Building Products with Integrity

Building Products with Integrity

Some progressive manufacturers are skipping the green wash and developing products that are both renewable and transparent.
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The Declare label gives information about where a product is made, what’s in it and what options are available at the end of its life.

Green Builder Media

Wednesday, December 9, 2015 - 6:30am

CAMPAIGN: Building Science

CONTENT: Article

GETTING THE CARBON OUT is just the beginning. Growing awareness of the impact of product and material choices on indoor air quality is driving interest in non-toxic products and resulting in greater transparency for manufacturers. Here is where “natural” products have an edge. They tend to be simpler, with fewer components, and fewer, if any man-made chemicals, which tend to bio-accumulative and have undesirable health effects.

But the ever-growing fields of “green chemistry”—the design of chemicals and processes that reduce or eliminate hazardous substances—and biomimicry—emulating natural processes to solve human problems—are facilitating a more holistic approach to product design and manufacturing, and often meld the best of natural materials and sophisticated science.

Specifiers and customers are becoming savvier and demanding to know not only what’s in products, but how they are made, and quantify their impacts all along the supply chain. In response, more companies are paying for third-party certifications, health product and environmental product declarations for their products. It stands to reason that companies that are proactive will have an advantage; and in fact, leaders are emerging in every category, from flooring to roofing to insulation.

Pushing the Envelope

One of these leaders is Owens Corning. Representatives from the company’s three insulation lines, which include fiberglass and mineral wool insulation and foam sealant, recently participated in a brainstorming session with representatives from the International Living Future Institute (ILFI), which launched the Living Product Challenge in May of this year. Aimed at manufacturers, this is a companion program to the rigorous Living Building Challenge certification program for buildings. Manufacturers who choose to have their products certified by the Declare program must disclose what the product is made of, where these components come from and include end-of-life instructions.

The point of the brainstorming session was to imagine products that are completely renewable, says Gale Tedhams, director of sustainability for Owens Corning. “What if we could start over and had all the money in the world? We’re looking at environmental, social and economic impacts.”