Are you Leeding the industry on?

Green building products can contribute, in a big way, to achieving a Leed certification. CW delves deep into the issue.
Are you Leeding the industry on?
By Conrad Egbert
Sat 31 Oct 2009 04:00 AM

Green building products can contribute, in a big way, to achieving a Leed certification. CW delves deep into the issue.The preservation of our environment is quickly climbing up many people’s agendas – be it world leaders, environment protectionists or even individual industries, including the likes of construction and oil and gas.

At first, it was just activists shouting slogans on street corners, but it soon caught the attention of global leaders and governments all over the world.

The gravity of the situation has now seeped deep into the daily lives of the world populace with many incorporating green methods into everything they do. Recycling is a small example. It has also made its way into the conscience of manufactures – case in point, building materials manufacturers.

Construction activity is one of the biggest contributors that harm the environment and many suppliers have begun to realise this and turn to less emitting materials and greener products.

However, the change has also given birth to a new opportunity – an opportunity, which some manufacturers have used to market themselves.

“It drives me mad when I get phone calls from building material manufacturers trying to lure me to meet with them on the back of their Leed certification,” said Holley Chant, Leed AP, who is corporate sustainability director at international consultancy firm Keo.

“As soon as someone says they’re Leed certified, I make sure they’re ruled out completely. Leed does not certify products, it certifies buildings and from there on, communities etc. People calling me up to say their products are Leed certified already shows how little they know about Leed.”

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (Leed) Green Building Rating System was developed by the US Green Building Council (USGBC) in 1998 and provides for environmentally sustainable construction. Attaining a Leed certification is considered one of the hardest achievements and this is due to its transparent process where the technical criteria proposed by the Leed committees are publicly reviewed for approval by more than 10,000 membership organisations that constitute the USGBC.

So what do building materials manufacturers really mean when they say they are Leed certified? David Guilabert Ortuno, planning director, Cemex explains it from a suppliers point of view.

“It means they are a supplier of products that can help construction projects gain Leed credits,” he says. “There is no Leed certification for suppliers; it is a building rating system not a company rating system.

“However, a company can position itself to be a supplier of materials that will help a project earn a host of different Leed credits. For example, Cemex can supply products to reduce the UHI (urban heat island) effect, contain certain levels of recycled materials, reduce energy consumption in a building or help projects gain innovation credits by surpassing the normal performance requirements. These are some examples of where the building materials used, can contribute directly to a projects Leed certification.” But Tarana Daroogar, technical services manager for building materials provider Mapei, feels that the correct term is not Leed certified but “Leed compliant”.

“There is often a misconception on this point. Products are often referred to as ‘Leed compliant,’ which means that they can contribute to the points required for the Leed rating or other green building certifications.

Cemex tip on how to distinguish a real green product from a green washed one?

Ask building materials suppliers how they can help reduce the carbon footprint of their projects, improve their environmental management system and contribute to obtain any of the green building rating system points.

Chant agrees that certain products can help towards attaining a Leed certification but that again depends on a host of many factors, and a product that is pegged to be green could just as well become an offender, depending on the way it is used.

“It’s a very strict process and each material is assessed individually. Even products, are then further assessed and what went into making the product is looked at, the conditions it was manufactured in, the resources used and many other factors.”

But with such pressure mounting in the region to become environmentally friendly and sustainable, are building materials manufacturers beginning to really go green and is the same pressure also driving some manufactures to simply ‘green wash’ their products?

“Absolutely,” says Daroogar in response to the former. “Many manufactures are responding to the requirements of the market in the introduction of ‘green’ products, however, we find that some manufactures are taking advantage of this opportunity and trying to label their products as green products, while it requires more detailed analysis of the actual application and conditions of use and also the manufacturing process involved.”

Cemex’s Ortuno agrees: “Sustainable construction is a reality and is clearly becoming a differentiation factor in our industry. Leading companies in the construction sector are implementing green products and practices around the world.

“Being the GCC, one of the top constructions spots in the world, the need to go green will increase. Unfortunately, not all manufacturers are ready to take on such a new challenge and their green products campaign looks more like ‘green wash’ rather than a truly green product.”

But with more and more manufactures becoming responsible, coupled with a more educated market, there is very little space left for green washed products to survive. The economic downturn has had a catastrophic impact on the industry but along with the bad there is good and fake green products are set to be washed away.

Mapei’s tips on how sealants, adhesives and building chemicals can contribute to achieving a Leed rating

• Materials that improve air quality by developing an indoor air quality plan to reduce particles in the air during installations.

• Low VOC emitting products by using indoor environmental quality.

• Recycled content by reducing impact from extraction and processing of virgin materials.

• Using of regional materials by reducing environmental impact from transportation.

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