I have to say that I came away from the National Association of Home Builders’ 2010 International Builders’ Show (IBS) with a fresh perspective on efforts to bring green building further into the industry’s mainstream, and the sense that awareness, leadership, and commitment are on the rise at high levels within some very important companies.
As has been true for a number of years, the educational programming at IBS contained something for everyone involved in green building, from product manufacturers to builders, within a wide range of timely topics (see page 10 for some of the highlights). And even with the drop in attendance and number of exhibitors this year, it was still a huge event for our industry and a great opportunity to connect with its leaders.
What was different for me this year, and what changed my perspective, took place out on the show floor. The past five-plus years have seen a dramatic increase in the number of show exhibitors using IBS to promote their products to the NAHB’s growing green builder audience. Early on the trend among these companies was to simply post buzzwords like “green,” “eco-friendly,” “earth-friendly,” or “sustainable” in their booth signage and promotional materials. This isn’t just something that happens at IBS; the same can be said for almost any building show, including the USGBC’s annual Greenbuild International Conference and Expo. And while this disturbing practice will eventually fade as successful product manufacturers lead by example, I couldn’t help but notice a positive shift this year.
More companies that exhibited at IBS in January seemed to understand the need to substantiate their claims and have invested in third-party certification for their products. All over the show floor you could see logos for Greenguard, SFI, FSC, SCS, Energy Star, and SRCC. There were even a few that had achieved Cradle to Cradle certification. There also was a noticeable improvement in the language manufacturers used to describe how their products contributed toward certification within the National Green Building Standard and USGBC’s LEED for Homes program. The level of understanding has improved.
The companies most serious about this market went beyond the logos, stationing sustainability team leaders and experts in their booths. And while I did bump into a fair share of sales-types who were clearly in over their heads, I was impressed by the number of green leaders I spoke with at a variety of companies and the level of technical expertise, financial investment, and commitment evident behind the leading brands I visited.
I spoke with sustainability champions at companies that produce carpet, siding, appliances, windows, water heaters, lumber products, plumbing fixtures, solar systems, lighting fixtures, housewrap, insulation, countertops, drywall, and more—and had meaningful, substantive, no-BS discussions about product performance, third-party certifications, and sustainable manufacturing that were as environmentally enlightened and technically informed as any I’ve had anywhere. In some ways it surprised me to find such depth and substance behind these brands that signals increasing credibility and more reliable options for green pros.
These conversations have left me hungry for more, so over the course of the next year I’ll be visiting green team leaders at companies across the industry to learn, and share with you, what they’re doing to bring true green products and sustainable practices to our market.