BuildingGreen Top Ten Products of the Year Are Not Boring at All

CC BY 2.0. Presenting the top ten products at Greenbuild/ Lloyd Alter

I am beside myself with excitement over drywall and linoleum.

Almost every year I look at the BuildingGreen top ten products for the upcoming year and wonder, how can I make this interesting or exciting? They are sometimes as boring as watching paint dry. One year it actually was about paint drying. This year at Greenbuild they tried to make it even less exciting by putting the presentation in a drab corner of the hall with little screens and lots of ambient noise, but Brent Ehrlich and Nadav Malin made the best of it. And really, there is some interesting and important stuff going on here. My top picks of the top ten:

USG Sheetrock Brand EcoSmart Panels


© Firecode X generates 20% less CO2 during manufacturing than standard 5/8" Type X and is lighter, saving transportation energy./ USG Corporation I mean, what can you say about a pile of drywall? Actually, quite a bit, and when you look closely, you realize that it is not boring at all. It can be quite exciting. Anyone who has ever hung a sheet of Type X drywall would be excited to know that it weighs 22 percent less, that it uses 25 percent less water in its manufacture, that it produces 20 percent less CO2 during manufacture and of course, being lighter, emits less from the exhaust of the trucks hauling it to the job site. This is a drop-in replacement for the regular stuff, the kind of incremental change that nobody ever notices but is in fact really meaningful. That's why I am leading off with this; companies should be applauded and recognized for making changes like this. It IS exciting.

Alpen ThinGlass Triple and Alpen ThinGlass Quad

Alpen High Performance Products

© Alpen High Performance Products A problem with the kind of windows you need to achieve the Passivhaus or Passive House standard is that they are often expensive, because everything is bigger and heavier to support the thick triple glazing. In historic restorations, even double-glazing changes the appearance of windows, and triple glazing just looks clunky.

But there have been so many advances in glass technology for the screens of our phones and tablets. Alpen has put some of these to work and used really strong, thin 1mm glass to replace the usual thick panes in the middle. The glass doesn't cost less than the usual 3-pane glass, but being thinner and lighter, it may well drive down the cost of Passive House quality windows because the frames and hardware can be lighter. Even our usually reserved BuildingGreen people can't help themselves:

That is exciting because replacing a double-glazed IGU with a ThinGlass Triple would improve the whole window U-value by 35%–45% over a standard dual-pane option, according to the company. And perhaps the best part: the cost of these Alpen ThinGlass windows is the same as their standard triple-pane offerings.

Duracryl International Corques Liquid Lino

Duracryl linoleum

© Duracryl Regular readers will recall that linoleum is our favorite flooring. It is made of completely natural materials that you could eat for breakfast: linseed oil, wood flour, vegetable oils and cork. I have had it in my kitchen for 30 years and it is still holding up. The only problem with it was that it was made by pushing the stuff through hot rollers in long kilns that take a lot of energy to run, and then was shipped from Europe to North America. It's also sold in rolls so it isn't seamless when used in larger installations.

Now they have somehow figured out how to deliver it in a bucket; you pour it out and somehow, magically without heat and rollers, it turns into a Lino floor. Brent writes:

CLL cures overnight at room temperature, so it has a much smaller carbon footprint than standard sheet linoleum with jute backing, which can take an energy-intensive 30 to 60 days to cure at the factory. And unlike with sheet goods, there is no trimming, no welding seams, and very little waste during installation.

It does seem like magic to me, but if it works, it's pretty amazing. I didn't think you could actually improve linoleum, but they have.

R-50 Insulation Systems Rich-E-Board

R-50 Insulation Systems

© R-50 Insulation Systems I have mixed feelings about this one, a sandwich of rigid insulation with a vacuum insulation core, which gets up to an insane R-50 in an inch and a half. That's equivalent to 16 inches of fiberglass batt. That is technologically amazing, but it comes at a high price in upfront costs, and as Brent notes, it is used where "adding thick insulation might necessitate expensive building alterations to maintain aesthetics." And indeed, it is used by Bjarke! and architects like him to achieve the look they want and get some energy efficiency at the same time. His Vancouver tour is covered with square miles the stuff.

We also have no idea how long it will last. When the vacuum goes and it fills with air, we have nothing but a bit of poly iso, a problematic insulation on its own. It is an interesting product, but I really wonder how it will be used or misused, and whether we should be rethinking our aesthetics.

There are lots more at BuildingGreen, from MDF panels made from rice to levitating chillers to low CO2 carbon pavers. Check them all out.