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Fired Up: Sorting Through the Green Building Maze

Anyone want to take a guess at how many green product certifications there are in the world, like Cradle to Cradle or Environmental Product Declarations?

I did a little digging to find out the answer after reading Glass Magazine’s March article on “The Green Building Maze.” As it turns out, there are an estimated 600 green product certifications globally, with nearly 100 in use in the U.S. (Sources: Whole Building Design Guide; BuildingGreen).

Let’s pause on that for a minute: there are approximately 600 green product certifications in the world. That’s no small number, and it doesn’t even factor in green building rating programs and standards.

Now, let’s take a step back. Who here remembers working in the glass biz before green building rating systems and certifications were a part of our everyday life? I sure do. And I trust I’m not the only one raising my hand right now.

To say a lot has changed on the green building front in the last 20 years is an understatement. LEED went from being an acronym that no one could define in the early 2000s, to an accepted industry term. Building codes began to evolve, addressing concerns like energy, sustainability and occupant wellbeing. Interest in high-performance, sustainable construction grew. In turn, more green building programs and certifications emerged. If you haven’t read it already, Glass Magazine put together a great recap of some of these programs and codes, touching on ASHRAE, LBC, PHIUS+, ZEB, C2C and more.

Each of these green product certification rating bodies, standards or codes has played (or is playing) an important role in setting higher benchmarks not just for the glazing industry, but the built environment as a whole. This advancement is good, necessary even. As Glass Magazine notes, these progressions are “changing the way projects are designed and built.”

But the number of organizations trying to get into the “green” game and improve the built environment is not without challenges. In fact, the rise in green building standards and organizations is creating one of today’s problems—an ever-tightening, complex maze of product/building performance criteria. Glass Magazine was right to cover the wide range of green building programs and certifying bodies as each does things differently. They each award credits for their own set of criteria, push varying performance requirements and have their own take on how to do things better. These differences are apparent even at a high level. For instance, some programs use a prescriptive path, while others award certification post construction based on actual performance data. In the same way, some programs take a holistic approach, while others evaluate just one component of the green building puzzle.

We’re seeing the trickle-down effects of this convoluted landscape more and more at Technical Glass Products. I’m sure the same goes for many of you. Customers frequently ask for green building information that stems from several different organizations. The result is confusion about which requirements they need to meet, and what information is applicable. To make matters more complicated, green building requirements often vary by state and are incentivized at different levels, creating another set of criteria. Not to mention, change is on the horizon in many states. So is it better to design for present or future codes? On that same note, what are current green building trends versus advancements that move the needle and will be taken seriously in the future?

The answers to these questions aren’t always easy. But we’re finding the glass industry is increasingly being called upon to provide a detailed level of green building support, and we’ll need to rise to the challenge. As the maze grows more complex—what are you finding successful?

David Vermeulen is the national sales manager for Technical Glass Products (TGP), a supplier of fire-rated glass and framing systems, and other specialty architectural glazing. TGP works closely with architects, designers and other building professionals, providing them with the state-of-the-art products, service and support to maximize design aesthetics and safety in commercial and institutional buildings around the world. Contact him at 800/426-0279.

The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors. 


Dave Vermeuelen

David Vermeulen

David Vermeulen is the North America Sales Director at Technical Glass Products (TGP), a division of Allegion that supplies fire-rated glass and framing systems, and other specialty architectural glazing. Contact him at 800/426-0279. Opinions expressed are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the position of the National Glass Association or Glass Magazine.