Every year, BuildingGreen surveys the market for green building materials and products and chooses their Top 10. These products may not be glamorous, but they definitely showcase some of the more advanced techniques being used in the field. Here’s a quick run-down of the main features of each, most of which help projects achieve LEED credits.
WUFI software from Fraunhofer IBP and Oak Ridge National Laboratory
How moisture moves through a building can be hard to predict, but it has a huge impact on the lifespan and performance of building materials. These software tools calculate heat and moisture transfer in multi-layer building components under various climate conditions, which allows designers to choose smart vapor barriers, roof and wall assemblies, masonry, and other materials and designs in order to minimize moisture’s negative impacts.
Atlas CMU block with CarbonCure
Five percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the production of Portland cement. The CarbonCure Block System takes carbon dioxide from industrial sources and injects it into the concrete masonry units (CMUs) using a special mold to sequester it and reduce the carbon footprint of these types of building materials. Some forms of this product are also made with recycled glass.
Amorim expanded-cork boardstock insulation
There are several problems with conventional insulation materials – halogenated flame retardants used on plastic foam options and greenhouse gas emissions from blown-in insulation, for example. This product, however, is derived from renewable cork (the bark from oak trees grown in the Mediterranean), and processed without flame retardants. Most of it is taken from FSC-certified forests from mature trees that are not cut down in the process. The insulation is very durable, has an R-value of 3.6 per inch, provides acoustic control, moderates vapor permeability, and meets fire regulations.
Proglaze ETA Engineered Transition Assemblies from Tremco
Typical building enclosures are made of multiple products, few of which are designed together as a system. This product is a complete system, including sealants, membranes, primers, and flashings (all from Proglaze) combined with insulation and sheathings (from other manufacturers), providing superior bridges between windows and wall openings for extreme energy efficiency. It offers a 50-100 year lifespan, low water vapor transmission and air leakage, has extremely low VOC content (all Greenguard Children and Schools certified), and is made with 60% recycled aluminum.
LoE-i89 glazing from Cardinal Glass Industries
This sputtered indium tin oxide hard-coating is rugged enough to be installed on the exposed surface of a window (which helps double-glazed window achieve performance similar to triple-glazing), a U-factor as low as 0.20, and will reduce both heating and cooling loads dramatically.
Viridian reclaimed wood
This amazing flooring is made of discarded wooden pallets, crates, school bleachers, and packing materials, and has achieved the FSC-certified stamp for reclaimed wood. The species utilized include Douglas fir, Jakarta market blend, European beech, oak, spruce, and pine (among others). It’s all heat-treated for insects (chemical-free), kiln-dried, and finished with glues and finishes that meet California Air Resources Board (CARB) standards for air quality.
GeoSpring hybrid electric water heater from GE
Starting April 2015 in the US, water heaters with 55+ gallons of capacity will have to achieve an energy efficiency factor of 2.0, which can only be achieved by using heat pump technology, and will be twice as efficient as the standard electric resistance water heater of today. This GE GeoSpring water heater has an energy factor of 2.35, is super quiet, is American-made, and has a 10-year warranty.
Haiku by Big Ass Fans
Unlike conventional fans which are designed with noisy, inefficient AC motors, Haiku fans by Big Ass Fans use brushless, electronic-commutated DC motors that consume only 2-30 watts of energy, which significantly exceeds ENERGY STAR requirements. They’re made with a limited lifetime warranty, and can be manufactured either with advanced composite materials or hand-finished bamboo.
XS-P Series streetlight from Cree Lighting
Traditional metal halide or high-pressure sodium lights scatter illumination (contributing to light pollution), give off an orange glow, and aren’t particularly efficient. Cree’s LED street lights deliver 100 lumens per watt of 4000K or 57000K light directly to the ground (rather than scattered about), are extremely affordable (ROI of 3 years or less), and make use of dimming capabilities, occupancy sensors, remote monitoring, and other controls.
Cyber Rain smart irrigation controllers
Overwatering (especially of lawns) is a huge problem in the US and other developed countries. This Cyber Rain system takes local weather, plant conditions, soil moisture levels, slope, and sun exposure into consideration to calculate the right amount of water needed and avoid water waste. It can be operated from your PC or smartphone via the cloud, and will even send email alerts or remotely close valves.