Driving Performance and Transparency in Green Building Products and Materials - UL Environment


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is UL white paper provides an overview of the various ways in which building product manufacturers can demonstrate compliance with green building certification programs and codes, such as LEED, International Green Construction Code (IgCC), California’s Green Building Standards Code, Green Globes, and the Living Building Challenge. The paper also discusses the various tools intended to aid in the evaluation and selection of environmentally preferable products, such as environmental product certifications, Lifecycle Assessments (LCAs) and Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs), as well as the specific functions of each. The white paper concludes with some thoughts about the value of both performance and transparency metrics in achieving environmental leadership.

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Driving Performance and Transparency in Green Building Products and Materials - UL Environment

  1. 1. Driving Performance andTransparency in Green BuildingProducts and Materials
  2. 2. Driving Performance and Transparency in Green Building Products and MaterialsDriving Performance and Transparencyin Green Building Products and MaterialsIn just a few short years, the use of environmentally preferable products andmaterials has become an essential element in the development and construction ofnew commercial and residential building projects. Driven largely by public interestin minimizing the potential environmental impact of building products, architectsand builders now actively embrace “green” initiatives, such as the new InternationalGreen Construction Code (IgCC™) and the Leadership in Energy and EnvironmentalDesign (LEED®) program developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).Indeed, according to a 2010 UL survey, architects, builders and contractors report thata significant number of projects they undertake have clear sustainability goals thatrequire environmentally preferable products.However, questions remain among manufacturers and buyers about just how toevaluate and compare the lifecycle-based environmental profiles of similar buildingproducts and materials. For example, what is the significance of a product bearingan “eco-label”? What are the differences between various types of product eco-certifications? What mechanisms exist to support comparisons between similarproducts? And, what steps can manufacturers take to bring environmentally preferableproducts to market as efficiently and as cost effectively as possible?Each of these mechanisms, from eco-labels and environmental product certificationsto lifecycle assessments (LCAs) and environmental product declarations (EPDs), isan important part of a larger “toolkit.” Collectively, these tools provide informationregarding the total environmental impact of products, as well as their environmentalperformance, and offer an objective means of comparing similar products. Ultimately,these mechanisms enable buyers to make more informed decisions about the productsthey purchase, spurring further advances in product sustainability. Depending on theirobjectives, manufacturers can use one or several of these tools in combination to meetcurrent and future sustainability expectations of buyers.This UL white paper provides an overview of the various ways in which buildingproduct manufacturers can demonstrate compliance with green building certificationprograms and codes. The paper begins by reviewing current and projected trends inthe demand for sustainable buildings and building products, as well as the currentcertification programs and building codes regarding green construction. The paperthen discusses the various tools intended to aid in the evaluation and selection ofpage 2
  3. 3. Driving Performance and Transparency in Green Building Products and Materialsenvironmentally preferable products, construction revenue since 2007, when A separate study from McGraw-Hillsuch as environmental product the top 100 green contractors generated Construction projects a five-fold increasecertifications, LCAs and EPDs, as well as just $22.8 billion from green projects2. in revenue generated from greenthe specific functions of each. The white residential construction, growing from $17 Equally significant, green constructionpaper concludes with some thoughts billion in 2011 to between $87-114 billion projects represent an increasinglyabout the value of both performance annually by 20166. This anticipated pace important source of revenue for buildingand transparency metrics in achieving of future growth in green construction contractors. For example, New York-basedenvironmental leadership. clearly provides significant economic Turner Construction reports that 55% of opportunities for manufacturers of its 2009 construction revenue resultedIndustry Trends in Sustainable sustainable building products and from green projects, up from just 15% ofBuildings and Building Products materials. construction revenues in 20063. OtherThe U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy construction firms report similar results. An Overview of GreenInformation Administration has projected In addition to generating more revenue Building Certification Programsthat the construction and operation of and Codes from green building projects, architectsbuildings now accounts for about 40% of and builders report increased clientdomestic energy consumption and almost At present, green construction projects interest in construction projects with75% of U.S. electricity consumption1. By are largely defined by compliance with clear sustainability goals that requirechoosing environmentally preferable the provisions of voluntary green building the use of environmentally preferablebuilding products and materials, certification programs and by mandatory products. Research conducted on behalfcommercial and residential developers building codes. Here’s a brief overview of UL Environment in 2009 indicatedand builders can reduce the use of of the most important green building that more than half of constructionenergy resources required to produce programs and codes currently applicable projects then in development hadbuilding products and materials, and to building design, construction and sustainability goals, with more than 75%save on energy consumption during maintenance. of projects designed with environmentalconstruction and over the span of sustainability in mind. The survey also LEED Green Building Rating Systema building’s useful life. Not only do found that the impetus for sustainablethese products and materials address Initially developed with the active construction projects was likely thethe expectations of environmentally participation of the USGBC in the client identifying sustainability goals mid/late 1990s, the LEED certificationconscious buyers, but their use can for his or her project, or an architect or program for the design, construction andactually result in tangible financial builder recommending environmentally operation of environmentally preferablebenefits for developers and builders. preferable building products and buildings is currently the most widelyBecause of these and other advantages, materials4. used framework for assessing greenit’s not surprising that green construction There are also clear indications of building projects. Beginning with a singleis on the rise. According to Engineering continued strong growth in green standard addressing new construction,News-Record, the top 100 green construction. For example, industry the LEED program has evolved overcontractors in the U.S. reported revenue research firm IBISWorld projects that time to include rating systems andof $44.1 billion in 2010 from building revenue from green and sustainable certifications for new construction andprojects actively seeking certification for construction projects will increase an major renovations, existing buildingcompliance with sustainable design and average of 23% annually for the next operations and maintenance, commercialconstruction standards. This represents five years, growing from $87 billion in interiors, retail spaces, schools, hospitals,a nearly 100% increase in green 2011 to more than $245 billion by 2016 . 5 neighborhood developments, andpage 3
  4. 4. Driving Performance and Transparency in Green Building Products and Materialsresidential structures. The USGBC The IgCC can be used for new and existing accredited as a standards developmentestimates that nearly 9 billion square feet buildings, including high-rise residential organization by ANSI. A Green Globesof building space falls under one or more buildings. However, as a model code, ANSI standard was published in 2010. TheLEED rating systems, with an additional the IgCC must be adopted by governing Green Globe system is applicable to both1.6 million square feet certified every day 7. jurisdictions and embedded in state new and existing buildings. and local building codes before itsThe current LEED rating systems use a Living Building Challenge™ provisions become enforceable under100-point system to determine whether a law. In implementing the IgCC, governing Operating under the International Livingbuilding project qualifies for certification. jurisdictions can modify certain provisions Building Institute (LBI), the Living BuildingPoints are awarded in each of the to address specific local conditions or Challenge certifies the developmentfollowing six categories: enhanced performance requirements of buildings, neighborhoods, villages/ 1. Sustainable sites through the addition of “jurisdictional campuses and cities. It evaluates a 2. Water efficiency requirements.” project’s performance against seven separate metrics, including site, water, 3. Energy and atmosphere California’s Green energy, health, materials, equity and 4. Materials and resources Building Standards Code beauty. The Living Building Challenge 5. Indoor environmental quality In terms of building codes, the 2010 requires the use of a third-party auditor California Green Building Standards responsible for reviewing relevant 6. Innovation in design Code (also known as CALGreen) came project documents and conductingA total of 40 points is currently required into effect on Jan. 1, 2011, and addresses an onsite verification.to achieve the minimum certification green building design and construction Other Actionslevel. Silver, gold and platinum for new residential and non-residentialcertification levels are available for buildings. The provisions of the California At the federal level, it is anticipated thatprojects that have earned greater Green Building Standards Code have the U.S. General Services Administrationpoint totals. already influenced requirements in (GSA) will incorporate environmental other construction codes, such as product certifications as a factor inInternational Green Construction the International Green Construction government purchasing decisions in 2012Code (IgCC) Code (IgCC). It is expected that other or 2013. This action is based on ExecutiveThe 2012 IgCC is the product of a jurisdictions will look to California’s Order 135148, issued by President Obamacollaborative effort between the example when formulating their own in October 2009 that requires U.S. federalInternational Code Council, the American green building requirements. agencies to “leverage federal purchasingInstitute of Architects and ASTM power to promote environmentally- Green GlobesInternational. IgCC is a consensus-based responsible products and technologies.”9model code that creates a framework Used in the U.S. and Canada, the Green With annual expenditures approachingfor other existing international codes, Globes online assessment and rating nearly $6 trillion, federal buyingincluding the International Energy system has its origins in the Building requirements are also likely to speedConservation Code and ICC 700, the Research Establishment’s Environmental acceptance of these complianceNational Green Building Standard. As Assessment Method (BREEAM). The mechanisms by private industry.such, IgCC incorporates sustainability Green Globes system has operated inmeasures addressing every phase of a the U.S. since 2004 under the oversightbuilding project, from design through of the Green Building Initiative (GBI), theconstruction and occupancy. first green building organization to bepage 4
  5. 5. Driving Performance and Transparency in Green Building Products and MaterialsMechanisms for Demonstrating •  Lifecycle Assessment (LCA)— pertinent environmental andProduct Environmental An LCA evaluates a product’s health-related impacts. Because environmental impact throughout the information contained in EPDsPerformance its various lifecycle stages, from is based on a set of common rulesWithin the context of green building material and component sourcing (the critical difference betweencertification programs and codes though final disposal or recycling. an EPD and an LCA), EPDs enablenoted above, there are a number of It provides a comprehensive picture buyers to make more informedmechanisms available to support of the amount of energy, water purchasing decisions across aclaims regarding the environmental and materials consumed in the given product category.performance of building products and production and use of a product.materials. These mechanisms vary in As such, an LCA is appropriate Types of Certificationcomplexity, ranging from an assessment when used to assess a product’s In addition to the various mechanismsof a single aspect of a product to a more environmental impact in support available for demonstrating a product’scomprehensive evaluation of a product of a company’s efforts to improve environmental attributes and impacts,throughout its entire lifecycle. Following operations or meet internal goals. confirmation of environmentalis a brief summary of the various types However, because it is difficult to performance claims can be achievedof mechanisms for demonstrating a compare multiple products within through different levels of certification,product’s environmental attributes a given category, an LCA is not as follows:and impacts. typically used to communicate these improvements publicly. •  First-party certification— •  Environmental Product Also known as self-certification, Certification —An environmental •  Environmental Product first-party certification is based product certification enables Declaration (EPD)—An EPD is a wholly on a declaration by a buyers to identify products that comprehensive, verified disclosure manufacturer that a product meet their specific environmental of a product’s lifecycle-based meets certain environmental and/or sustainability goals. environmental impact. It reports performance requirements. As An environmental product the results of a product’s lifecycle such, first-party certifications are certification is typically based on assessment (LCA) according to a considered the least credible, and an environmental performance set of international standards and do not meet the requirements of standard that sets metrics for product category rules (PCRs), and buyers who are seeking products one or more criteria, such as includes other information relevant with independently verified energy reduction, waste diversion, to a product’s environmental environmental performance claims. recyclability, use of salvaged profile. An EPD will usually include materials, and conservation information on a product’s •  Second-party certification— of natural resources. An carbon footprint, ozone depletion, In some cases, industry, trade environmental product certification acidification of land and water, or special interest groups are indicates that a product has eutrophication (an impact of directly involved in the creation undergone independent testing, water pollution), photochemical of performance standards, in auditing or both and complies ozone creation, and depletion of the operation of a certification with that standard. abiotic resources, as well as other program, or in the verificationpage 5
  6. 6. Driving Performance and Transparency in Green Building Products and Materials of environmental performance Standardization (ISO) has created a series and declarations present objective, claims on behalf of their members. of guidelines for labels and declarations quantifiable, lifecycle-based While commonly confused with regarding product environmental claims. environmental information about third-party certifications, these ISO standards categorize eco-labels a product in a consistent manner. types are actually second-party and declarations into one of the three Also known as Environmental certifications. following types: Product Declarations (EPDs), •  Type 1 (ISO 14024: 1999, Type 3 ecolabels are based on •  Third-party certification— Environmental labels and product category rules set by Third-party certification is declarations—Type 1 environmental an independent body, known conducted by an unbiased, labeling—Principles and as a program operator. In some independent body whose only cases, environmental information connection with a manufacturer procedures)—Type 1 labels and presented in Type 3 declarations seeking certification is the fees declarations affirm compliance must be independently verified by paid by that manufacturer for with pre-determined, multi- the program operator. assessment and verification attribute, lifecycle-based services. Third-party certification environmental performance The LEED Material Disclosure warrants that all aspects of the requirements for products within certification program, from and Assessment Pilot Credit the same category. However, standard development, operations products bearing Type 1 eco-labels In 2012, the USGBC modified the and verification of environmental may offer different levels of LEED certification credit structure performance claims, are conducted environmental performance in to award pilot credits for the use of independently and free of any areas outside the scope of the label environmentally preferable building conflicts of interest. or declaration. products and materials that have been certified by a third-party. The LEEDTypes of Eco-Labels •  Type 2 (ISO 14021: 1999, Material Disclosure and Assessment Environmental labels andand Declarations pilot credit, known as Pilot Credit 61, was declarations—Self-declared developed to increase the use of buildingAn eco-label or declaration signifies a environmental claims Type 2 products and materials “with life cycles,product’s compliance with environmental environmental labeling)—Type ingredients, and attributes understoodperformance requirements and 2 labels and declarations reflect and optimized to improve overallstandards. According to some estimates, environmental performance claims environmental, economic and socialthere are over 430 different eco-labels made by a product manufacturer. performance.”11 The pilot credit applies toin use by 25 industry sectors in 246 The performance criteria have the use of structural and non-structuralcountries around the world10. As such, not been defined or accepted, or building products and materials under allthere is understandable confusion about independently verified. LEED rating systems, with the exceptionthe meaning and importance of different of residential construction. •  Type 3 (ISO 14025-2006,types of eco-labels. Environmental labels and Pilot Credit 61 calls for the use of certifiedTo bring clarity to the significance declarations—Type 3 environmental building products and materials that haveof various types of eco-labels, the declarations—Principles and a total weighted value of at least 20% ofInternational Organization for procedures)—Type 3 eco-labels all non-structural materials and productspage 6
  7. 7. Driving Performance and Transparency in Green Building Products and Materialsused in a project. Building products and Achieving Performance and whether a product is, in fact, “greener”materials qualify for credit in one of the Transparency in Environmental than a traditional product, andfollowing three ways: often considers health and social Certifications 1. Having a publicly available LCA impacts as well as environmental that has been independently As the LEED pilot credit program impacts of products. At the same peer reviewed in accordance illustrates, certifying the environmental time, multi-attribute standards and to ISO 14044 performance of building products certifications simply denote that a 2. Having a third-party certified, and materials can proceed along product is more preferable than industry-wide EPD or one of several paths. A third-party another from a sustainability certification based on compliance with perspective, without indicating the 3. Having a third-party certified, an environmental performance standard reason that it is more preferable. This product-specific EPD indicates that a product meets one or approach can prove challenging to more sustainability criteria, such as those looking for more transparentEqually important, the method selected energy reduction, recyclability or information about a product’scan increase or decrease an individual resource conservation. Certification environmental, social or healthproduct’s contribution to the overall based on an assessment of a product’s performance against specific parameters.weighted value. For example, theweight of products with a certified, overall environmental impact Certification of an EPD warrants that theindustry-wide EPD is calculated at empowers purchasers to make environmental impact informationcost, while the weight of products more informed decisions. presented has been reviewed andwith a certified, product-specific EPD validated by a credible third-party. Based Of course, each available certificationis calculated at two times their cost. on life-cycle assessment and thinking, an path offers its own unique advantagesThe weight of products with a product- EPD essentially tells a product’s overall and constraints. Certification to productspecific LCA is calculated at half their cost. environmental story, enabling purchasers performance standards that address to make more informed decisions about a single attribute, e.g., lower levels ofLEED Pilot Credit 61 elevates the the products they buy. However, as noted volatile organic compound emissions,importance of using building products earlier, EPDs do not indicate whether a or increased use of recycled content, etc.,and materials that are accompanied product is environmentally preferable is valuable for demonstrating leadershipby detailed information about their and, as such, should not generally be in a specific environmental performanceenvironmental profile, making them used to evaluate a product against an category. At the same time, however,more a more attractive choice for environmental performance certification. single product attribute certificationsarchitects, developers and builders. The do not offer an overall view of a Given the unique advantages andpilot credit program’s weighted value product’s environmental performance. constraints of each of these certificationcalculation based on product certification options, manufacturers of buildingtype also allows manufacturers to select Certification to product performance products and materials should view thema certification path that represents a standards based on multiple attributes as complementary and not competitive.balance between a product’s economic address a variety of important impacts When used in conjunction with EPDs,value and its contribution to the overall within a given product category. It can single-attribute and multi-attributeenvironmental performance of a project. provide an overall assessment of product certifications providepage 7
  8. 8. Driving Performance and Transparency in Green Building Products and Materialsperformance metrics that assess whether a product is environmentally preferable whilealso disclosing its lifecycle-based impacts. Together, these certification options providebuyers with objective, comparable environmental performance data to facilitatean informed product selection process. This allows buyers to more easily identifyenvironmentally preferable products, thereby driving environmental performance insustainable building efforts.ConclusionToday, green construction represents a substantial sector within the constructionmarketplace, impacting both commercial and residential construction projects. Even asthe overall construction market experiences nominal growth, economic indicators pointto robust increases in green construction between now and 2016. Architects, developersand builders are reporting increased requests for environmentally sustainableconstruction projects, and are frequently specifying building products and materialsthat are environmentally preferable.Green building certification programs are recognizing the importance of sustainableproducts and materials in reducing a building’s overall environmental footprint. Thistrend is perhaps best exemplified by the recently introduced LEED Material Disclosureand Assessment Credit that offers credits for third-party certified building productsand materials. Attention to the use of sustainable building products can be expected toincrease, as the aggregate impact of building products and materials represents a largerproportion of a building’s overall environmental footprint.These market dynamics provide important opportunities for manufacturers ofthird-party certified building products and materials. Certifications of a product’senvironmental performance that are complemented by a third-party certified disclosureof its environmental lifecycle impacts equip manufacturers with an unrivaled toolfor marketplace differentiation. Moreover, these certifications provide buyers withassurances of a product’s environmental preferability, as well as a manufacturer’scommitment to support sustainable building practices.For further information about UL’s environmental product declaration and certificationprograms, please contact environment@ul.com.page 8
  9. 9. Driving Performance and Transparency in Green Building Products and Materials1 “Annual Energy Outlook 2011, with Projections to 2035,” U.S. Energy Information Administration, U.S. Department of Energy. Apr. 2011. Web. 31 Mar. 2012. http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/pdf/0383(2011).pdf2 “The Top 100 Green Contractors, 2011,” Engineering News-Record. 19 Sep. 2011. Web. 31 Mar. 2012. http://enr.construction.com/toplists/greencontractors/001-100.asp3 “Green Building Market Barometer, 2010” Turner Construction. Undated. Web. 31 Mar. 2012. http://www.turnerconstruction.com/content/files/Green%20Market%20Barometer%202010.pdf4 “Architects and Builders Study,” survey of 203 architects, builders and contractors prepared for UL Environment by Slack Barshinger & Partners, Inc. 13 Jan. 2010.5 “Green & Sustainable Building Construction in the U.S.: Market Research Report,” IBIS World. Dec. 2011.Summarized in “Green construction boom predicted for at least the next five years,” Retail Design & Construction Today. 7 Dec. 2011. Web. 31 Mar. 2012 http://www.rdctoday.com/MasterArticlePage/ArticleView/tabid/920/ArticleId/5793/Green-construction-boom-predicted-for-at-least- the-next-five-years.aspx6 “Green Home Builders and Remodelers Study,” McGraw-Hill Construction. Feb. 2012. Summarized in “Green Homes Market Expected to Increase Five-Fold by 2016,” McGraw-Hill Construction press release. Web. 31 Mar. 2012. http://www.construction.com/about-us/press/green-homes-market-expected-to-increase-five-fold-by-2016.asp7 “What LEED Is,” U.S. Green Building Council. Web. 31 Mar. 2012. http://www.usgbc.org/DisplayPage.aspx?CMSPageID=19888 “Executive Order: Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance,” The White House. Oct. 2009. Web. 10 Sep. 2011. http://www.whitehouse.gov/assets/documents/2009fedleader_eo_rel.pdf9 “Executive Order 13514: Sustainability and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction,” Congressional Research Service. Dec. 2009. Web. 20 Sep. 2011. http://www.cnie.org/NLE/CRSreports/10Jan/R40974.pdf10. “Ecolabel Index,” Ecolabel Index Advisory Services. Web. 2 Apr. 2012. http://www.ecolabelindex.com/11. “Pilot Credit 61: Material Disclosure and Assessment,” LEED Pilot Credit Library, U.S. Green Building Council. Mar. 2012. Web. 3 May 2012. http://www.usgbc.org/ShowFile.aspx?DocumentID=18547UL and the UL logo are trademarks of UL LLC © 2012. No part of this document may be copied or distributed without the prior writtenconsent of UL LLC 2012.page 9