Being Green – Certifications

Hi Folks:

Friday once again. Having for the last two weeks lamented the swift passage of time, I’m loathe to do so again! In a previous blog post I wrote about the many differing and sometimes conflicting standards and certifications there are out there when it comes to green building – LEED, BuiltGreen, Green-E, FSC, Cerflor, SCS, BREEAM, Energy Star, BOMA BESt, Cradle to Cradle, Living Building Challenge, GreenGuard, IICRC, Environments for Living, Green Seal, EOCP (BC), NARI CGP, NAHB CGP, GreenPlumbers, ASHRAE, Cal IAQ – and that’s far from a complete list. Some are national, some are by province or state or other jurisdiction. Some relate to entire buildings, some to components, materials or systems. I must admit I find it baffling, and I doubt anyone can accurately say they understand them all. I haven’t included certification for green real estate agents, certifications for green lodging and travel companies, organic certifications, etc. They do all have one thing in common, which is that they all seek to make our stay on this planet a little better. Their various merits, strengths and weaknesses I leave to others to debate, although one article I came across today is, “Need for re-look at Green Building Rating Systems“.

The reason I mention this here is largely because of an article I read this week on Cradle to Cradle (CtoC) certification. I don’t mean to isolate them, but I, like possibly many others, was curious when it was announced that Dow had achieved CtoC certification for five of their insulation products, two at the Silver level and the other three at the Basic level. I was under the (mistaken) impression that CtoC was only bestowed on those products that contained no hazardous or toxic materials. That’s not the case. As outlined in the article “Fixing the Perception Problem with Cradle to Cradle Certification“, the CtoC Basic and Silver certifications do not mean that the product is free of toxic materials. They do require and provide an avenue for the company involved to work with MBDC and related groups to find new, more sustainable solutions, and are an expression of commitment toward this goal. Therein lies the perception problem. From the article:

“Here’s the problem: for designers—even those at the leading edge of green building—any level of Cradle to Cradle Certification creates a perception that the certified product is green. We call on MBDC to fix this problem, and we offer the following suggestion for doing so: at the Gold and Platinum levels, continue to refer to Cradle to Cradle Certification as a product certification. At these levels, a product must pass muster with a robust set of filters ensuring that it is safe for humans and imparts minimal damage to the environment; designers can be fairly confident that such products are indeed green…”

Of course, such problems occur on other levels as well. In a two-part series by James D. Qualk, LEED AP in Environmental Design + Construction magazine, he asked the question, “Does LEED Have a Problem?” The articles may be read here: Part I, Part II. The articles focus on two main areas. One is a perception that buildings certified by programs such as LEED are performing no better than their non-certified counterparts.  An article by James Qualk is: “Buildings Shall Be Capable Of…“, which suggests that a part of the problem with LEED-certified building performance is making the building’s occupants aware of best practices.  There’s no point in building a super-efficient building if one leaves the door open.

The other issue is that there have been a few cases where such failures have lead to lawsuits. One article, also on ED+C magazine’s site, written by Kamy Molavi is “Avoiding Potential Green Building Liability”.  Another article by Barbara Quinn is “Green Connections: Keeping Green Claims Accurate“.  On the site there’s an article entitled, “Lawyers anticipate LEED-liability suits“.  On Green Building Law Update there’s an article titled “GSA’s Green Building Role in the Federal Government“.  Finally, on the podcast site there’s an interview on on “Managing Client Expectations and the Green Lease“. Not specifically related but also on the podcast site is another interview on “LEED, the Living Building Challenge and the Future of Green Building“.

You’d think a species as intelligent as us would be capable of achieving a simpler way of reaching the same goal. Just saying, is all.

Okay, the links for this week include:

That’s it for this week.  See you next Friday, and if you have anything to add, please leave us a comment!


P.S.  The 2010 Geneva Auto Show is currently under way, and there have been a number of new ‘green’ introductions, including some completely electric vehicles.  Hyundai has announced a diesel-electric hybrid sports car, the i-Flow, and even Ferrari announced a new hybrid vehicle.  The car that I find most intriguing is the new Porsche 218 Spyder plug-in hybrid.  It’s a prototype, but Porsche suggest a fuel consumption of 3 litres/ 100 km, which works out (assuming I can still do math), to nearly 94 miles/(Imperial) gallon, and lower CO2 emissions than a Toyota Prius.  There’s an interesting article here on hybrid cars as well.

And finally, speaking of motors, the Sturman Industries site is worth checking out.  There’s also an interesting .pdf available, called “An Alternative to Alternative Cars“.

Being Green – Standards

Hi Folks:  Mark Twain is purported to have said there are three kinds of lies (in increasing order of severity): white lies, damnable lies, and statistics.  As anyone who’s worked with statistics can tell you, it’s important to set your parameters before beginning your analysis or statistics can tell you anything you want.  If, by now, you’re wondering what this has to do with being ‘green’, it’s because I’m alternately amazed and confused on how many ‘green standards’ and ‘green certifications’ there are out there today, with more coming down the pipe all the time.  We have standards for whole buildings, such as R2000/ C2000, LEED, BuiltGreen, BOMA BESt, The Living Building Challenge and others, then there are certifications for specific products, like FSC or ITTO certified wood. There are standards like the California Indoor Air Quality Program or ASHRAE Standard 62 – “Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality”.  The list also includes programs like William McDonough’s Cradle to Cradle certification, but how about Rohner Textil AG’s Climatex Lifestyle compostable upholstery fabric?  Keep in mind these are all just samples of longer lists.  The other issue is that some of these standards are run by governments (LEED for example), others by private companies (Cradle to Cradle), some by industry associations (like BuiltGreen or CPA’s International Testing and Certification Center (ITCC)), and then there are third-party certification companies like Scientific Certification Systems. NGOs like the Rainforest Alliance have created a Certified Xate Initiative (.pdf) in Guatemala’s Mayan Biosphere Reserve to work with the local people regarding the sutainable harvesting of the xate palm. Continue Reading →