So Many Standards, I'm Confused

It is almost a contradiction in terms; if there are so many standards, then there is no standard. What is being measured? Is it the most important criterion? Is it a single criterion? If you see a greenguard sticker on a piece of furniture, that is good, but it measures only one thing- outgassing of VOCs. There are now so many standards that specifiers, architects and clients are getting confused and frustrated. According to Architectural Record, talk to anyone who specifies, designs, builds, or certifies green products and you'll hear the same frustration lurking in their voice. "We're trying to balance delivering what the client wants on schedule and on budget, so adding this other level of complexity of having to understand what standards and what certifications to take seriously is difficult," complains Melissa Mizell, an interior architect at Gensler's San Francisco office. "You either have to embrace the challenge or give up."

There are even groups set up to collate the standards and "offer to consumers a central web place to go to exercise their choice for products designed to meet high sustainability benchmarks, using third-party certified and transparent product performance information." ::The Green Standard

Some standards are industry supported out-and-out greenwashing like SFI ; some are industry supported but ultimately useful in steering the industry in the right direction (like the NAHB), some are terrific but closed and proprietary like Cradle to Cradle; Some are government operated like Energystar; some are open, independent and third-party like FSC. Some cover air, some water, some energy, some lifecyle, how is the consumer or anyone to know?

And when NAHB competes with Greenglobes which competes with LEED, When SFI competes with FSC, how can anyone figure out who's who?

Architectural Record continues: It's likely the next decade will be filled with new standards and certification labels, giving architects little relief. Marilyn Black, founder of Georgia-based Greenguard and AQS, sees no sign of consolidation any time soon. "I certainly don't see the government in a leadership role of trying to bring this together," Black says. "From my perspective, some of the leading programs need to take a proactive step to focus the industry." TheGreenTeam's Meadows agrees, but she thinks market competition will increasingly come into play. "Certifications and labels are products, so you have to ask which one has more credibility, is least expensive, and most adaptable." ::Architectural Record

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