November 19, 2013

A GREENBUILD Preview: Transparency and the Green Building Evolution


By Frank O’Brien-Bernini, Vice President, Chief Sustainability Officer at Owens Corning

It is an exciting time in the rapidly evolving green building industry. The world’s largest conference and expo dedicated to green building – Greenbuild – starts on Wednesday. This 12th annual gathering of all those involved in sustainable building is expected to bring 30,000 architects, builders, facility managers, educators and green innovators from all over the world.

I had an opportunity a few weeks ago to deliver a master keynote address at the Indian Green Building Council’s Green Building Congress 2013 in Chennai, India (Asia’s largest green building conference and exhibition). While certainly smaller than Greenbuild, the passion and drive to build better, more efficient buildings is equally strong. The creativity and results in this challenging environment are massively impressive.

Now back to Greenbuild! Much discussion is bound to center around the very influential LEED v4, a new set of performance standards for certifying buildings that is set to launch at the show. The launch of LEED v4 is an important milestone for the industry and in the evolution of green building. Over the years, when new LEED standards are adopted, building practices have followed.

Transparency and LEED v4As sustainability is increasingly integrated into all the decisions we make, in both our personal and professional lives, transparency has become a critical requirement for doing business. The new LEED v4 rating system has elevated the role of product disclosure and product transparency, and it encourages all those involved in a building’s construction to be as forthcoming as possible about the products they annual gathering of all

LEED v4 rewards progressive building architects, designers and builders for projects that meet these new guidelines. As a result, the built environment community is abuzz with acronyms such as EPDs (Environmental Product Declarations), LCAs (Life Cycle Assessments) and HPDs (Health Product Declarations).

EPDs, which inform us about the environmental impact of a product based on its LCA, are quickly gaining momentum in the global construction community. At Owens Corning, we are at the forefront of developing and publishing EPDs. At Greenbuild this year, we will announce a new EPD for our FOAMULAR® XPS product – an industry-first for foam. Last year we set the bar with industry-first EPDs for our Unfaced and Kraft-Faced EcoTouch® Fiberglas Insulation and Unbonded Loose Fill Insulation.

Other certifications include HPDs, which represent a complete disclosure of compounds and any identified hazards among the components of a building product. This subject will undoubtedly be discussed during Greenbuild as the process proposed (as of now) does not distinguish the actual exposure or risk of using a particular product. For instance, a compound that has a hazard associated with it as a raw material may be entirely inert in the final product and the current system of reporting does not recognize that. This can unnecessarily eliminate a good product from being used, or, of more concern could allow more hazardous products to “hide” among many products that are inert, as all would carry the same warning. We are all looking forward to that discussion with great hopes that the end result will be an HPD protocol that delivers valuable, relevant, decision-quality information to build better buildings.

Net-zero energy buildings, which are so energy efficient that the balance of their yearly energy needs can be produced with practically-sized renewables, are becoming more commonplace in both commercial and residential sectors. Our Building Science Team is invested in helping bringing Net Zero Energy to the production building process while ensuring that other critical elements, like envelop durability, indoor environmental quality, moisture control, acoustics and comfort are simultaneously enhanced.

At Owens Corning, we are taking a leadership position in establishing sustainability standards for the building industry. As a testament to this commitment, we've earned placement in the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index (DJSI World) in recognition of our sustainability initiatives for the fourth year in a row.

Sustainability-Driven Products and System Innovation
More than 900 exhibitors at Greenbuild will preview their latest product introductions and innovations designed to promote sustainable building. At the Owens Corning booth, we will display several of our insulation and roofing and asphalt building products and systems that meet performance specs, from code built to Net-zero energy, across all climate zones, as well as the criteria to contribute to the new LEED v4. We will be meeting with show attendees to provide them with all of the information they need to meet their needs.

Another trend that continues to grow is the movement toward a whole-system building approach to achieve energy efficiency. Specifiers who choose a systemized solution ensure that all of their components are tested and proven to work together efficiently to provide protection, performance and optimum results. Our ResidentialComplete™ and CommercialComplete™ Wall Insulation Systems, for example, are complete thermal, moisture and air barriers packaged in one energy-saving system.

We also will display our EnergyComplete® Sealant, a breakthrough air sealing solution that helps builders and homeowners effectively achieve optimum energy efficiency in their homes.

Resources for Sustainable Building
In addition to products and systems, we also expect to talk a lot about green building specification resources. At Owens Corning, we offer a robust portfolio of industry-leading resources for builders and architects. For example, our Architectural & Engineering Information Center at OCBuildingSpec.com is a go-to resource for sustainable building and provides architects and specifiers with instant access to the information that matters.

Architects, specifiers, builders and others in the building community are seeking energy efficient products and resources like never before. As the green building industry continues to evolve, the entire construction community will need to understand and adopt the various transparency tools, product declarations and LEED standards.

We invite you to learn more about the green building industry and discover how our products, systems and resources help achieve high performing homes and buildings that are energy efficient, comfortable, durable and sustainable. If you are attending Greenbuild, we invite you to visit us at booth #2937. We look forward to seeing you at the show!

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