Trend Of The Day: Building Material Suppliers Positioning On Green Product Attributes

styrofoam insulation DOW chemical cabin construction photo

Styrofoam® block, concrete-form construction. Image credit:StevesCustomLogHomes.

With money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act being dispersed through state agencies, "shovel-ready" markets for construction materials such as insulation can be expected to increase. That makes it an especially good time to position construction materials based on substantive environmental attributes. Suppliers are rising to the opportunity. Here's a noteworthy example: Dow Chemical Company ("Dow") announced..."that it has succeeded in converting its first facility that manufactures Styrofoam® Brand Insulation in Dalton, Ga., to its new zero ozone-depleting, no-VOC (volatile organic compound) foaming agent technology."

No more chloro-fluorocarbon foam blowing agents.

The building industry has been watching closely to see when manufacturers will convert and how quickly they will be able to get new product into the supply chain. With Dow's Dalton facility expected to begin shipments by the end of March, and other plants to follow in sequence throughout the year, Dow is well-positioned to complete conversion of its plants in advance of the Montreal Protocol deadline.

The Federal stimulus package ("ARRA") money, coupled with the possibility of government purchasing requirements mandating a good record with regulatory compliance, puts a strong incentive out there for producers of insulating foam to beat the regulatory phaseout deadline for ozone depleters.

Although skepticism is always warranted, green product positioning - especially if based on beating an environmental regulatory deadline - should not be presumed to be "green wash". In fact, Dow Chemical has also announced that it will be publishing a life cycle inventory study on Styrofoam products. That will be interesting.

When properly installed in buildings, production capacity at Dalton of STYROFOAM™ brand insulation could save CO2 emissions... equivalent to: Planting 700,000,000 treesBased on maximum production capacity at Dalton during a twenty year period, a product lifetime of 50 years, and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of Greenhouse Gas Emission Reductions from the "Use of Dow Thermal Insulation." This LCA study will be submitted for external publication in 2009.

I've been wondering if we'll see government-specified performance standards for subsidized projects that tout energy efficiency or other environmental benefits. Anyone heard of movement in that direction?

More posts on insulating foam.
What Can We Do With Our Used Styrofoam?
Resolve for Energy Efficiency
GreenBuild: Durisol, the Green Insulated Concrete Form
Insulated Concrete Forms: Another Opinion

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