expansion of its Research and Development Center in Northboro, MA. In the early stages of the project, I went to Northboro to meet with the architects from Shepley Bulfinch of Boston and David Woodbury, who was in charge of the project for Saint Gobain, to discuss how to best meet Saint Gobain’s environmental directives for energy consumption in the design of this building.  Saint Gobain’s corporate sustainability directive is one of the most stringent in the world.  It says ‘We will be leaders in energy conservation.”

The architects had never been challenged by a client to incorporate the company’s products while complying with a corporate directive for energy consumption.  They did a great job.  Shepley Bullfinch was able to integrate 13 Saint-Gobain and CertainTeed products into the design and create the most energy efficient building in Saint-Gobain’s network of nearly 200 facilities throughout North America.  This building is not only slated for LEED Gold, which is great, but it is also the state-of-the-art in energy efficiency which is outstanding.  Among the products used on this building was CertainTeed’s Flintlastic® FR Cap with CoolStar™, a commercial roofing product with solar reflective properties to maximize energy efficiency.  If you want to see the products used on this project visit Northboro.

This building uses much less energy per square foot than a comparable building and exceeds all performance requirements for any energy program in the country.

All new construction projects within Saint Gobain will meet these directives for energy efficiency. The program also applies to existing buildings and those requirements will be phased in over time. It speaks directly to where we want to be in our daily lives with regard to sustainability and energy consumption.

It was exciting to work on this project because it was virtually a blank canvas that enabled technical and building science professionals to take energy efficiency to new levels. As we meet these energy performance mandates for CertainTeed and Saint-Gobain, it will help us work with our customers by sharing what we have learned on our own buildings.

Lucas Hamilton is the Manager of Building Science Applications at CertainTeed Corporation


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  3. Lucas Hamilton on

    Jonathan, thank you for you very thoughtful response to our blog. You never know with these things if anyone will read them, let alone respond. Thanks for teeing up the conversation!

    Many of your comments regarding products are valid and most manufacturers do not provide the “rest of the story” as Paul Harvey used to say. To see the more complete picture, life cycle assessments have been completed on many of our products and many more are presently being evaluated. As you can imagine, the gathering of required information from raw material suppliers and our own manufacturing facilities can be complex and this accounts for some of the variability in completeness of assessments to date. While the life cycle assessments are not available right now, you can get a pretty good idea of how far CertainTeed has come regarding our sustainability efforts through our Building Responsibly program and also our interest and involvement with groups like Oregon Best which I talked about in Friday’s blog.

    Thanks for your support and let’s keep talking!


  4. Jonathan Miller, FCSI, AIA on

    First… I believe a better link to a definition of Sustainability can be found at

    Second… Core environmental issues are complex and many. Your publication is a bit scattered in addressing the ones relevant to your products.
    I would like to see you publish a serious ‘green’ analysis on each of your products based on these four simple premises:

    DO NO HARM: That the chemicals and other materials within and used during processing your products are stable and do not have a potential to harm people, pets or wildlife in the environment.

    LIVE LIGHTLY: What is the environmental impact/footprint/lifecycle of each product?

    BE SUSTAINABLE: The most commonly accepted definition of Sustainability is “Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” My own cobbled together definition of the meaning of Sustainability is “Achieving perpetual or indefinite operation, while being renewable or regenerative without depleting resources.”
    Do your products seriously meet these definitions?

    BE EFFICIENT: Your products do help with energy efficiency. But I could not help but notice that the triple-glazing in your ‘green’ brochure was set into a non-thermally-broken frame… unless of course it was a poltruded fiberglass frame. Perhaps you might want to call out that the glazing is one important part of an assembly and that to BE EFFICIENT one must think about the sum of the parts.

    All this is to say “welcome to the green revolution!” Time to do some serious reflection on what ‘green’ issues are based on and address your products on how they help solve the problem while being honest on how they add to the problem as well.

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