As interest in the environment grows, it’s hard to turn on the television without seeing a story that offers advice on how consumers can go green. But while it’s true that every little bit helps, there are no quick fixes on the road to sustainability. This is especially true in home building.
Loading up your houses with green building products won’t mean much if other (more important) elements of sustainability are ignored. So, if your homes are not thoughtfully designed or do not follow building science principles, no amount of green products will help you or your buyers.
But the right products can help you follow through once you’ve started building green. Assuming you adhere to the important elements of sustainable building, you will want to specify the right items, such as fixtures that save water, materials made with recycled content, and appliances that sip, rather than gulp, energy.
On the following pages are 13 products that will make a difference. Check out items such as soybean-based foam insulation, tankless water heaters that save energy and help provide better indoor air quality, and tiles made from reconstituted leather scraps. The products you choose can make a big difference between seriously green and so-so green.
Top Off: EcoTop composite countertop surfacing is made from 50 percent bamboo fiber and 50 percent recycled wood fiber salvaged from demolition sites. The fibers are then mixed with water-based resin that is free of volatile organic compounds. Available in seven colors, the product is highly scratch- and stain-resistant, the company says. Klip BioTechnologies. 253-507-4622. www.kliptech.com.
No Tanks: Designed for today’s tightly constructed homes, this direct-vent tankless heater provides 7.4 gallons of hot water per minute. The 82 percent–efficient product draws combustion air directly from the outside rather than from the interior, which prevents indoor air quality problems. It can be set from 100 degrees to a maximum of 140 degrees and comes with a remote control thermostat. Rheem Manufacturing Co. 479-646-4311. www.rheem.com.
Vision Quest: The Vision freestanding fireplace doesn’t require a utility connection for fuel supply, so it can be placed almost anywhere in the home. It burns renewable denatured ethanol produced from agricultural and forestry products such as sugarcane. Ideal for multifamily projects, the unit measures 46.9 inches wide and 39 inches high. EcoSmart Fire. 310-914-3335. www.ecosmartfire.com.
Exterior Grade: The exterior version of the manufacturer’s Aura line has a low-odor formulation and low volatile organic compounds. The product uses technology that encapsulates color pigment in resin, resulting in long-term resistance to fading, mildew, and weather, the company says. It’s available in three finishes and thousands of colors. Benjamin Moore & Co. 201-573-9600. www.benjaminmoore.com.
Green Beans: The maker uses rapidly renewable soy beans to produce a line of spray foam insulation products that can help reduce utility bills by up to 50 percent. Available in closed-cell and open-cell formulations, BioBased products contain no chloroflourocarbons or hydrochloroflourocarbons so they are better for the environment than petroleum-based products. BioBased Insulation. 800-803-5189. www.biobased.net.
Hide and Seek: No need to use virgin leather when the Ultimate Collection is available. This line of recycled tiles is made from post-industrial leather scraps that are shredded and mixed with natural rubber and Acacia tree sap. They are available in nine colors and four textures. EcoDomo. 301-424-7717. www.ecodomo.com.
Put a Cork on It: Eco-Clicks tongue-and-groove floating floor features a cork top layer, a high-density fiberboard middle layer, and a cork underlayment. Lightweight, resilient, and resistant to liquid and moisture penetration, planks measure 12 inches by 36 inches and come in nine patterns. Capri Cork. 800-492-2613. www.capricork.com.
Green Team: Cabinets don’t have to be made from wood. This manufacturer offers Simply Green kitchen cabinets and bathroom vanities in bamboo. Standard features include smooth doors and end panels, 3/4-inch-thick shelves, soft-close drawers, and concealed European hinges. Cabinets come in standard sizes in two finishes. Mr. Bamboo. 888-672-2628. www.mrbamboocabinets.com.
Paper Chase: WallSeal is a sprayed-in-place insulation that eliminates the voids and air pockets common with other insulation materials. The manufacturer says the density is more consistent than other types of insulation products and claims that it will not settle in the wall cavity. The product is made from 100 percent recycled paper. Nu-Wool. 800- 748-0128. www.nuwool.com.
Watch Your Glass: The Ashland-e series is made from between 30 percent and 70 percent recycled bottles and other waste glass. Ideal for commercial or residential projects, the 1-inch-by-1-inch and 1-inch-by-2-inch mosaics are mesh-backed or paper-faced for easy installation and come in a variety of transparent, opaque, and iridescent colors. Hakatai Enterprises. 541-552-0855. www.hakatai.com.
Hard Top: EARTHcrete is a family of concrete mixes made from formulas that recycle paper fibers, glass, and ceramics taken from municipal waste landfills, and industrial by-products such as fly ash. The formulas vary according to the performance required for specific applications. It can be used for countertops (shown), sinks, and bath fixtures. Sonoma Cast Stone. 888-807-3201. www.sonomastone.com.
Mod Sod: A green roof often involves complicated work, but this modular system streamlines the process. It consists of 2-foot-by-2-foot anodized aluminum modules containing drought-resistant sedum. Materials may be planted in up to 12 inches of engineered growing material and may weigh from 12 pounds to 51 pounds per square foot depending on the depth of soil. Green Roof Blocks. 314-972-8010. www.greenroofblocks.com.
Spray On: CertaSpray foam is the latest addition to the manufacturer’s lineup of conventional insulation products. Like other foam products, it expands to fill all nooks and crannies and is excellent at preventing air infiltration. Offered in open- and closed-cell formulas, the polyurethane product can be used in the entire house or in combination with other types of insulation. CertainTeed. 800-233-8990. www.certainteed.com.