High-Performance Products Make High-Performance Buildings

  July 25, 2014

Today's tip is about high-performance building products.

In an ideal world, high-performance buildings would always be constituted from high-performance building products. But what does "high-performance building product" mean? A roof that lasts longer than it’s competition? A more energy efficient chiller? A paint that doesn’t off-gas? A flooring product with a particular green certification?

Especially in the last two years or so, with the advent of LEEDv4, and its controversial new credits on selecting building products, the already strong opinions about what really is a high-performance building product have gotten stronger...and louder.

When it comes right to it, however, a high-performance building product is exactly what you think it should it be. That's not a cop-out, it's a truth. If your organization is worried about its supply chain, and therefore the raw materials and embodied energy in products, then those two criteria will be part of your high-performance definition. If your organization is working on inventorying its greenhouse gas emissions, and as part of that, needs to calculate the emissions required for products entering its facilities, well, then finding that information will be a priority. For many organizations, good old stalwarts like cost and performance are the hallmarks of high-performance. And that’s fine too.

More and more resources are available these days to help facility managers make more informed decisions about. You've probably been hearing about Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) and Health Product Declarations (HPDs) for awhile now. These "nutrition labels for building products" are a great way to help weigh different product criteria against each other.

For long time, EPDs and HPDs had been the victim of the "which comes first, the chicken or the egg?" type issue — manufacturers weren't subjecting their products to be tested and certified for EPDs because no one in the industry was asking for them, and no one in the industry was asking for them, because they understood that very few manufacturers had them available.

That's changing very quickly, as LEEDv4 now offers points for collecting EPDs and HPDs for building products. All you need to do find out how quickly this has changed is to make a stroll through and building products exhibit hall these days. You may be surprised how many manufacturers really do have EPDs and HPDs available. And therefore, many more in the industry — both architects and end users — are incorporating this criteria into their product selection process.


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