News & Opinions
The latest news and insights from Hanley Wood’s outspoken experts and key thought-leaders throughout the residential and commercial design and construction industry.
Product Transparency Movement Gets X-Rayed at Greenbuild
Staff Report / Remodeling magazine / December 11, 2013
Big names (Hillary Clinton, Bon Jovi) and big themes (climate change, disaster recovery) tended to get the big headlines at the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo in Philadelphia late in November. But for remodelers, some of the more important topics covered by editors of sister titles to Remodeling involved energy rating labels and the notion that manufacturers should reveal more about what’s in the goods they sell.
The so-called “transparency” movement contends that by making information more available, consumers will make greener choices. But skeptics worry this information can be confusing, particularly when data is put into context by comparing one product against another or by attempting to shoehorn performance figures into some comprehensive database.
For instance, a training session on the Whole Building Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) generated tension among the audience members, about a third of whom were manufacturers. Presenter Steve Baer, a senior consultant at PE International, was questioned frequently on the accuracy of the data and databases used to generate the LCAs and Environmental Product Declarations that he presented as tools to inform designer decisions.
The audience’s incredulity “may hurt,” Baer said half-jokingly, “but it’s a good discussion to have here with 170 people in a room.”
Elsewhere, four states– Alabama, Massachusetts, Virginia, and Washington–are involved in a three-year pilot program to develop and test energy rating labels for homes. The program wraps up in March 2014, with the results expected later in the year.
The four states are taking slightly different approaches, but the end goal is to have a standard set of energy metrics for consumers to use to compare houses in their areas. Massachusetts is participating in the Department of Energy-funded program not just to develop a label, but also to move homeowners to invest in energy efficiency, especially retrofits, Ian Finlayson, deputy director of Massachusetts’ Energy Efficiency Division, said during a Greenbuild presentation.