By Alice Liao
Green-product databases can be a boon when you’re working on a sustainable design project, but not all are created equal. Some are incomplete or lack rigor while others may be outdated or defunct. Determining what's useful is not always easy. To get you started, here are nine resources that are still going strong.
This database lists 4,000 products that have been third-party verified to meet one of 31 life-cycle-based multi-attribute standards. Developed with input from multiple stakeholders and the public, the Green Seal standards cover 375 product and service categories, which range from building and construction to lighting, hospitality properties, and household cleaners. While the database is searchable by standard, category, manufacturer, and keyword, users looking for information on a specific product can click on a link to the manufacturer's website. Standards are downloadable.
This database organizes more than 50,000 Energy Star–certified products into 55 commercial and consumer product specification categories that are accessible through an online product directory. Within each category, specific models of the product are displayed in alphabetical order along with information on their performance and energy consumption. Users can sort or filter the list by brand name, category, certification date, key performance factors, and energy efficiency. Users can also compare up to four products within a specific category.
Acquired by Underwriters Laboratories in 2011, Greenguard recognizes building materials, finishes, interior furnishings, furniture cleaning products, and electronic equipment with low chemical and particle emissions. Its database of more than 27,000 certified products has been integrated into UL Environment's Sustainable Product Guide, which allows users to search for products by a range of criteria, including: evaluation type, such as Greenguard, EcoLogo, RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances); specific attributes; product category; manufacturer or brand; credit eligibility in 15 green-building programs; and testing standards. The individual product entries display the testing method used, level of certification, and the sustainable building programs to which it can be used to obtain credit.
The Cradle to Cradle (C2C) Certified products registry includes about 400 product certifications. Although the C2C program covers many product categories outside the construction industry, the majority are related to buildings and interiors. Products undergo third-party testing in five areas—material health, material reutilization, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship, and social fairness—to receive a Basic, Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum rating. Each product on the registry has a C2C scorecard showing its achievement levels for the five criteria and whether it can be used to obtain LEED credit.
Profiles of more than 34,400 chemicals and materials commonly found in building products account for the bulk of this subscription-based database, administered by the HBN. Incorporating information aggregated from 60 lists from governments worldwide, the profiles describe a substance's potential health and environmental impact by breaking it down by ingredients. The database also includes health and environmental evaluations of 1,600-plus building products and components, which are searchable by manufacturer, product name, CSI category, and ratings from more than 250 sustainable and product certification programs.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST's) Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability (BEES) online tool quantifies life-cycle environmental and cost performance for 230 generic and branded building products. Products are evaluated across 12 environmental-impact categories—global warming, acidification, eutrophication, fossil fuel depletion, indoor air quality, habitat alteration, water intake, criteria air pollution, smog, ecotoxity, ozone depletion, human health—to generate an overall score that simplifies comparisons within a specific category. The categories can be individually weighted, as can environmental and economic performance. Joshua Kneifel, a research economist at NIST, hopes that the forthcoming update of BEES, slated for 2017, will encourage additional manufacturer submissions because it will provide new information that helps with the process of creating an Environmental Product Declaration.
Although this database was created to help those pursuing the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED for Homes project certification, this database of thousands of products has also proven to be an invaluable resource for professionals interested in building green, says Ron Jarvis, vice president of sustainability for the Home Depot. The products are organized by category and displayed in a straightforward grid alongside the related number of LEED-eligible points. Clicking on a specific item takes users to the product on the Home Depot’s website, where they can access product information relating to specification, safety, and installation, as well as customer reviews.
This database by the International Living Future Institute lists building products whose ingredients have been fully disclosed and vetted against the Portland, Ore.–based organization’s Red List of the 22 "worst-in-class toxic chemicals pervasive in the environment," says James Connelly, director of the Living Product Challenge. Products are labeled as follows: Red List Free; LBC Compliant, if they contain a Red-List chemical that is allowed in the Living Building Challenge (LBC); or Declared, if the Red Listed chemical is not LBC-exempt. The database currently contains 350 product labels, each with an ingredients list, Declare status, assembly location, life expectancy, and end-of-life options.
This recent launch by Google, Healthy Building Network (HBN), Flux (a spinoff from the Google[x] lab), and life-cycle analysis consultants ThinkStep presents data relating to the health and environmental impact of 100 generic building materials. Intended as a resource for researching products prior to procurement, it comprises brand-agnostic profiles for common products, ranging from acoustic ceiling panels and drywall to structural steel cables, and is searchable by the Construction Specifications Institute MasterFormat classification and keyword. The HBN compiled health-impact data from a variety of sources, which are cited at the bottom of each profile, while ThinkStep provided the environmental impact data. The database is open access to encourage usage and feedback.
This article was originally published in ARCHITECT November 2015
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