The BuildingGreen Top Ten Products awards remind me of the Oscars. Everybody watches them and talks about them, and pretty much ignores the Scientific and Technical awards given out two weeks earlier. The BuildingGreen awards are like that; they are scientific and technical, are generally not particularly photogenic. I mean, Proglaze ETA Engineered Transition Assemblies from Tremco are not exactly the George Clooney of green building, even if they reduce heating loads and prevent moisture or air quality problems. Others show better on the red carpet.
Most ceiling fans use low-cost, AC motors that offer poor energy efficiency; the fans themselves are often poorly made, loud, and unattractive. Haiku ceiling fans, manufactured by Big Ass Fans, have brushless, electronically commutated DC motors for increased energy efficiency. Designed for both residential and commercial applications, Haiku ceiling fans use 2-30 watts, significantly exceeding Energy Star requirements.
The Haiku is from Big Ass Fans. When I first wrote about them, I titled my post Great idea, Dumb Name and thought that architects wouldn't specify a product with such a name. Everyone called me a prude and the company sent me a rubber donkey. Interestingly, two websites covering the BuildingGreen products of the year call it Big A** and the Haiku has its own website that downplays Big Ass. Is America getting even more prudish than it was six years ago?
Amorim expanded-cork boardstock insulation
Perhaps these awards are sexier than I gave them credit for. We are big fans of cork for so many reasons; it's a renewable resource (bark is harvested every nine years), maintaining cork production protects the natural habitat of the short-toed eagle and the Iberian lynx, it employs 62,000 workers in a country seriously hit by the Euro-recession and protects an area half the size of Switzerland from more mindless real estate development.
BuildingGreen also notes that cork insulation is made without harmful blowing agents or halogenated fire retardants.
Fridtjof Nansen lined the interior of the Fram with seven inches of cork; it kept him warm for years in the Arctic and kept Amundsen toasty in the south. 120 years later, it still insulates the boat on display in Oslo.
More on cork in TreeHugger:
Yes To Cork — Save Forests, Jobs and the Iberian Lynx
Cork vs Plastic: How Real Cork is Harvested and Why It Matters
Inside the Cork Wars
Corticeira Amorim, Portugese Cork Supplier's Sustainability Report
Atlas CMU block with CarbonCure
Wait a second, this is getting sexier by the moment. I have spent years complaining about concrete and how 5% of CO2 emissions come from making the stuff. Now Canadian block manufacturer Atlas Block (which we wrote about earlier for their use of Poraver glass beads) is using CarbonCure technology to actually inject CO2 into the concrete.
[Atlas Block takes] CO2 supplied from local industrial sources and injects it directly into concrete masonry units (CMUs) during production using a specially designed mold. Atlas Block is using the CarbonCure system primarily to reduce the carbon footprint of its products, but injecting CO2 into CMUs during manufacture also improves their strength, reduces the amount of portland cement required, and speeds curing. Atlas Block also offers products with post-consumer recycled glass. Atlas Block / CarbonCure is the first product brought to market that sequesters CO2 without requiring a dramatic change in current manufacturing processes.
That's a very big deal. I won't get to the point where I call concrete green, but this is certainly better. See:
Concrete: Can it be Green?
BuildingGreen Tells You Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Concrete
Viridian reclaimed wood
Huge quantities of wooden pallets, crates, and packing materials used to ship goods to the U.S. are discarded daily, wasting a valuable resource and clogging our landfills. In its Oregon facility, Viridian Reclaimed Wood processes these materials from the Port of Portland and then creates flooring, tabletops, paneling, veneers, and other products for use in commercial and residential buildings.
Lets just hope that the flooring doesn't include the Viridian principle of "Planned Evanescence": "the product and all its physical traces should gracefully disintegrate and vanish entirely."
GeoSpring hybrid electric water heater from GE
This isn't just an efficient water heater (although it is that, being a heat pump that is twice as efficient as a conventional electrical resistance water heater) but it is also at the forefront of a manufacturing revolution in the USA. Charles Fishman wrote a terrific article in the Atlantic Monthly that discusses it:
This year, something curious and hopeful has begun to happen, something that cannot be explained merely by the ebbing of the Great Recession, and with it the cyclical return of recently laid-off workers. On February 10, Appliance Park opened an all-new assembly line in Building 2—largely dormant for 14 years—to make cutting-edge, low-energy water heaters. It was the first new assembly line at Appliance Park in 55 years—and the water heaters it began making had previously been made for GE in a Chinese contract factory.
BuildingGreen doesn't explain why anyone would want a 50 US gallon water heater, that seems huge to me.
Other Best Products:
OK I take back my introduction. It may be hard to get excited about WUFI software from Fraunhofer IBP and Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Cyber Rain smart irrigation controllers, (who needs lawns, anyways?) but there are some seriously sexy products in this year's list after all.