Better information alone doesn’t make a product green, but it does make it a lot easier to see just how green that product actually is. We can make more informed purchasing decisions when we know what’s in a product, not just manufacturer’s claims about what it’s “free-of”; and when we know the actual environmental impacts of manufacturing the product relative to alternatives, not just a trade association’s claim that it’s “green.” Making information public can also help manufacturers get greener. It’s often the manufacturers that are already greener that are willing to share more information in the first place, but in the process of doing so they see where they still need to improve. Products with Environmental Product Declarations are included here, along with products with other forms of disclosure, such as products from companies that participate in the Global Reporting Initiative, or provide full disclosure of ingredients, potentially via the Health Product Declaration format. GreenSpec also lists products that help track buildings' energy and water performance, especially when those tracking tools can be used to publicly display or report energy and water usage.
With energy-consuming equipment, such as water heaters and refrigerators, we have good data on energy consumption and can set clear standards accordingly. In some product categories—clothes washers, for example—Energy Star standards were adopted because those standards provide a high enough threshold to represent just the very top segment of the product market (less than 10%). In other product categories—e.g., refrigerators and dishwashers—we set a higher threshold than ENERGY STAR: for example, exceeding those standards by 10% or 20%. With lighting and lighting control equipment, certain generic products qualify, such as compact fluorescent lamps and occupancy/daylighting controls, while in other categories only a subset of products qualify. In some cases, products that meet the energy efficiency requirements are excluded, because of evidence of poor performance or durability. Microturbines are included here because of the potential for cogeneration (combined heat and power) that they offer.
All toilets and most showerheads today meet the federal water-efficiency standards, but not all of these products perform satisfactorily. With toilets and showerheads, we include products that meet or exceed WaterSense standards, which includes performance requirements—although we go beyond WaterSense where there are issues not adequately addressed by the program. We also look for other products that conserve potable water, such as rainwater catchment and graywater recovery and reuse systems.
The Building Dashboard from Lucid Design Group Inc. got its start at Oberlin College, where students developed a monitoring system to compare energy use by different dormitories. Several of these students went on to create Lucid and commercialize the first user-friendly energy dashboard system for commercial and institutional buildings. Building Dashboard Kiosk is a touch-screen display that shows the real-time use of energy and water in an attractive and easy-to-understand manner, and Building Dashboard Network allows users to create community-wide comparisons and set up budgets. Most of the company’s systems have been installed at colleges and universities, including a system collecting data from 50 buildings at Elon University, but the company has several systems in commercial buildings as well.
Electrical metering and submetering equipment provide valuable diagnostic information and verification of building energy loads and usage, from plug loads to whole building energy systems.
All but the most basic measurement and verification (M&V) systems submeter individual building systems, such as lighting, heating, and cooling. Especially in mixed-use buildings, submetering different areas of the building, such as office and laboratory space, can also provide useful information.
Some products in this section are also specifically designed to be educational tools.
There can be significant value to interpreting green building features—displaying energy use, or explaining how a daylighting system works, for example. Signs are an excellent application for recycled materials.
Water metering and submetering equipment provide valuable diagnostic information on building water usage. The Alliance for Water Efficiency recommends metering all new connections, retrofitting meters onto existing unmetered connections, and submetering all new multifamily and institutional buildings. Separate meters for irrigation use are also recommended, at least for commercial buildings.
Water metering is an important strategy to reduce water use. Meters provide direct feedback to customers about their water use, and can identify unusual spikes in water use, which are often due to leaks.
EAc1: Optimize Energy Performance
EAc2: Enhanced Commissioning
EAc3: Enhanced Commissioning
EAc3: Measurement and Verification
EAc5: Measurement and Verification
EAc5.1: Measurement and Verification—Base Building
EAc5.2: Measurement and Verification—Tenant Submetering
EAp1: Fundamental Commissioning of Building Energy Systems
EAp1: Fundamental Commissioning of the Building Energy Systems
EAp2: Minimum Energy Performance
EAp2: Minimum Energy Efficiency Performance
EAp3: Fundamental Refrigerant Management
Ratings and Commentary