BuildingGreen Announces Top 10 Products for 2023
BuildingGreen’s editorial team has been awarding our annual Top 10 green building products for more than 20 years. Our Top 10 is not a “pay-to-play” award. BuildingGreen is an independent company that doesn’t carry ads in its publications, nor does it accept money from product manufacturers for consulting or other services. Our editorial team hand-selects the Top 10 products, highlighting those that significantly improve upon “business-as-usual” practices to transform the building industry. This year, we showcase products that increase material reuse and circularity, improve our communities’ resilience, reduce carbon emissions and their impacts, and more.
This year’s BuildingGreen Top 10 winners:
- ANP Lighting SiteLine Outdoor Luminaires
- Daikin Atmosphera Single-Zone Mini-Split Heat Pump
- Doors Unhinged
- Footprint Project
- Go Lab TimberHP Wood Insulation
- HempWood Flooring
- Hudson Technologies Refrigerant Recovery
- Innovatreat miniMBR aquaMINE Onsite Wastewater Treatment
- Intuitive Oscar Pixel
- Salient Energy Zinc-Ion Battery
ANP Lighting SiteLine Outdoor Luminaires
Why we chose this product: ANP Lighting’s SiteLine luminaires are energy efficient (high efficacy) and Dark Sky Friendly, and their use of various LED technologies and a unique mounting system allow options for a variety of end uses.
Outdoor luminaires have come a long way from the orange and green glows of high-pressure sodium and mercury vapor lamps. These older versions were not very attractive and didn’t always direct the light where it needed to go, polluting the night sky with light.
But their LED replacements can have their own set of problems. Namely, they can give off a cold, blue light that is unappealing, with similar wavelengths as daylight, which throws off the natural circadian rhythms of wildlife and humans. LEDs can also create glare, making them uncomfortable for pedestrians.
ANP Lighting’s SiteLine line of outdoor luminaires—a 2022 LightFair Innovation Award winner—solve these issues while providing a unique mounting system and clean design. They are available in 34" and 39" models with two LED types, depending on end use. When more output is required, such as for streetlights, the company offers LEDs with TIR (total internal reflection) lenses and ceramic heat sinks. (TIR LEDs provide higher-quality light than standard reflectors and have excellent directional control.) SiteLine’s TIR-based luminaires are extremely energy efficient, with efficacies up to 157 lumens per watt (lpw). For pedestrian walkways or when less glare is desired, ANP Lighting offers SiteLine luminaires with edge-lit LEDs that provide a uniform, “softer” light without visible individual LEDs at efficacies up to 131 lpw. SiteLine’s Dark Sky Friendly luminaires are available from 4,500 to 20,000 lumens in 2700K, 3000K, 3500K, and 4000K color temperatures with a wide variety of light distribution angles.
SiteLine luminaires mount to poles (4"–6" diameters) using the company’s unique clamping mechanism. This system has a “clean” aesthetic with no visible hardware and allows multiple luminaires to be mounted to the same pole at different heights and aimed in different directions. There are several motion sensors available, depending on application. The SiteLine collection also includes wall-mount options and bollards.
Daikin ATMOSPHERA Single-Zone Mini-Split Heat Pump
Why we chose this product: The Daikin Atmosphera is the first mainstream, single-zone air-source mini-split heat pump available in the U.S. that uses R32 refrigerant, which has a lower global warming potential (GWP) than conventional options.
Heat pumps have become the go-to low-carbon heating and cooling solution for residential and multifamily applications because they are energy efficient and do not burn fossil fuels. They are a great solution as we transition to all-electric buildings that run on renewable energy. With the recent passing of the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act, we now have to transition to lower-GWP refrigerants. But most residential heat pumps use R410a, which has a GWP more than 2,000 times that of CO2.
Wouldn’t heat pumps that use refrigerants based on HFOs or CO2 be better? Yes, and they are used in larger commercial systems, but these refrigerants are not well suited for smaller split systems. In the future, low-GWP flammable refrigerants such as those based on pentane might become available, but for now, U.S. building codes do not allow their use.
Daikin Atmosphera uses R32 refrigerant with a GWP of only 675. Though still high compared with CO2, the switch is significant. Not only does it have a lower GWP than R410a, but it is also a more effective refrigerant, meaning it transfers energy better and requires less of a refrigerant charge. And since it is not a refrigerant blend, it will be easier to capture and repurpose at the end of its service life.
Daikin’s Atmosphera is available in sizes from 9,000 Btu/hr (cooling) and 11,000 Btu/hr (heating) to 21,600 Btu/hr and 24,000 Btu/hr. (One ton=12,000 Btu/hr, so 24,000 is a two-ton unit.) The seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) ratings up to 27.4 for the smaller units to 22.0 for the largest model, with a coefficient of performance (COP) ranging from 4.60 to 3.54, respectively. And it still has solid cold-weather performance, with a COP of 2 at 5°F for the smaller model.
Why we chose this product: Doors Unhinged procures, stores, and sells reclaimed commercial doors, frames, and hardware—rather than sending them to the landfill.
Currently we have minimal product recycling, take-back programs, or incentives to reuse building products and materials. Yet many building products are durable enough to outlive the buildings that contain them. Throwing out these products is a waste of materials, labor, carbon, and energy, and it adds to demolition costs and labor while sending even more construction waste to our landfills.
A “circular” product model that reuses products and materials has fewer negative environmental impacts than manufacturing new products and disposing of them before their time. But finding and reclaiming products, assessing their potential, storing them, and getting them into a project is fraught with challenges.
Doors Unhinged offers a model of how product circularity can work. The company finds projects undergoing deconstruction or demolition and reclaims the doors, frames, and hardware. By salvaging the materials before demolition or deconstruction, the company saves on deconstruction labor and disposal fees, and keeps that material out of the landfill. Doors Unhinged then catalogues and stores the materials, making it easier to connect products to end users. The company claims its biggest innovation is the ability to get these reclaimed products installed in new projects. They do this by collaborating with architects and others to find materials suitable for projects and then helping with transportation and installation.
Compared to new products, Doors Unhinged’s repurposed versions reduce embodied carbon by more than 95% while also reducing the air and water pollution and ecosystem impacts of manufacturing new, according to the company. Perhaps more importantly, the company serves as a model for others looking to follow suit.
Why we chose this product: Footprint Project is a nonprofit organization that helps provide solar generators and support to communities impacted by disasters, providing resilient emergency power to those in need.
A warming climate is resulting in more damaging hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, and other natural disasters. These can cause disruptions to the electrical grid and force communities to rely on backup energy systems powered by fossil fuels. These outages can last for months or longer, and the use of fossil fuels to provide backup power adds to our carbon problem and requires a continuous supply, which can be difficult to obtain in a disaster due to damaged infrastructure and other challenges.
Using solar-powered generators is a great alternative, but implementing these systems requires organization and trained personnel to set them up and keep them operating reliably and safely.
Footprint Project helps provide low-carbon backup power to local communities impacted by disasters by helping obtain and assemble solar generators, including photovoltaic (PV) panels, battery storage, and accompanying components. (Some of these materials are upcycled, keeping them out of the landfill.) It then trains local first responders on how to safely operate and maintain the systems. The organization sees itself as a “match maker” between community-centered disaster response and the mobile solar storage technologies it can assemble, providing resilient energy to those in need.
Footprint Project typically replaces fossil fuel generators in the 2 kW–10kW range. According to the organization, it has deployed more than 200 kW of mobile solar and 600 kWh of mobile battery storage. By its count, Footprint Project has helped provide resilient, clean emergency power to more than 28,000 U.S. citizens, covering more than 20 disaster response and recovery missions, including communities affected by tornados in Kentucky and Tennessee, Hurricane Ida in Louisiana, and earthquakes in Puerto Rico.
GO Lab TimberHP Wood Insulation
Why we chose this product: TimberHP board, batt, and loose-fill wood insulations have low-embodied carbon and are made from FSC-certified lumber and forest industry byproducts in Maine—where their manufacturing provides valuable jobs to rural communities.
Standard insulation materials today all work well but have environmental and health challenges. Board insulations are typically made from petrochemicals and require flame retardants or formaldehyde-based binders; batt insulations have high embodied carbon; and cellulose insulation can contain unknown byproducts from the inks and additives in the recycled paper and cardboard.
Wood has the potential to replace these materials with one that has few environmental or health impacts. Wood insulation is made from primarily sustainable natural materials; can be made cost competitively at scale; provides good thermal performance; manages moisture well; and has low embodied carbon.
TimberHP (the “HP” stands for high performance, healthy planet, and healthy people) is available as loose fill, batt, and board insulations. TimberFill (R-value 3.8 per inch) loose-fill insulation’s wood fibers interlock, so there is minimal dust and little settling or slumping, according to the manufacturer. The company protects the insulation against fire and insects with a small amount of boric acid added to the fibers when wet. This technique means the boric acid is absorbed into the fibers, improving long-term performance and minimizing the chance of exposure. (Boric acid is potentially hazardous in large amounts.)
TimberBatt (R-value 4 per inch) is a flexible, semi-rigid batt insulation made with the same ingredients, along with polyamide fibers for bonding and structure. TimberBatt has a Class A fire rating, friction fits into 16" or 24" cavities, will not sag over time, and is available in 3" to 7.25" thicknesses.
TimberBoard (R-values 3.40–3.75 per inch) uses paraffin for moisture resistance and adds a small amount of pMDI (polyurethane) resins, but no borates. This square-edge, tongue-and-groove board insulation can be used for either above-grade exterior continuous insulation or on the interior and is available in 24" widths, 4' or 8' lengths, and 1" to 9.25" thicknesses.
TimberHP is also made in rural Maine in a once-shuttered, non-chemical papermill, so it is providing scarce, valuable jobs in the region.
Why we chose this product: HempWood Flooring is made from durable, natural, rapidly renewable hemp fiber and can be used in place of standard laminate flooring or resilient flooring made from environmentally problematic materials, such as luxury vinyl tile.
Industrial hemp was once one of world’s most important materials, used for paper, ropes, animal feed, textiles, and more. It grows quickly, sequesters carbon, requires no fertilizer and little water, fixes nitrogen in the soil, and can replace more polluting and/or slower-growing materials such as cotton or wood. Though inexpensive plastics and petrochemicals replaced hemp in most modern products, concerns over pollution, health, and social justice in the plastics industries has hemp poised for a comeback.
HempWood uses hemp fibers sourced within 100 miles of its factory along with a soy-based polyurethane resin to form blocks that are cut for various products. The company’s tongue-and-groove engineered flooring is made using a 4 mm layer of HempWood adhered to FSC-certified Columbia Forest Products formaldehyde-free PureBond plywood. It meets California Air Resources Board Phase 2 (CARB II) emissions requirements, is harder than American white oak, and is available unfinished or pre-finished. The pre-finished products use Bona commercial-grade sealers and finishes, so they are appropriate for most commercial or residential applications. A number of color options are available. If damaged, the flooring can be sanded down and refinished.
Hempwood also offers non-structural lumber for furniture, trim, and other interior applications.
Hudson Technologies Refrigerant Recovery
Why we chose this product: Hudson Technologies reclaims, manages, and helps dispose of high-global-warming-potential (GWP) refrigerants used by HVAC and other equipment, reducing the amount of refrigerant that escapes into the environment.
We normally think the worst sources of carbon emissions come from energy, transportation, concrete, steel, and other industries. But there is a potentially more damaging culprit: high-global-warming-potential (GWP) refrigerants. These can have GWPs thousands of times that of CO2, and there are countless chillers, coolers, heat pumps, and other equipment filled with them. These can leak into the atmosphere during manufacture, installation, maintenance, and disposal.
Hudson Technologies reclaims, resells, and helps dispose of high-GWP refrigerants and is the largest refrigerant reclaimer in the U.S. Its R-Side (onsite) Services recovers refrigerants when systems need repairs, at the end of their service life, and when systems are converted to more environmentally responsible refrigerants. Their process keeps refrigerants from leaking into the environment, and it can clean refrigerant onsite (removing oil and other contaminants), saving time and money, and improving the performance of the equipment.
Hudson also purchases refrigerants from old equipment and brings it back to like-new condition. (These refrigerants are then sold under the Emerald Refrigerants brand.) This provides equipment owners with a financial incentive to manage the refrigerant responsibly and can help improve the efficiency of equipment until it can be upgraded to one that runs on low-GWP refrigerants.
According to the company, “With the reclamation of millions of pounds of refrigerant a year, as well as our involvement in the destruction of high-GWP ozone-depleting substances, Hudson has successfully avoided the release of the equivalent of over 100 million tons of CO2 to the atmosphere since our inception.” And with many refrigerants being phased down because of the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act, Hudson’s reclaimed refrigerants can help with the transition to lower-GWP alternatives.
Innovatreat miniMBR aquaMINE Onsite Wastewater Treatment
Why we chose this product: Innovative Treatment Products (Innovatreat) miniMBR aquaMINE is a state-of-the-art onsite wastewater treatment system that provides non-potable water for toilet flushing, laundry, cooling towers, landscape irrigation, and other uses.
Water is our lifeblood, yet its scarcity in some regions is beginning to compromise our agriculture, power generation, ecosystems, and more. Even so, we continue to use and pour millions of gallons a year down the drain as though it were an unlimited resource, wasting increasingly expensive potable water as well as the energy and chemicals needed to transport and treat it.
Innovatreat’s miniMBR (membrane bioreactor) aquaMINE system captures, treats, and recycles wastewater onsite using a unique biological wastewater purification process. The system removes trash and other solids from wastewater and breaks down the remaining impurities in an enclosed, odor-contained biological reactor. The water then goes through tubular ultrafiltration membranes small enough to filter out 100% of the bacteria, according to the company. It then passes through an ultraviolet (UV) disinfection reactor and is stored in a chlorinated reservoir before being pumped back to the building’s “purple” piping for reused water.
The miniMBR aquaMINE system is available from 3,000 gallons per day (gpd) to 100,000+ gpd and more. It can be used for black- or graywater, is fully automated, and includes all of the required water-quality-monitoring instrumentation needed to comply with local water reuse regulations.
According to the company, miniMBR aquaMINE was developed to address the challenges of most small-flow, decentralized wastewater systems. Compared with these systems, this product uses:
- An industrial-duty tubular membrane with a longer lifespan
- Fewer cleaning chemicals due to a fully automated ultrafiltration membrane
- A unique hydraulic technology that provides excellent energy efficiency
Intuitive Oscar Pixel
Why we chose this product: Intuitive’s Oscar Pixel monitors construction site dumpsters—or other waste and recycling sites—to help keep reusable and recyclable materials from going to the landfill.
According the the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s most recent report, 600 million tons of construction and demolition debris were generated in the United States in 2018, more than twice the amount of municipal solid waste. In the construction industry, some materials that are reusable or recyclable end up in dumpsters. This is a waste of materials, resources, and landfill space. The disposal charges for this waste are significant, and there is often little monitoring to hold people accountable.
Intuitive’s Oscar Pixel technology uses a camera and an artificial intelligence platform to monitor construction site dumpsters, tracking what goes into specific bins so that those disposing of them place them in the right bin. (Pixel can also be used to monitor waste from kitchens, labs, and other uses.) The system can distinguish materials in real time and learns materials over time. It alerts end users if they throw out a recyclable material—or hazardous material—and can track and document the information. It can also send an alert when dumpsters are full, helping operators streamline disposal processes and improve recycling rates.
The company also offers its Oscar Sort recycling stations for interior use. Oscar Sort scans materials as occupants are getting ready to throw them away and incorporates a monitor that helps guide them to the right bin, whether compost, waste, recycling, or another option. The system aims to provide a fun user experience that encourages proper behavior while providing important data that can help operations teams. A number of layouts and monitoring options are available. Note that these systems are not used to track people or collect any personal information, according to Intuitive.
Salient Energy Zinc-Ion Battery
Why we chose this product: Salient Energy’s zinc-ion battery has similar performance to lithium-ion batteries but without the supply-chain and safety issues.
We are going to need a lot of battery storage in order to take advantage of renewable energy and wean ourselves off of fossil fuels. Today’s lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries are light and compact and work great. They are used in buildings, electric vehicles, phones, and hundreds of other products. There is only so much lithium to go around, though, and demand is growing. Lithium also catches fire when exposed to air, and Li-ion batteries contain cobalt, the mining of which is typically in regions with poor environmental and human rights records.
Salient Energy batteries use zinc-ion technology instead of Li-ion and have none of those concerns. Instead, these batteries use low-cost, abundant zinc and manganese to create a battery system with similar lifespan and performance to Li-ion’s with none of the safety risks. The engineering and chemistry of these batteries is complicated, but they can be made using the same manufacturing methods as Li-ion. This means manufacturers can easily scale production without reinventing the wheel and without the fire hazard.
The downside of Salient Energy’s zinc-ion battery? They are significantly heavier than Li-ion. We won’t be seeing them in phones or cars, but they could be a great option for building energy storage, where weight is less of a concern, and they can be placed indoors without the risk of fire. Salient Energy’s zinc-ion technology batteries will be on the market at the end of 2023.
Published January 9, 2023 Permalink Citation
Ehrlich, B. (2022, December 21). BuildingGreen Announces Top 10 Products for 2023. Retrieved from https://www.buildinggreen.com/product-review/buildinggreen-announces-top-10-products-2023
Add new comment
To post a comment, you need to register for a BuildingGreen Basic membership (free) or login to your existing profile.