Where are you getting your green building-product information? - Fine Homebuilding

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The Deans of Green

The Deans of Green


Where are you getting your green building-product information?

comments (2) January 6th, 2009 in Blogs

Posted by: Rob Moody

As a green builder, I think one of my hardest jobs is deciphering and translating claims about the performance of a new green product. Related to this is the ongoing debate surrounding the benefits of open-cell versus closed-cell foam insulation. Emotions run high whenever the topic is brought up, and I’ve found that responses from people can be downright polarizing.

One exchange I had with a builder (who owned a closed-cell foam-insulation company) went like this:

Builder: “I don't know what kind of dumb builder would ever want to use open-cell foam.”

Me: “At EcoBuilders, we use open-cell foam exclusively. On all our houses.”

(Awkward silence.)

Builder: "Um. Have a nice day. See you later."

OK. That one wasn’t so much polarizing, but I did think it was funny. It felt like a scene right out of TV’s The Office.

Guess he thought I was a dumb builder.

I do prefer open-cell foam. It works well for our particular green-building formula and our climate. But the marketing engines behind insulation products can make our choices difficult. Some ads are even focused on the competition's product performance, so we know more about what we’re not getting than we do about what we are.

It is our job as competent, trustworthy green builders to do our homework. In this case, I think that the characteristics of a good scientist are also applicable to what it takes to be a good green builder. It is a scientist's job to be as unbiased as possible, to replicate experimentation, to avoid anecdotal evidence, and to apply appropriate statistical analysis to research. Builders should look closely at sources of product information. Does it come from a book, an article, a credible Web site? Is it the manufacturer? The source may well be trustworthy, but it couldn't hurt to corroborate their information with data from an unbiased source.

Here are some of my recommendations for good green building-product information you can trust:

  • Congratulations. You’ve already found a great source for information right here in cyberspace with FineHomebuilding.com. There is a plethora of product reviews, blogs, and complete archives.

  • I treat the Energy and Environmental Building Association (EEBA) builder's guides like a religious text for green building. There are versions for each major climate zone.

  • The U.S. Green Building Council has tons of great info, and their Web site has project profiles and an excellent “Ask an Expert” section.

  • I also love to use BuildingGreen.com and their newsletter Environmental Building News. They also publish the GreenSpec Directory, which is a list of environmentally preferable products that have been vetted by their editors.

  • Buildingscience.com also has tons of great info and is written by educated and experienced building scientists I trust.

posted in: Blogs, business

Comments (2)

HobbesJourney HobbesJourney writes: Unfortunately most of the sites you mention either have manufacturers of those "green" products as members, have advertisers who make those products, or otherwise have some interest in being "nice" to product manufacturers. As a person who runs his own site (http://www.greenrenovation.us/) who blogs about products, it's really hard to find unbiased information that pulls no punches.

We need sites to say, this product sucks. Don't use it and here's why! That's as helpful as discussing product characteristics and features.
Posted: 10:05 pm on February 22nd

BldgKnowledge BldgKnowledge writes: +1 on all 5 of the recommendations above.
Posted: 9:47 am on January 20th

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