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Growing and harvesting our building materials would be a great way to move toward a closed-loop system rather than a linear path from extraction to disposal. Doing so holds the promise of true sustainability and regeneration of ecosystems instead of damage to them.

Unfortunately, biobased materials today can be at least as problematic as any other material. Intensive land use, chemical use, fuel use, nutrient runoff, and other pollution are among the impacts of agriculture; add to that competition between food crops and those used for building materials or fuel. We would like to see sustainable use of biobased materials, but improving practices and figuring out how to assess and document more sustainable practices will take a long time. There is no ready equivalent to FSC for biobased materials that aren’t wood, although certification to “organic” standards or other sustainable agriculture standards can provide guidance in some cases.

At the same time, we don’t want to exclude biobased products that are typically responsibly sourced just because they don’t have a certification—particularly where they replace more problematic materials. GreenSpec continues to give preference to rapidly renewable alternatives to materials that present greater concerns. Examples of rapidly renewable materials in GreenSpec include linoleum, cork, and textiles such as wool, sisal, and organic cotton.

Growing and harvesting our building materials would be a great way to move toward a closed-loop system rather than a linear path from extraction to disposal. Doing so holds the promise of true sustainability and regeneration of ecosystems instead of damage to them.

Unfortunately, biobased materials today can be at least as problematic as any other material. Intensive land use, chemical use, fuel use, nutrient runoff, and other pollution are among the impacts of agriculture; add to that competition between food crops and those used for building materials or fuel. We would like to see sustainable use of biobased materials, but improving practices and figuring out how to assess and document more sustainable practices will take a long time. There is no ready equivalent to FSC for biobased materials that aren’t wood, although certification to “organic” standards or other sustainable agriculture standards can provide guidance in some cases.

  • Eco-Tuff Rubberized Non-Skid Safety Coating
  • Eco-Tuff Rubberized Non-Skid Safety Coating
  • Eco Safety Products
  • Eco-Tuff Rubberized Non-Skid Safety Coating
    Eco Safety Products
    Eco-Tuff Non Skid Coating is a zero-VOC acrylic/urethane floor coating that contains 17% biobased content, 30% recycled crumb rubber, and no solvents or glycol ethers. Appropriate for interior or exterior applications for concrete, wood, primed metal and other surfaces, this non-skid flooring is breathable yet chemical-, water-, and weather-resistant, and has “a non-aggressive barefoot friendly texture,” in 36- or 60-grit equivalent surfaces, according to the company. It is available in up to 275-gallon totes and in several colors and can be top-coated for color or sheen using the company’s other products.
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  • Stramit CAFboard
  • Stramit CAFboard
  • Stramit USA, LLC
  • Stramit CAFboard
    Stramit USA, LLC
    CAFboard is a compressed-fiber panel manufactured by Stramit from wheat straw. The company markets the boards for SIPs, door cores, interior sheathing, acoustical panels, and many other applications. CAFboard is processed under high heat and pressure, which convert lignin already present in the straw into a natural binder—no binder is added, and testing shows zero VOC emissions. The boards have a STC ratings of 32 (for thinner boards) and 45 (for thicker boards); and a one- or two-hour fire rating (depending on thickness) based on ASTM E119/UL263. The boards contain no added flame retardants. CAFboard is available in densities from 15.6 to 40.5 pounds per cubic foot, and Stramit USA claims that the R-value of these panels ranges from R-2.32 to R-3.03. However, the company couldn't provide a lab report backing those claims, and we think they are exaggerated—see our full review for more discussion.

    Stramit also claims high resistance to mold and mildew without added chemicals, low moisture absorption, natural termite resistance, and a negative carbon footprint. CAFboard panels range in thickness from 1.000" to 3.125" and are available in two standard widths—31.50" and 42.24". The company also incorporates CAFboard into two other Stramit products: the CAFsteel panelized building system and the CAFquiet interior partition system, which features an STC rating of 50.
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  • Xero Flor Green Roofs
  • Xero Flor Green Roofs
  • Xero Flor America
  • Xero Flor Green Roofs
    Xero Flor America
    Xero Flor green roofs utilize pre-vegetated mats on a textile base so that the mats roll out like sod. The system's components consist of a geotextile carrier, a water retention fleece, drain mat, and root barrier, all made of 90% recycled fiber content. Vegetation is regionally sourced. The system weighs 8–10 psf and can be installed on slopes of up to 45 degrees. Xero Flor mats can be custom sized.
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  • Grow-In-Place Mushroom Insulation
  • Grow-In-Place Mushroom Insulation
  • Ecovative Design LLC
  • Grow-In-Place Mushroom Insulation
    Ecovative Design LLC
    Ecovative offers Grow-In-Place Mushroom Insulation for pre-fabricated, controlled conditions. The foam, which consists of mycelium (mushroom “roots”) bonded to agricultural byproducts, takes about a month to grow in a factory setting, according to the company. Then it is allowed to dry out, producing a solidified, airtight, structural wall assembly. The insulation is Class A fire rated without any added flame retardants, has an R-vale of 3.6 per inch, and a compressive strength of 0.3–6.7 psi at 10% (ASTM D695). Growing the insulation allows it to be self-sealing and reduces thermal bridging.
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  • Myco Board
  • Myco Board
  • Ecovative Design LLC
  • Myco Board
    Ecovative Design LLC
    Myco Board is a particleboard made from agricultural waste and mycelium (mushroom "roots"). It uses no formaldehyde and does not emit VOCs. In addition, it can be formed into shapes or grown to adhere to wood veneers and facing materials without needing adhesives. The material can be produced at several densities, has a Class A fire rating, a flexure strength of 501psi, and a screw withdrawal of 110 lbf.
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  • Myco Foam Insulating Sheathing
  • Myco Foam Insulating Sheathing
  • Ecovative Design LLC
  • Myco Foam Insulating Sheathing
    Ecovative Design LLC
    Myco Foam insulating sheathing is an insulation board made of Ecovative's Mushroom Insulation bonded to Fortifiber's waterproof facing. The insulation board has comparable performance to foam insulation with a compressive strength of 0.3–6.7 psi at 10% compression (ASTM D695), R-value of R-3.6/inch (ASTM C518), and water vapor transmission of 0.02–0.03 perms (ASTM E96). The foam achieves a Class A fire rating with no added flame retardants.
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  • Biorestor Asphalt Rejuvenator
  • Biorestor Asphalt Rejuvenator
  • BioBased Spray Systems, LLC
  • Biorestor Asphalt Rejuvenator
    BioBased Spray Systems, LLC
    Biorestor is a clear, citrus-oil-based, spray-applied treatment for asphalt roads. It can be applied to new or existing asphalt to extend its life up to 40%, according to the manufacturer, reducing the need for replacement as well as the use of petroleum-based treatments. It cures within an hour, according to the company, and there is no runoff and zero polycylic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). The company could not provide GreenSpec with a measure of VOC content, but based on the ingredients, we don't anticipate that it would be very high.
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  • Sustainable Northwest Trim, Decking, and Lumber
  • Sustainable Northwest Trim, Decking, and Lumber
  • Sustainable Northwest Wood
  • Sustainable Northwest Trim, Decking, and Lumber
    Sustainable Northwest Wood
    Sustainable Northwest Wood offers FSC-certified trim, decking, and lumber sourced from the Pacific Northwest. The trim, including base molding and interior door and window trim, is milled from Pacific Albus, a cottonwood/poplar hybrid from northern Oregon. Available in 1x4 and 1x6 dimensions in 10' and 12' lengths, the trim is pre-primed with zero-VOC primer. Sustainable Northwest Wood also offers decking made of Western Red Cedar from Oregon and Washington, available in 8' to 16' lengths, and Douglas Fir lumber in 2x4 to 6x6 dimensions in 8' to 20' lengths.
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  • Restoration Juniper Decking
  • Restoration Juniper Decking
  • Sustainable Northwest Wood
  • Restoration Juniper Decking
    Sustainable Northwest Wood
    Restoration Juniper Decking is made from untreated juniper wood harvested in grassland restoration projects in Oregon's high desert. The kiln-dried, 2"x6"x8' decking is naturally more rot-resistant than cedar or redwood, offering an alternative to pressure-treated wood. Human suppression of the region's wildfire cycle has allowed juniper to crowd out other native species, depleting the area's groundwater; ranchers have previously cut and burned juniper trees, but Sustainable Northwest is working to create a new market for the wood.
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  • Suberra Cork Surfacing Materials
  • Suberra Cork Surfacing Materials
  • ECO Supply Center
  • Suberra Cork Surfacing Materials
    ECO Supply Center
    Suberra, distributed by ECO Supply Center, is a high-density cork surface material that can be used for residential or commercial work surfaces or countertops. Made from pre-consumer cork granules and 0.8% polyurethane binder, Suberra can withstand temperatures of up to 350°F and, because it is homogenous, can be sanded down or repaired if damaged. It is available in 1-¼"-thick, 25-½"-wide, 36-½"-long slabs, but the edges typically require trimming in order to have a 25" x 36" finished dimension. Suberra typically requires additional support when used as a countertop or similar surface, but the slabs can be glued together to form clean seams. Suberra is also available in 6-1/4"-thick slabs that can be for use in furniture, sculpture, and other applications.
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  • TorZo Surface Materials
  • TorZo Surface Materials
  • TorZo Surfaces
  • TorZo Surface Materials
    TorZo Surfaces
    TorZo manufactures several surface materials made from wheat, sorghum, hemp, or FSC-certified MDF panels. Acrylic resins are infused into the panels, adding hardness and durability as well as a unique look. Duram is a wheat straw panel made from agricultural waste products; Hemp is made from recycled hemp fiber; and Parda and Indure are made from FSC-certified no-added formaldehyde MDF. Indure looks similar to concrete and has a hardness of 7,700 lbs (maple is 1,800 lbs), as measured by the Janka Ball test. The products are available in different dimensions and a variety of colors.
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  • EcoTop and RecycleTop Surface Materials
  • EcoTop and RecycleTop Surface Materials
  • Klip BioTechnologies, LLC
  • EcoTop and RecycleTop Surface Materials
    Klip BioTechnologies, LLC
    KlipTech offers EcoTop and RecycleTop surface materials for residential and commercial applications. EcoTop is made from phenol formaldehyde resins and a blend of FSC-certified post-consumer recycled paper and bamboo fiber, which provides additional durability. The company’s RecycleTop contains 100% post-consumer paper and 50% of its resin is made from corn and cashew nut oils, creating a surface material that is 80% recycled or renewable content, according to the company. Theses surfaces can withstand temperatures of up to 350°F. EcoTop is available in white, ivory, “Espresso”, and black; RecycleTop is available in black and two shades of brown. Standard sheet dimensions for both products is 30" x 96" or 48" x 96", but Ecotop is only available in a ½" thickness, whereas RecycleTop comes in ¾", 1", and 1-1/4" thicknesses.
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  • BioSurf Laminate Surfacing
  • BioSurf Laminate Surfacing
  • Baltix Sustainable Furniture
  • BioSurf Laminate Surfacing
    Baltix Sustainable Furniture
    Baltix’s BioSurf surfaces are made from a soybean- and corn-based polymer adhered to no-added-formaldehyde MDF. BioSurf is available in a wide variety of colors and faux wood designs and can be ordered with custom graphics that are printed onto the back of a thick, clear wear layer using a large-format printer. The wear layer provides more wear, scratch, impact, and stain resistance than standard high-pressure laminates, based on third-party testing. BioSurf surfaces are available with the company’s BioEdge edge banding and FSC-certified MDF.
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  • Carnegie Fabrics
  • Carnegie Fabrics
  • Carnegie
  • Carnegie Fabrics
    Carnegie
    Carnegie offers a variety of lines of fabric with recycled content and rapidly renewable materials. Orbit, Saturn, Slip Knot, and Splish Splash are composed of 100% pre-consumer recycled polyester. Many lines contain a range of pre- and post-consumer recycled content. Other lines use rapidly renewable materials such as bamboo and wool.
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  • Godfrey Hirst Wool Carpet Collection
  • Godfrey Hirst Wool Carpet Collection
  • Godfrey Hirst USA, Inc.
  • Godfrey Hirst Wool Carpet Collection
    Godfrey Hirst USA, Inc.
    Godfrey Hirst manufactures carpet in 21 styles made of New Zealand wool and four styles in Merino wool, as well as two lines of modular wool carpet tile. Godfrey Hirst wool carpets have no added flame retardants, and many are Class I fire rated. According to the company, the wool is naturally stain-resistant and no chemical stain protection is added; however, some Godfrey Hirst carpet is treated with permethrin to deter moths.
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