2010's Most
Innovative Green Products

In 2010, green building contributed double-digit growth to an otherwise anemic construction and remodeling industry, so it's hardly surprising that manufacturers of every type of building material developed innovative new products to satisfy that growing demand. That meant new solutions that reduced a building's energy costs and water usage, minimized waste of resources, and provided new design options – at prices that have proven competitive to conventional practices. Here's our short list of new materials from 2010 that will likely prove influential in coming years:


Certified Wood

Thanks to the California's CARB-2 regulations, manufacturers were forced to introduce new technology which would drastically reduce formaldehyde in building materials. At the same time, however, demand for low-formaldehyde materials such as cabinets, doors, molding, and furnishings expanded nationally to meet end-user concerns about health and safety. This is particularly true in the kitchen; given a choice, who wants to store food in a formaldehyde laden pantry? That's one reason the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association now lists suppliers of CARB-2 compliant cabinets on their www.GreenCabinetSource.org website.

But eliminating formaldehyde, which provided biocidal benefits to wood panels, might lead to other air quality risks, and even lead to airborne mold. As a result, a growing number of products have materialized to solve that potential problem. For instance, the Collins Companies introduced FreeForm MR, a moisture resistant CARB-2 compliant particleboard with a special water-resistant resin added to the panel to ensure moisture resistant properties. The product contains 100% recycled post-industrial fibers, meets moisture resistant specs for ANSI MR-10, is FSC-certified, and is LEED compliant.

According to Mike Shuey, a product manager with Collins, “This product is particularly good for use in areas which are prone to wetness such as kitchen and bath applications and parts of the country which are subject to high humidity or consistent moisture such as the southeast and pacific northwest. The moisture resistant properties decrease the likelihood of finding mold or mildew in our product.”

www.collinsco.com • 800-329-1219


Meanwhile, some of the nation's largest suppliers of wood panels began supplying products certified by the Forest Stewardship Council in 2010 – and that's a very big deal. Georgia-Pacific began shipping FSC versions of their DryMax High-Performance OSB and BlueRibbon Shield Specialty OSB. DryMax is a moisture-resistant sub-flooring that features ink-jet nail patterns. It is fully-sanded on both sides to ensure a uniform thickness tolerance and excellent tongue and groove fit. BlueRibbon Shield is a wall sheathing designed to reduce air infiltration and help customers in high wind areas meet building codes.

www.gp.com/build/ • 800-284-5347


 
Also in 2010, Boise Cascade's entire engineered wood product line became available nationally with an FSC-Certified option, including BCI Joist, AllJoist, Versa-Lam, Versa-Stud and Versa-Rim. The engineered joists are rated stronger than dimensional lumber, and use about 50% less wood fiber.

www.bc.com • 208-384-6161



But for pure innovation, it would be hard to top Cali Bamboo's Lumboo, a dimensional lumber made from rapidly renewable bamboo fibers. The product is available in a variety of popular sizes, including 2x4, 2x6, and 4x4. Lumboo is produced by compressing carefully selected strips of bamboo, treated with a low-VOC formaldehyde free binder. While the manufacturer speculates that the resulting product could eventually replace dimensional lumber in some applications, for now it will primarily be used for outdoor fencing and decking.

www.calibamboo.com • 858-200-9540



Flooring
Until recently, there simply was no recognized certifying standard for bamboo materials, but that changed when Smith & Fong launched an FSC-certified line of PlybooStrand bamboo plywood and flooring. PlybooStrand is manufactured through a process in which bamboo strips are compressed into a super-dense block, which can then be converted into planks and panels. No urea-formaldehyde is used in the production process. The result is a product favored by designers for its beauty, durability and sustainability.

“Strand bamboo has long been popular among the architecture and design community for its performance and aesthetic qualities,” said Smith & Fong president Dan Smith. “Adding FSC certification ensures managed forestry and the associated LEED MRc7 credit.” FSC PlybooStrand is also urea formaldehyde-free.

www.plyboo.com • 866-835-9859



If you're looking for character woods, this brightly colored wood offers contrasty grain patterns and large, rich maroon knots. Now it's available as Norfolk Pine Flooring, an floor line by Torzo. The product starts out as a soft Norfolk pine material harvested in Hawaii, which is then infused with a tough VOC-free acrylic polymer. The result is a hard and durable flooring product that has a janka ball test rating of over 5,000 pounds. That level of hardness makes the Norfolk flooring ideal for commercial applications such as office buildings, retail stores, or restaurant locations, so it's certainly appropriate for residential use as well. The line is available in two colors, natural and copper, and comes with highly durable UV floor coating system designed to hold up in heavy traffic locations.

The flooring line is made from 70% FSC certified pine, with the remaining 30% consisting of an inert non-hazardous acrylic polymer. There is no added urea formaldehyde so it is CARB-2 compliant, and the line is manufactured in the United States.

Torzo first developed this technology when it converted its popular Orient countertop surface into a tongue and groove flooring line. Available in any of the four standard color options, the prefinished Orient flooring has a janka ball test rating of almost 5,000 pounds. Orient is made from post industrial recycled wood chips, is CARB-2 compliant, and VOC-free.

www.torzosurfaces.com • 800-770-7523


Landscaping

Pearl's Premium Ultra Low Maintenance Lawn Seed needs no fertilizer, rarely needs water once established, and looks like a lush green lawn – even during winter. In addition, it grows at only one quarter the rate of blue grass, which means that it requires mowing only once a month. Reducing fertilizer use also protects communities from the health risks of chemicals used in lawn irrigation. That mix of features should make the product popular in areas like Southern California that are starved for rainfall and concerned with minimizing smog generated by lawn cutting equipment. Until recently, the company's primary distribution was close to its Massachusetts headquarters. “Pearl's Premium is an environment and economic game changer,” said Jackson Madnick, the founder and CEO of Pearl's Premium. “Numerous scientific studies have linked lawn care chemicals with health risks, and lawn irrigation waste is a major drain on drinking water supplies in the U.S. 

The photo above is a before and after example (right and left, respectively) of seed planting at a recent Boston area installation.

www.pearlspremium.com


Gypsum Board 

CertainTeed's AirRenew™ gypsum board is a first-of-its-kind product that uses two technologies to actively improve IAQ. First, AirRenew helps clean the air by capturing VOCs – specifically formaldehyde and other aldehydes – and converting them into inert compounds that safely remain within the board. Secondly, AirRenew features M2Tech® technology, which is specially engineered to provide enhanced protection against moisture and mold. Its air cleaning effectiveness was validated using ISO16000-23, an indoor air performance test for evaluating the reduction of formaldehyde concentration by sorptive building materials. In fact, AirRenew will absorb VOCs for up to 75 years.

AirRenew can be finished with water-based paints or breathable wallpaper without loss of its air cleansing properties, and it can ultimately be recycled just as readily as any other gypsum board. The product is designed for fire resistance, is lightweight for easy handling, does not require special tools for installation, and is easy to cut and install. AirRenew also helps building and design professionals meet the VOC concentration limits, mold resistance and recycled content criteria required by greeen building programs such as LEED and NAHB-Green.

www.certainteed.com • 800-233-8990


Building Envelope

When it comes to wall systems, sometimes simpler is better. Instead of a system that relies on contractors properly wrapping a building's OSB skin with plastic, the ZIP System from Huber Engineered Woods simplifies the proceess with a three-in-one material that is code recognized as a structural wall panel, a moisture barrier, and an air barrier. A water-resistant barrier is fused directly onto the panels during the manufacturing process. Once the panels are fastened into place, the seams are sealed with a ZIP System tape. As a consequence, there is no chance for water to get between the panels and the sheathing, unlike conventional air barrier assemblies where the water can penetrate and collect behind the housewrap.

The ZIP System recently surpassed the rigorous “ASTM E 2357 Standard Test Method for Determining Air Leakage of Air Barrier Assemblies,” and is eligible for credits under the LEED and NAHB-Green programs.

In 2010, the system was enhanced by the introduction of High-Wind Region ZIP System wall panels, which are designed to resist uplift and shear as described in the “Standard for Residential Construction in High-Wind Regions” (ICC 600-2008).

www.zipsystem.com • 800-933-9220


Interior Finishes

EcoDeVita is a line of Japanese wall plasters that offers designer options once thought unique to wall coverings. Its SOA Sand Texture, for instance, is available in 24 natural pigment colors which integrate fine sand particles throughout the material. The result is a wall with substantially greater warmth and depth than conventional finishes.

But it's EcoDeVita KRM that's generating buzz in the green community. Made of diatomaceous earth, the finish aborbs odors and actually cleans indoor air. Studies show that KRM will reduce formaldehyde levels in a room to 1/7th. A natural fire retardant, it also helps balance humidity levels. Because it absorbs the odor of cigarette smoke, it's currently under consideration in the smokiest of locations, the Las Vegas casino community. And since it soaks up body odor, it may also be a natural choice for fitness centers.

KRM is available in 60 colors, which are carried throughout the body of the finish. EcoDeVita plasters can be spray applied and finished with conventional texturizing tools. The product line is eligible for LEED credits.

www.ecodevita.com


Water Heating
A. O. Smith's NEXT Hybrid® Water Heater blends tankless and conventional water heating technologies into an integrated system that improves on the benefits of each in terms of energy efficiency, convenience features, and performance. The system heats water instantly using a tankless engine, while additional heated water supply remains available in a compact buffer tank. That combination allows the unit to deliver an unlimited stream of hot water without risk of any sudden interruptions of supply – “cold water sandwiches” – that can occur with conventional tankless units. An easy to operate push button control panel with LED read-out makes temperature management easy for end-users.

Here's how it saves energy: the heater routes the heated exhaust gas from its tankless engine to a secondary heat exchanger, where it serves as a heat source for water in the buffer tank. As a result, the NEXT achieves 90 percent thermal efficiency, well ahead of a standard tank model's 78 percent or a conventional tankless unit's 82 percent thermal efficiency rating.

NEXT Hybrid installs about as easily as a conventional water heater. Installers won't need to upgrade to stainless steel venting or a ¾-inch gas line.

www.hotwater.com • 866-362-9898

 


Windows

WISP Window Systems feature integrated storm protection, thanks to a unique high-impact storm shade that's a permanent component of the system. The windows are constructed with robust 6-inch aluminum frames, industrial strength thermal breaks and insulated glass. When storm warnings sound, residents can simply pull down the unique high-impact storm shade and secure it to the windowsill. When not in use, the shade rolls neatly into place inside the window casing. The shade is made from a tough, flexible, tightly woven synthetic fiber and finished with a specially formatted coating that makes it weather resistant, water repellent, and pliable, with the strength and flexibility to protect properties from effects of hurricane-force winds of up to 205 mph.

In fair weather, coupling the windows' ¾ inch low-E glass with the translucent WISP shade can minimize solar heat gain while allowing light transmission in the summer, and providing an additional thermal break year around. WISP windows are certified by NAMI and recognized by the International Hurricane Protection Association.

www.wispwindow.com • 877-939-9283


Lighting

You'd have a hard time finding many 2010 products that could prove more influential than VIRIBRIGHT's LED light bulbs. Parent company Matrix Lighting has achieved major design and production breakthroughs to meet their goal of improving LED quality and performance standards while dropping prices to a highly accessible level. For example, Matrix's new 5 watt VIRIBRIGHT LED light bulb has a lumen output equivalent to that of a 40 watt incandescent, illuminates evenly across a 270° spread, and has an expected life of over 20,000 hours.

But what's really grabbing people's attention is the price. Kathy Hawk, Marketing Director for Matrix Lighting, says that the bulbs are positioned to retail for as little as $10. In 2009, similar LED bulbs from some manufacturers sold for as much as $100.

According to Hawk, the 5-watt VIRIBRIGHT bulb is not only less expensive than last year's LED bulbs, it's better looking and it performs better as well. “There's no transformer in the base now (it uses a chip), and there's a better heat sink. The whole bulb, even the base, stays cool to the touch,” said Hawk. “And now it's UL approved, which is something new for the LED industry.” The bulbs are supplied as 5 watt or 11 watt (60 watt equivalent) in warm white, natural white, or cool white, with additional varieties scheduled for introduction soon.

LED lighting offers some key advantages over existing technologies. The first generation of energy saving lightbulbs – CFLs – are less energy efficient, start up slowly, contain toxic mercury, are easily breakable, and have a reputation for flickering. By contrast, VIRIBRIGHT's LED bulbs are mercury and toxin free, will not shatter if dropped, start instantly, last for a greater number of hours, produce more lumens per watt, and can be recycled or safely thrown away. That last advantage is important because as many as 90 percent of mercury-containing CFLs end up in landfills.

VIRIBRIGHT is also offering an economical 20 watt LED alternative to the traditional 40 watt fluorescent T8 tube. “One difference between our T8 LED tubes and a T8 fluorescent is that there's no ballast required,” said Hawk. “When we talk to light fixture manufacturers, they get excited because not installing a ballast saves them $15 per fixture.” The long-life LED tubes come in cool white, natural, or warm white, and can retail for under $40.

Why are the prices so low? Unlike other LED suppliers, Matrix Lighting manufactures their own bulbs and tubes, rather than just assembling them from off-the-shelf components. And according to Hawk, VIRIBRIGHT will make the most of that advantage. “We are dedicated to R&D, and we have a lot of new bulbs in the works that we hope to release in the next six months,” said Hawk.

www.viribright.com • 877-847-4276


 

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