The envelope, please: BuildingGreen's top 10 green picks for 2014

elizabeth taylor
Screen capture Elizabeth Taylor with Sora Vivid MR16 LED

Every year the green building website appropriately named BuildingGreen picks its top products for the upcoming year in time for Greenbuild, the USGBC's big green building festival. Last year I suggested that these products are decidedly unsexy, and that these awards are less like the Oscars and more like the technical awards given out two weeks earlier that nobody watches.

This year is different, and Elizabeth Taylor might have been thrilled to share a table with a glittering

Vivid MR16 LED from Soraa.

Soraa Vivid MR-16 LED luminaires are ideal for use where light quality is critical, such as art galleries or retail displays. Unlike other LEDs that use gallium nitride (GaN) crystals grown on a sapphire or silicon carbide base, Soraa uses GaN grown on a GaN base so the crystals have far fewer imperfections. Though less efficacious than some LEDs, Soraa MR-16s produce higher intensity, “full spectrum” light that can rival halogen bulbs, while operating at much lower temperatures.

ERC 50 Modernization Façade from Schüco© ERC 50 Modernization Façade from Schüco

In these times where retrofitting older buildings is a key strategy to reduce carbon, the best costume award goes to a sexy, tight-fitting wrap that keeps buildings warm:

ERC 50 Modernization Façade from Schüco

The ERC 50 Modernization Façade from Schüco is a retrofit façade system that can be installed on older, inefficient commercial buildings to improve energy efficiency, occupant comfort, and aesthetics. The ERC 50 incorporates an aluminum load-bearing framework, Schüco’s high-performance windows, exterior insulation, and cladding into a system that can be installed with minimal disturbance to building occupants. The ERC 50 is modular and uses EPDM gaskets rather than caulk, so it is relatively easy to replace damaged components. Schüco’s building-integrated photovoltaic panels can also be used in this system.

Earth Measure© Earth Measure

Jason McLennan is certainly on the A-list of stars in the green building world, getting writing and directing credits for the Living Building Challenge Now he adds a supporting actor award for his work on

Earth Measure- a stone that's green from start to finish..

Earth Measure, a collaboration between Coldspring and Jason F. McLennan, is a dimension stone product that takes waste from stone manufacturing and cuts it into specific patterns that mimic the natural world. The Fibonacci series is based on spirals found in seashells and other natural elements; the Linear series is closest to standard dimension stone; the MUD series looks similar to drying mud; and the Reptile series mimics the look of reptile skin. Earth Measures can be used for everything from pavers to walls to flooring, so it can transition from exterior to interior and horizontal to vertical applications.

clt© KLH

Originally from Austria, this best foreign performer has wowed the Canadian market and is now looking south.

Structurlam cross-laminated timber.

CrossLam is a cross-laminated timber (CLT) structural panel made by gluing layers of softwood boards one on top of the next at right angles to each other. The resulting panels are light and dimensionally stable in all directions and can be used for floors, walls, and roofing. CLT is made from less desirable wood, including wood taken from forests killed by mountain pine beetles, but higher quality wood can be used if it is going to be exposed to view, and FSC-certified wood is available. CLT comes in panels up to 40 feet long, 10 feet wide, and 12 inches thick and uses formaldehyde-free Purebond polyurethane adhesive.

TreeHugger is a big fan of the stuff and has called it the greenest of building materials. Our rave reviews of amazing performances:
Cross Laminated Timber Comes To America And The New York Times Is On It

sunny boy© Alex Wilson

And an electrifying performance is delivered by

Sunny Boy inverters.

Most grid-connected inverters used for solar-electric systems cannot provide any power during power outages, even when the sun is shining. These revolutionary transformerless inverters from SMA America provide daytime power in the event of a grid outage. Without requiring battery storage, these inverters can switch from interactive operation to providing off-grid energy to a dedicated power outlet. Provided the sun is shining, these inverters can deliver 1,500 watts (12.5 amps at 120 volts) with a maximum efficiency of 97%. While they may not provide enough power for major household loads, these inverters can provide critical cell phone and laptop computer charging and other emergency needs.

mycom co2 heat pump from Lloyd Alter on Vimeo.

No atmospheres were harmed by this winner of a heat pump. Your correspondent was impressed by an earlier performance of the

CO2-Refrigerant Heat Pumps from Mayekawa USA MYCOM

Mayekawa manufactures three different heat pumps for commercial applications that use carbon dioxide as the refrigerant, rather than industry-standard HFCs. The EcoCute model is a water-to-water heat pump that provides both water heating (up to 194°F) and cooling from any water source, including waste heat or solar-preheated water, with a COP up to 8.0. This makes it feasible as an alternative to fossil-fuel-fired boilers. The Unimo air-to-water heat pump water heater produces similar output temperatures using the outdoor air as the heat source, while the Sirocco water-to-air heat pump also offers high-temperature water heating. All Mayekawa heat pumps have 25 kW reciprocating compressors. Key markets include hotels, food processing, pasteurization, and thermal energy storage. The economics for EcoCute and Sirocco products will be most attractive where both heating and cooling loads exist and long run times are feasible.

lock© Assa Abloy

Assa Abloy had a lock on this prize with its oh-so-trendy internet of things ethernet connected up to the moment

PoE Access control lock.

Assa Abloy offers power-over-Ethernet (PoE) electronic access-control locks, including the Sargent Profile Series v.S1, the Sargent Passport 1000 P1, and the Corbin Russwin Access 700 PIP1. Ethernet data cables carry low-voltage electricity to power the lock as well as transmitting data to and from the devices using a facility’s already existing wired and wireless local area network (LAN). Each PoE door typically uses about one watt per door in standby mode, saving more than 150 kWh per year compared to a traditionally wired system. Ethernet power loads are low enough that a modest uninterruptable power supply (UPS) may be able to maintain electronic-access functionality in the case of a power outage.

Composting systems are always stars on TreeHugger, and this one is the King Kong of composters, a Godzilla of garbage, able to eat entire universities.

Earth Flow Composting System from Green Mountain Technologies

Earth Flow is a medium-size, in-vessel composting system with a motorized traveling auger to aerate the compost and a biofilter and fan to minimize odors. With walls that are insulated to R-18 and a greenhouse top, the vessel is sealed against pests and leakage. Units can accept 300–3,000 pounds of organic waste per day and are designed for use on college and corporate campuses and at resorts. Depending on size (10'–40' in length), the system may consume 5–10 kWh per day, according to the company. A unique biofiltration system using wood chips can be part of the planted landscaping for some projects, and this system can be hooked directly to a commercial pulper system for greater convenience. Compost is harvested every two to three weeks and should be cured before spreading directly on beds or fields.

Kinetex© Kinetex

There is always one product that gets a few boos and jeers from the nosebleeds. Performing in a confusing role, it's not a carpet tile, it's not a vinyl floor. It's treated with perfluorinated compounds, a bad actor. But the judges gave a prize to:

Kinetex Textile Composite Flooring from J+J Flooring Group.

Kinetex is a soft surface floor covering intended for use in place of hard surfaces such as vinyl composite tiles in medium- to high-traffic commercial applications. These 24" x 24" semi-rigid tiles are 0.20" thick, compared to 0.25"–0.60" for standard carpet tiles, and are engineered with a wear layer made from solution-dyed PET that resists staining or bleaching and is woven for abrasion resistance and durability. Kinetex is made from 60% recycled content (50% post-consumer PET sourced primarily from water and soda bottles) and, unlike carpet, can be ground and processed into new backing in one step without costly material separation and sorting or loss of performance. Kinetex is treated with perfluorinated compounds to resist dirt and improve its lifespan; note that these chemicals persist in the environment and may have long-term environmental impacts.

roxul© Roxul

And it's a wrap with a Canadian up and comer who may help push toxic and flammable foam plastics off the stage.

ComfortBoard Mineral Wool Board Insulation from Roxul Inc.

Roxul manufactures rigid and semi-rigid mineral wool board insulation for both commercial and residential applications. ComfortBoard, designed for applications over exterior sheathing, is produced in the Milton, Ontario, plant with a minimum 75% pre-consumer recycled content, primarily iron ore slag. The residential version, ComfortBoard IS, has a density of 8.0 pcf, while the commercial product, ComfortBoard CIS, has a density of 11 pcf. At these densities, ComfortBoard is rigid enough to be used as exterior insulation, and it provides an affordable alternative to foam-plastic insulation materials typically used in this application. Comfortboard also provides very good sound control and excellent fire resistance without the use of flame retardants. It can be used in rainscreen details, and it retains thermal resistance when damp.

It's a great year for sexy green building products at the BuildingGreen Top Ten. See you at the afterparty!

The envelope, please: BuildingGreen's top 10 green picks for 2014
It's the Oscars of green building products chosen by the experts, in the runup to Greenbuild.

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