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Green Building Products & Ratings

Green building has become more popular in the wake of global warming. Although green building costs may be higher initially, the lifetime savings more than make up for it. Initial green building estimates a 2 to 3% increase on average over conventional building. (One studyís report ranged from 18% below to 9% above comparable conventional housing.) However, green building can mean a lifetime savings of 20%; up to ten times the initial investment. Additionally, there are many utility rebates and government tax credits that will help allay the initial cost.

There are certain specifications for green building criteria. They are:
1. Made with salvaged, recycled, or agricultural waste material.
2. Conserve natural resources
3. Avoid products that give off toxic chemicals or emissions
4. Save energy or water
5. Select products that are easy to maintain with non toxic cleaners.
6. Choose products that prevent the accumulation of mold, dust mites, or other pollutants.

There are several certifications available to assess green products. They include:

Energy Star: This is a rating system by the US EPA for residential heating and cooling equipment, major appliances, office equipment, lighting, etc. An Energy Star appliance may get you rebates from utility companies and government tax credits, not to mention extremely efficient products.

FSC Certified Wood: This wood is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council to be in compliance with their specifications for a well managed forest. Product categories include cabinets and casework, decking, doors and windows, flooring, engineered wood, framing lumber, millwork, office furniture, and plywood.

GREENGUARD Product Guide: Products listed by Greenguard have been tested by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Green Label Plus: This is a testing certification for carpeting by the Carpet and Rug Institute for indoor air quality and low emitting materials in carpeting for 13 chemicals. ( Carpeting is not considered environmentally friendly)

Green Seal: This is an independent, nonprofit organization that sets environmental standards.

Master Painters Institute Green Performance Standard: MPIís Green Performance Standard contains a list of banned ingredients and sets a maximum allowable level of volatile organic compounds for each paint category. Conformance requires a paint to meet MPIís performance standard for its category and meet the green requirements.

An additional source of information is the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Network, which is a US EPA site providing information about space heating and cooling, water heating, lighting, appliances, office equipment, and building electrical equipment.

LEED: This is a US Green Building Council rating. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design. Silver and Gold LEED ratings on a building offer low cost or no cost credit opportunities. Currently LEED is for developers of large commercial buildings. There is a LEED for Homes (LEED-H) being pilot tested.

The most important steps you can take in green building are those that will conserve energy and deter pollution. This includes energy efficient appliances, heating, and cooling products; environmentally friendly paint and flooring; and using recycled building products whenever possible.


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