BuildingGreen Announces Top 10 Products for 2020
For the past 18 years, BuildingGreen has recognized green building products that significantly improve upon standard industry practices. This year we are focusing on the world’s greatest challenge: reducing the environmental impacts of greenhouse gases. The following products do so by conserving energy, reducing emissions, and managing carbon impacts, fundamentally changing our building systems for the better.
This year’s BuildingGreen Approved winners:
- Alpen ThinGlass Triple and Alpen ThinGlass Quad
- Calplant MDF
- CL-Talon 300
- ChargePoint Smart Charging Systems
- Duracryl International Corques Liquid Lino
- EP Henry’s ECO Bristol Stone with Solidia
- Hanging Gardens Smart Blue Roof Stormwater Systems
- Johnson Controls YORK YZ Magnetic Bearing Centrifugal Chiller
- R-50 Insulation Systems Rich-E-Board
- USG Sheetrock Brand EcoSmart Panels
Why we chose this product: Alpen’s ThinGlass windows use 1 mm interior panes to provide the energy-saving benefits of a high-performance window in a thinner, lighter profile, allowing the company’s ThinGlass Triple to be used in place of standard double-pane windows.
Most high-performance windows are thick and heavy. With three or four panes of glass and the necessary space between them, you can see why. Alpen High Performance Products is changing that by using thin glass (similar to the glass in your phone or flat-screen TV) as the center pane(s) along with krypton gas to provide some of the most thermally efficient windows available in a much thinner profile.
These interior panes are only 1 mm thick, making the windows so thin that Alpen ThinGlass Triple will fit in the space of a normal double-glazed window with little or no weight increase. This has enormous potential for retrofits and upgrading historic structures, and Alpen is making ThinGlass products for both the residential and the commercial markets.
These windows can be configured with a variety of coatings to maximize performance, and they provide similar performance to Alpen’s current triple- and quad-pane windows, with center of glass U-values ranging from 0.11 (R-9) for ThinGlass Triple to 0.08 (R-12) for ThinGlass Quad (National Fenestration Rating Council ratings are pending). Solar-heat-gain coefficients vary depending on coatings chosen for the outer panes.
These windows are available in products with a fiberglass or uPVC frame, and the company says it has tested commercial insulated glazing units (IGUs) up to 50 square feet using thin glass. That is exciting because replacing a double-glazed IGU with a ThinGlass Triple would improve the whole window U-value by 35%–45% over a standard dual-pane option, according to the company. And perhaps the best part: the cost of these Alpen ThinGlass windows is the same as their standard triple-pane offerings.
Why we chose this product: CalPlant uses a local agricultural fiber (rice straw), whose disposal typically wastes water and generates greenhouse gases, to create a formaldehyde-free MDF with superior performance over similar wood-based products.
CalPlant is using waste straw from local rice harvest to create formaldehyde-free medium-density fiberboard (MDF) and high-density fiberboard (HDF). These low-carbon, low-emitting panels are better for the environment, have better performance, and could be a game changer in the interior panel industry.
The Sacramento Valley generates 1.5 million tons of rice straw annually. This rice straw used to be burned after the harvest, releasing carbon and pollutants into the environment. After the practice was banned in California in 1991, rice growers began flooding the fields after the harvest to jumpstart the straw decomposition process, wasting valuable water in Central California’s agricultural region and generating high-GWP methane from decomposition. To make things worse, the rotting waste straw leads to crop disease that requires additional fungicide.
CalPlant can process 300,000 tons of rice straw annually (about 20% of the region’s production)—all from within 15 to 25 miles of the facility—to produce more than 140 million square feet of formaldehyde-free ¾" MDF.
Rice straw works better than wood fiber because it has a curly shape that, when combined with the pMDI (polyurethane) resin, creates both a mechanical and a chemical bond. And because rice is grown in water, the straw contains waxes that make it naturally hydrophobic. This combination creates a very strong panel that has good moisture resistance—good enough for use in kitchen cabinetry and laminate flooring.
The company is focusing on high-quality, high-density panels that can be cut to various sizes (with a 10-foot maximum width) in thicknesses from 0.07" to 1-1/8". Full production will start in January 2020.
Products will be available for purchase later in the first quarter of 2020, through an arrangement with Columbia Forest Products, at prices comparable to those of wood MDF. This is achievable because rice straw is less expensive than wood, it is local, it has a consistent yield from year to year, it is inexpensive to bale, and there is a motivated grower group. Farmers are not going to have to pay the expenses incurred from managing rice straw, potentially saving local farmers up to $20 million annually while creating hundreds of local full- and part-time jobs in construction, at the facility, and during harvest.
ChargePoint Electric Vehicle Charging Network
Why we chose this product: Replacing vehicles powered by fossil fuels with electric vehicles (EV) is critical for reducing our carbon output; ChargePoint offers electric vehicle charging systems that are engineered to accommodate a variety of EVs, using software to optimize the experience.
Using plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) can minimize the transportation impacts to and from our green buildings, but we need the charging infrastructure in place to make wider adoption viable. ChargePoint offers a range of software and smart chargers—or electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE)—including its CT4000 and CPF25 Level 2 charging systems, and its Express and Express Plus DC fast chargers.
The CT4000 and CPF25 use the industry standard J1772 connector found in most cars and are best suited for commercial or multifamily buildings, where faster charging rates are not required. The Energy Star-certified CT4000 charges at up to 25 miles of range per hour (RPH) and uses significantly less energy when on standby than standard systems, according to the company. Depending on system, these units can be used for dedicated vehicle fleet charging or for mixed use, such as by building employees and guests.
For those who need faster charge times or just want to be “future proofed,” ChargePoint’s DC fast chargers can provide between 100 and 250 RPH, depending on the model, and are currently compatible with either CCS1/CCS2 or CHAdeMO connectors, but other connector systems can be integrated if or when they become available. ChargePoint’s newest express charger, the CPE250, provides 50% more power than comparable DC stations, according to the company.
Smart connectivity allows these systems to:
- monitor station performance
- show station availability (and even allow you to get in line for the next available station)
- manage station access
- tailor fee structures (depending on user, time of day, and other factors)
- provide performance updates
- track greenhouse gas emissions
They also provide energy management connectivity with utilities that include time-of-day pricing, load shedding in cases of increased power demand, and scheduled charging.
Why we chose this product: CL-Talon 300 incorporates thermal breaks throughout its cladding system, significantly increasing the R-value of the building envelope, and includes an innovative framework that speeds installation and accepts nearly any board insulation and cladding material.
CL-Talon 300 is a thermally broken universal wall cladding system that uses an easy-to-adjust framing to simplify installation and can accommodate various insulation and cladding materials.
The system includes:
- The frame’s base track, installed against the exterior sheathing and weather barrier;
- Polyamide Therme Clips that slot into the frame and serve as thermal breaks;
- Rigid board insulation installed between the Therme Clips;
- T-tracks that hold the cladding hardware, secured vertically along the Therme Clips and made plumb through the use of an enclosed level system;
- Wall-mount bars that slide into the system, creating a strong, integrated frame (can be horizontal or vertical); and
- Connectors that hold the cladding to the frame.
The system is designed to speed installation, with component parts screwed together for structural integrity. The base track includes measurement lines to help ensure the Therme Clips are installed at the same place along the wall, and a level system ensures the tracks are truly vertical. There is no shimming or leveling of clips, which typically takes an enormous amount of time.
CL-Talon has connectors for fiber cement, limestone, granite, Alumwood, Innowood, Trespa, brick, aluminum composites, Boston Valley Terra Cotta, and other cladding options. For design flexibility, several claddings can be hung from the same framing, and when the cladding reaches the end of its lifespan or the building is repurposed, it can be easily replaced. The system also comes with window and door jambs and corner pieces.
According to energy models, CL-Talon’s performance loss from thermal bridging is so low that it’s more than offset by the additional R-value from sheathing materials and weather barriers. For instance, a system using 4" mineral wool with nominal R-value of 16.8, installed 48" on center, would have an effective assembly R-value of 18.5.
CL-Talon 300 comes with all component parts, screws, levels, and markings that make it easy to install, and it is even Declare Red List Free.
Why we chose this product: Corques Liquid Lino uses the same natural ingredients found in standard linoleum in a fluid-applied form that takes less energy to produce and less time to install; it can be used in place of more environmentally problematic flooring applications, especially those that require a seamless floor.
Duracryl International Corques Liquid Lino (CLL) fluid-applied linoleum uses similar ingredients to those in standard linoleum—vegetable oils, cork, wood “flour,” linseed oil, limestone, and mineral pigments. But it comes in 5-gallon buckets rather than sheets or tiles, is mixed onsite, and is applied directly to the substrate. When set, CCL creates a seamless linoleum floor, making it a good choice for applications such as healthcare facilities that typically use more environmentally problematic products such as vinyl or epoxy. And it contains no VOCs, heavy metals, bisphenol compounds, or other chemicals of concern.
CLL has the consistency of a thick paint, so after trained installers pour, trowel, and roll it onto the floor, it self-levels. CLL cures overnight at room temperature, so it has a much smaller carbon footprint than standard sheet linoleum with jute backing, which can take an energy-intensive 30 to 60 days to cure at the factory. And unlike with sheet goods, there is no trimming, no welding seams, and very little waste during installation.
The next day, the company’s Protecshield UV-cured polyurethane—which does not contain isocycante asthmagens—is applied. That wear layer can include tints and other additives to create designs or increase traction. The floor can be walked on after 24 hours and completely cures after seven days, according to the company.
For maintenance, there is no stripping or waxing. CLL is available in 54 colors, so if a design team wants to change the appearance of a CLL floor, a new tinted topcoat can be applied, or it can be covered with another layer. If CCL gets damaged, the section can be cut out and repaired, and at the end of its service life, it can be scraped off and disposed of with minimal environmental impact.
Why we chose this product: ECO Bristol Stone pavers help control stormwater runoff and are the first commercially available products made from Solidia cement, a Portland cement alternative whose manufacturing creates significantly fewer greenhouse gases and uses less water.
Permeable pavers are part of a system that allows stormwater to pass through to the soil, reducing the amount of water and pollutants it can carry reaching the watershed. They are a great way to manage stormwater, and EP Henry has further improved its ECO Bristol Stone pavers by making them with Solidia concrete, whose manufacturing and use produces significantly less carbon than Portland cement-based concrete while saving energy and water.
Ordinary Portland cement (OPC) used in most concrete (including pavers), accounts for approximately 5%–8% of anthropogenic CO2. Solidia has a smaller carbon footprint than OPC because it:
- uses less limestone (50% rather than 70%) and requires less calcination, so less CO2 is produced;
- uses clinker formed at 1,200ºC (2,192ºF) versus 1,450ºC for OPC, reducing fossil-fuel consumption and emissions; and
- cures by carbonation, converting the raw materials and CO2 into limestone with minimal water.
According to the company, with 30% less CO2 produced through calcination, less energy is required for firing. Because there is additional carbon sequestration through carbonation, using Solidia can reduce concrete’s carbon footprint by up to 70%. And it uses up to 80% less water in production, while potentially capturing and reusing 100% of water used for forming.
Though EP Henry had to build special curing chambers for ECO Bristol Stone/Solidia pavers and uses CO2 from industrial sources, there are additional benefits that outweigh these initial costs. The process creates pavers that gain full strength in one to two days instead of 28 days, speeding production and saving energy. Using Solidia also creates a denser, stronger paver with better resistance to deicing salts and no efflorescence (where moisture-driven salts appear on the surface, a common occurrence with masonry products). The pavers also have a richer, more vibrant color, according to the company.
Hanging Gardens Smart Blue Roof Stormwater Systems
Why we chose this product: A warming climate can result in more precipitation and flooding problems. Hanging Gardens Smart Blue Roof Stormwater Systems uses sensors, software, and smart drains and valves to store water on roofs and communicate with other systems to become part of a site-specific or municipal stormwater system.
Hanging Gardens Smart Blue Roof Stormwater Systems incorporates smart drains that use sensors and weather data to monitor and adjust the amount of stormwater held on a building’s roof. Unlike standard passive blue roof systems that can’t consistently regulate the flow or amount of stormwater, Hanging Gardens’ systems release or retain the water based on local conditions and stormwater capacity.
In communities with combined sewer and stormwater runoff, Smart Blue Roof Stormwater Systems help keep water treatment facilities from being overwhelmed and dumping raw sewage into the watershed. Hanging Garden’s system includes software that monitors system integrity, controls the drains, and communicates with atmospheric sensors.
Based on weather data, Hanging Gardens’ smart drains, valves, and pumps, will close before it starts raining, storing the stormwater on the roof. It also communicates with valves that control the flow rate from ponds and tanks or to other stormwater retention systems onsite or in the community. It can assess their capacity and then open the drains and/or valves of each unit as needed (it also notifies maintenance if there is a problem with the valves, though passive and manual overflows are also engineered into the system). Through this process, the Smart Blue Roof Stormwater System is able to optimize each stormwater system, increasing overall stormwater management capacity. As a result, individual buildings or sites can become part of campus- or municipal-wide stormwater management systems.
Consequently, if conditions are too dry, the system can open the drains or valves to flood the green roof or activate pumps for irrigation. The system can also integrate with other systems, such as graywater systems and those that recycle irrigation, to further conserve water.
Why we chose this product: The YORK YZ Magnetic Bearing Centrifugal Chiller uses energy-efficient, low-maintenance magnetic levitation bearings technology and is the first commercial chiller to be optimized for use with R-1233zd(E)—a next-generation hydrofluoroolefin (HFO) refrigerant with a global warming potential (GWP) of only 1.
Johnson Controls YORK YZ Magnetic Bearing Centrifugal Chiller is the first chiller engineered specifically to use the next-generation HFO refrigerant R-1233zd(E). This refrigerant has a global warming potential of only 1 and is not flammable or hazardous under normal use. It is a big shift for the industry as it moves away from refrigerants that have GWPs of 1,400 or more.
Replacing a chiller refrigerant is not easy. Some next-generation low-GWP refrigerants are flammable, and some are toxic, and different refrigerants operate at different pressures and work best with certain equipment and capacities. For the YORK YZ, R-1233zd(E) is more than a simple drop-in replacement; the chiller has been optimized to use the new refrigerant, improving overall performance.
The chiller equipment that makes this possible uses a combination of variable speed drive and magnetic bearings. Magnetic bearings are not new, but they offer impressive performance advantages. Conventional centrifugal chillers use gears and oil-lubricated bearings to support the driveshaft. The YORK YZ uses magnetic levitation bearings, so the driveshaft hovers in a magnetic field and spins freely. The system has 80% fewer moving parts and requires significantly less maintenance.
The variable-speed drive allows greater control of the chiller, making it much more efficient than standard systems at partial loads. According to the company, the YORK YZ provides 35% annual energy savings over standard fixed-speed oil-bearing chillers.
The YORK YZ is available in capacities ranging from 150 to 1,425 tons, making it suitable for a wide range of building sizes and end uses.
Why we chose this product: Rich-E-Board encloses vacuum insulation in a protective layer to push the limits of thermal insulation, achieving R-50 in a 1.5"-thick panel.
R-50 Insulation Systems Rich-E-Board uses vacuum insulation sandwiched between a coated, fiberglass-matted, high-density polyisocyanurate (polyiso) insulation to create a insulated composite panel that provides a minimum R-50 thermal performance in a 1.5"-thick panel.
How do you cram that much insulation into 1.5"? Heat is transferred via conduction (energy from molecule to molecule, such as a hot pan), convection (energy from moving molecules, such as hot air rising), and radiation (energy as light or electromagnetic radiation). In Rich-E-Board, there is no air in the vacuum panel portion, and with no air there is little conduction or convection. And the vacuum insulated panels use low-emissivity coatings, like a glass thermos, reducing most radiant heat transfer. The reinforced high-density panels provide protection and strength while adding some extra thermal performance. As a total package, you get to R-50, which is particularly impressive compared with R-6 to R-7 for standard rigid foam insulation. One caveat, though: the panel has some protection, but it cannot be punctured, or most of the R-value escapes as air rushes in.
Though vacuum insulation is typically expensive, a thin panel like this makes financial sense in the right application. They have been used on buildings where codes now require R-30 roof insulation. In these applications, adding thick insulation might necessitate expensive building alterations to maintain aesthetics. Under these circumstances, meeting the required distance between the roof deck and the top of the parapet, low window sills, low door thresholds, mechanical curbs, and other low roof projections can be nearly impossible. Selected manufacturers are integrating Rich-E-Board as part of warrantied roof systems.
Why we chose this product: Standard gypsum wallboard is ubiquitous, and its carbon footprint is magnified by the sheer number of panels sold. Using EcoSmart as a drop-in replacement can reduce a building’s embodied carbon without requiring any other changes to the building.
EcoSmart Firecode X (UL Type ULIX) requires 25% less water to make than standard Type X drywall (fire-resistant panels typically used on walls) and is 22% lighter. With less water, EcoSmart requires less energy to dry the panels, which means it generates 20% less CO2 during manufacturing than standard 5/8" Type X. For context, two million square feet of EcoSmart used on a large multifamily complex would generate 121 tons less CO2 and use 137,000 gallons less water during manufacturing than standard Type X drywall, according to USG. And since EcoSmart is 22% lighter, more panels can be shipped per truck, reducing the number of trucks on the road, their transportation energy, and their emissions.
EcoSmart Type X can substitute for much heavier, and more expensive, Type C drywall typically used on floor and ceiling assemblies. This could simplify jobsite stocking and reduce the chance of accidentally installing Type X inappropriately. And since EcoSmart is lighter than standard Type X, it is faster and safer to install, takes fewer workers, and reduces installation costs.
EcoSmart panels are Greenguard Gold certified for emissions and are Declare Red List Free. They contain 100% USDA certified biobased content as part of the product and have a LEED v4-compliant Type III EPD as well as a v2.1 Health Product Declaration. EcoSmart is the only gypsum panel that meets Architecture 2030 for Products.
Ehrlich, B. (2019, December 2). BuildingGreen Announces Top 10 Products for 2020. Retrieved from https://www.buildinggreen.com/product-review/buildinggreen-announces-top-10-products-2020