Wake up. It's time for the BuildingGreen Top 10 Products for 2018
It's like watching paint dry.
Every year we cover BuildingGreen's top 10 products. Unlike the Oscars, which look back, BuildingGreen looks forward at what's ahead, which is why, in November 2017, they are announcing the top products for 2018. Their presentation doesn't look like the Oscars either; nobody is wearing a dinner jacket and nobody is screwing up the envelopes.
And where the Oscars are about products that are designed to excite and entertain, BuildingGreen's top products are often soporific, nerdy and obscure. Goodness knows I have tried to make them exciting, even bringing Elizabeth Taylor to the party which, for some reason, angered the only commenter as being crass clickbait. It's really hard, so this year I am just not going to even try. I am just going to go full Eeyore.
It's like watching ROMABIO Domus Interior Paint dry.© Romabio paint via Buildinggreen
That's right, paint. Oh, but wait -- this could be interesting. Most paint is made of acrylic latex, which is like an impermeable rubber skin, often filled with VOCs and harmful chemicals. This is different.
The ROMABIO Domus line of modified potassium silicate-based paints is formulated as a drop-in replacement for standard acrylic latex. Most natural paints lack the durability necessary for commercial interiors, but ROMABIO’s potassium silicate paints react with minerals in the substrate to create a strong, crystalline matrix. The paints also include added solids for better cover. They provide better permeability for wall assemblies and better mold resistance and are not made from fossil fuels.
It's a batt of ugly brown Roxul AFB evo and Thermafiber Formaldehyde-Free SAFB Batt Insulation.© Roxul via BuildingGreen
No, it isn't pretty in pink. But actually, looks aren't everything.
While most mineral wool batt insulation is held together with resins made from formaldehyde, a carcinogen and respiratory irritant, Thermafiber Formaldehyde-Free SAFB and Roxul AFB evo are certified UL Formaldehyde Free and use biobased resins. The performance of these batts has not changed. They offer excellent fire resistance and sound attenuation and R-values around 4, depending on density.
This VersaDry Track System is so obscure I can't even.© VersaDry via BuildingGreen
And the photo is boring too. I didn't even know this was a problem.
Drywall installed directly on the floor is easily damaged by moisture that gets into buildings during construction or due to nuisance leaks. Because moisture wicks through the drywall, a small leak can cause expensive damage that wastes materials and labor, requires expensive remediation, and creates landfill waste. It also creates ideal conditions for mold growth. VersaDry Track System solves this problem using a 26-gauge galvanized steel track system that raises drywall two inches off the floor. This system protects the drywall during construction or if a spill or leak wets the concrete floor.
Grayworks Modular Graywater System has a self-cleaning vortex pre-filter!© Grayworks
Gray wasn't dull enough so they put it in a beige box. But what it does is interesting...
The Grayworks modular graywater system simplifies water reuse in commercial buildings using a small, modular plug-and-play design. It can treat from 1,000 to 10,000 gallons of graywater per day, depending on the system. The package includes a self-cleaning vortex pre-filter, a proprietary bioreactor that breaks down pollutants, another filter to remove remaining solids, and ultraviolet light to disinfect the water. Grayworks also offers an optional chlorine treatment (required by most codes for water reuse indoors) and dye system (to mark treated water as graywater).
Did I say nerdy? Chill on the SEMCO 3fficiency Chilled Beam.© 3fficiency via BuildingGreen
I have always had trouble wrapping my brain around chilled beams, a common system in Europe and Australia but pretty rare in the USA. It's not really a beam, but is a form of heat exchanger, usually using water as a transfer medium. There are passive designs that just work on convection, basically putting a radiator in the ceiling, and active ones that supply air as well. I am having trouble wrapping my brain around the BuildingGreen description too:
Chilled beams are energy-efficient HVAC systems, but they have a reputation for having condensation problems, being complicated to install, and not having good zone controls. SEMCO’s 3fficiency system combines the company’s Pinnacle dedicated outdoor air supply, Neuton pump control module, and active chilled beams into one easy-to-specify system. The key to 3fficiency is the Neuton pump module, an all-in-one “plug-and-play” controller that simplifies chilled beam installation and communicates with the Pinnacle air supply to adjust temperature and humidity. This in turn reduces the chance of condensation.
Read up on Chilled Beams: What They Are, Why You Should Use Them. Good luck.
Wait, things are looking up with ThyssenKrupp.© Thyssenkrupp via BuildingGreen
Hang on, maybe these are not so boring. I have written a lot about ThyssenKrupp and even about this elevator, which I have ridden in Boston at the Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy. It is very impressive technology, even if it is the most boring of every ThyssenKrupp product made. But it has other green virtues:
ThyssenKrupp is the first elevator manufacturer to have C2C Material Health certificates—C2C Bronze for its cabs and Platinum for enviromax biodegradable fluid. It’s also the first to publish an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) and a Declare label (Living Building Challenge Compliant) for its endura MRL cab. In addition, the cab meets California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Standard Method v1.1 for low indoor emissions. The company is also aggressively pursuing energy savings. It created the first net-zero elevator for an existing building, retrofitting the elevator system at the Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems in Boston.
This is so BuildingGreen; they could have shown images of elevators that go sideways, that put two cabs in one shaft, variable speed moving sidewalks, and they show the retrofit that is impressive but hardly photogenic. But it's still important.
And hey, these Airflow Panels are getting interesting.© Airflow Panels via BuildingGreen
Hello, this is different. It is an ERV (energy recovery ventilator, a device that transfers energy from exhaust air to incoming air) that is also an exterior wall panel. I am not normally crazy about mixing different uses like this, having complained about solar shingles; I call it the Shimmer Syndrome, named after the product pitched on Saturday Night Live by Chevy Chase: "It's a floor wax! No, it's a dessert topping!” -- combining two contradictory uses and doing neither particularly well.
But ERVs take up a lot of space and usually have to be ducted.
AirFlow Panels are façade panels that incorporate a thin, ultra-efficient energy-recovery ventilator (ERV) system. They can provide 200 cubic feet per minute (cfm) of pre-conditioned air directly to the building perimeter, significantly reducing the size of cooling coils, ducts, or other equipment used in centralized systems. This results in 30%–40% energy savings, according to the company.
It still makes me nervous, but I am a fan of the philosophy of Open Building, “to maintain a separation between the different aspects of the building in order to be able to make repairs and do upgrades with a minimum of interference with other elements of the building.” But it is certainly not boring.
And we do love standing desks like this Humanscale Float Table.© Humanscale Float Desk via BuildingGreen
We have been covering standing desks for years, and have often noted that you really don't need electric motors. This table uses "an innovative counterbalance mechanism that allows users to adjust the height of the desk with one hand, without the need for cranks or motors." But BuildingGreen also asks questions that, frankly, we should have: What's it made of?
The Float table is Living Building Challenge Red List Compliant and was the first product to be certified as a Living Product by the International Living Future Institute: this signifies it has a net-positive impact on water, energy, climate, and other metrics. Float’s manufacturing process produces more energy than it consumes, yet the desk is made without formaldehyde or other Red List chemicals.
The float table is also interesting because of its shape; note how wide and shallow it is. When you stand, it is much easier to move sideways, so wide and shallow actually works better. Most people with adjustable desks tend to migrate to sitting most of the time; I suspect that this shape, which favors standing, might encourage people to stand more.
And solar is certainly sexy, even on a parking lot, like these SunPower Carport Solutions.© Sunpower via BuildingGreen
There are 800 million parking spaces in the USA, about three for every car. Imagine if they were actually useful, generating green electricity that might even power electric cars. In fact, at about 50 watts per square foot, that's 10 kW per parking space, so if Sunpower covered every parking space, that would be 4 million megawatts, or about the output of a thousand nuclear power stations. That's exciting.
SunPower Carport Solutions optimize underutilized spaces, such as parking lots and garages. Available in single- and dual-tilt, long-span, and garage-top applications, these systems can also incorporate stormwater management, LED lighting, energy storage, and electric vehicle charging. They also provide shade, adding comfort and reducing building cooling energy.
Now we're talking sexy stuff: VIG Technologies Tempered Vacuum Insulated Glass© VIG via BuildingGreen
Did I say boring? Windows are a huge problem in green building or any kind of building; they are a big source of heat loss and heat gain. Even the best windows are not as good as the worst wall. In Passive House designs, architects often use triple and quadruple glazing to get good insulating values, but that makes the windows heavy and thick. Vacuum insulation has long been the holy grail but it is hard to do, because of the ambient air pressure squeezing the glass.
At only 1/3" thick, the VIG Technologies VIG has a minimum U-value of 0.1 (R-10), with U-0.8 (R-13) possible. The company uses a proprietary edge-sealing technology that works with the tempered glass. Micro-support pillars keep glass surfaces from touching. The thermal performance of this glazing is equal to standard triple- and quadruple-glazed windows that are almost four inches thick, making it a good choice for retrofits or where space is limited.
That's amazing, and they are made in sizes of up to 60" x 98"! Don't let your kid put a baseball through one, though; it will probably cost a year's allowance.
I take it back. These are not so boring.© Eeyore/ AA Milne
There is no need to be depressed or pessimistic like Eeyore. In the end, these are quite exciting. I wouldn't actually mind working at a Float Table, looking through a giant vacuum glass window, surrounded by a blanket of healthy insulation, with fresh air provided by an AirFlow panel,
a tall cold glass of Graywater at hand.
In fact, the wonderful thing about BuildingGreen's choices is that they are so meat and potatoes, the basic stuff that can change the way we build, encouraging the use of healthier, more sustainable products. See more at BuildingGreen.