The 2009 Green Products Awards

  • By Jennifer Goodman, Victoria Markovitz, and Katy Tomasulo
  • Source: BUILDING PRODUCTS Magazine
  • Publication date: 2009-11-12

As more and more manufacturers offer up green wares--and a growing number of consumers add energy- and water-saving products to their wish lists--it's more essential than ever for pros to understand green products and their attributes.

Thanks to our 2009 judges:

Stephen McKay
Dominick Tringali Architects
Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

Jeff King
Jeff King & Co.
San Francisco

Alexa Knight
Lee Michael Homes
Albuquerque, N.M.

To help you sort through the options, Building Products presents our second annual Green Product Awards. Chosen with the expert assistance of three green-minded judges, winners of the 2009 Green Product Awards represent those product introductions that exceled in three areas: sustainability, value to the contractor, and innovation. These products not only contribute to a sustainable home--whether by saving energy, water, or other resources; contributing to improved indoor air quality; reducing a home's carbon footprint; or helping to achieve a more durable, high-performance home--but also make a contractor's job easier, help boost profits, represent groundbreaking technology, make clients say "Wow!", or otherwise possess breakout features.

Building Products asked manufacturers to submit products introduced between January 2008 and April 2009. Unable to independently test each product, our judges scrutinized written statements, press materials, brochures, pricing information, testimonials, and photography submitted by the manufacturers.

All claims about the winning products come from their makers; the editors and judges could not independently verify the statements. What's more, the winners represent only a small portion of outstanding green products that were introduced during the past year. The judges made their selections based on items entered in the competition, not from all products that debuted last year.

If you're hunting for innovative offerings for your green-built homes, you might just find what you're looking for in this fresh batch of eco-friendly options.

Cosentino . Eye-catching aesthetics and a low environmental footprint make a combination that appeals to pros and consumers alike. Eco by Cosentino countertops are made with 75 percent post-industrial and post-consumer recycled content, including salvaged mirrors; window and bottle glass; salvaged porcelain; and industrial furnace residuals. The remainder is stone scrap bonded with 22 percent corn oil resin. "Eco is most appealing because of its high percentage of recycled content, the non use of petroleum resin, and the durability," said Matt Klein, owner of Klein's Custom Countertops, in a testimonial. "With Eco by Cosentino, we now are able to truly market ourselves as an environmentally friendly shop." The material is non-porous; requires no sealers; and has high stain, scratch, and scorch performance, the firm says. It has earned Greenguard and Cradle to Cradle Silver certifications. Cost: $68 to $118 per square foot, depending on thickness and color. 866-579-4326.

Big Ass Fans . Though largely utilized for commercial spaces, the Element fan's dramatic look makes it an appealing option for providing efficient air movement for custom homes with large, open layouts. "It's a very creative design for a standard fixture," one judge noted. A permanent magnet prime mover provides high torque at low speeds, eliminating the need for a gearbox and providing for quiet operation, while the airfoil and "winglet" design of the blades increase downward velocity to stabilize air movement, the company says. According to the firm, the fan provides the equivalent airflow of 20 to 30 regular ceiling fans, but with lower energy consumption rates. The Element comes in 12-foot to 20-foot diameters. Cost: 12-foot model starts at $7,500; varies based on size, installation, and customization. 877-244-3267.

DaVinci Roofscapes. EcoBlend roofing tiles are "a good product for homes wanting the look of slate without the extra expense," said one judge. It saves additional money by reducing solar heat gain: Meeting both Cool Roof Rating Council and Energy Star requirements, EcoBlend can save homeowners 7 percent to 15 percent on cooling costs, the firm states. The roofing tile is 100 percent recyclable, does not release or discharge toxins, and has an anticipated life span of 50-plus years, the maker says. Cost: $455 to $550 per square for contractors. 800-328-4624.

American Clay . Enjarre single-coat spray-on clay plaster contains no VOCs and provides a durable, mold-resistant finish. A blend of post-industrial aggregates, clays, and pigments that does not require manufacturing in high-energy kilns or reactors like traditional plasters and acrylics, the material has the lowest carbon footprint per pound of any non-paint wall finish, the firm says. In addition, the product leaves behind no on-site waste; any excess material can be left to dry and re-used later. Enjarre is third-party certified by Degree of Green. "This provides a great customized look at a reasonable price," noted one judge. "You can use it to impact a room using no VOCs." The product also can be troweled on for a unique look. Cost: $55 per bag. 866-404-1634.

Lutron . eco-minder dimmers feature an LED display that indicates to homeowners when they are saving at least 15 percent in energy usage, essentially reminding users to dim the lights in order to reduce consumption. By replacing a standard switch with an eco-minder dimmer, homeowners can save up to $30 per year by extending the life of their light bulbs, the company says. "This is a great idea because it increases energy consciousness, which is key," said one judge. The eco-minder comes in two styles--Maestro (shown) and Meadowlark--and is available in white, ivory, almond, and light almond. Cost: $45, Maestro style; $25, Meadowlark style. 888-588-7661.

Trane . The XL 20i air conditioner/heat pump boasts 20-SEER efficiency and includes ComfortLink II with Charge Assist. Plug-and-play ComfortLink II requires just two wires for installation and provides a digital interface for precise setup; ComfortLink II-enabled indoor and outdoor units communicate for automatic and proper charging, configuration, and calibration. The Energy Star-qualified unit includes R410A refrigerant; dual compressors for two-stage heating and cooling; and an all-aluminum Spine Fin coil with low air resistance, greater heat exchanging capabilities, and more corrosion and leak resistance, the maker says. "The ease of installation and service, along with the added efficiencies make this a very attractive option for AC," one judge commented. Cost: $10,000 to $15,000. 903-581-3660.

IceStone. Made from cement and recycled glass, IceStone surfaces have achieved the difficult-to-obtain Cradle-to-Cradle Gold certification. "It is a durable, trustworthy product that is good for the environment and made in the USA," a judge stated. The company's new Refined line, released last year, features smaller glass pieces than previous offerings. Cost: $75 and up per square foot for material, fabrication, and installation. 718-624-4900.

Osmose. Certified as an Environmentally Preferable Product by Scientific Certification Systems, MicroPro treated lumber releases 90 percent to 99 percent less copper into aquatic and terrestrial environments than standard treated wood products, the company says. In addition, the amount released bonds to organic matter and becomes inactive, which means it does not have a toxic effect on the environment, the maker adds. The product also takes less energy to create and is more concentrated than standard wood treatments, resulting in less greenhouse gas emissions during the manufacturing and shipping processes. The amount saved is approximate to the annual emissions of 2,200 SUVs, the firm says. Cost: Unavailable. 770-233-4200.

Dow. Styrofoam SIS structural insulated sheathing combines a structural layer, a moisture barrier, and foam insulation, providing R-values of 3.0 at 1/2 inch or 5.5 at 1 inch. It is made of up to 80 percent post-consumer recycled content by weight, and it is Energy Star-qualified. The company claims the insulation will help save between $200 and $500 per year on energy bills, and is one-third the weight of wood sheathing. "This appears to be an excellent product, providing wall bracing, energy performance, and the potential for weatherization all in one," said one judge. "The labor savings alone is huge." Cost: 4x8, $18. 866-583-2583.

Benjamin Moore. Natura paint expands the options for zero-VOC paints, thanks to a VOC-free colorant system that ensures an environmentally friendly coating no matter the color. The waterborne paint is virtually odorless, the company says, dries to the touch in 30 minutes, offers excellent hide and durability, and is washable. About 3,500 colors are available, as well as color matching. It comes in a primer and in flat, eggshell, and semi-gloss. Cost: $50 per gallon. 800-672-4686.

Whirlpool. Our judges were wowed by the Resource Saver refrigerator. It exceeds federal minimum efficiency standards by 30 percent and Energy Star standards by 10 percent. Its 6th Sense technology helps quickly cool existing food and adjusts temperatures inside the refrigerator to normal operating temperatures. Additionally, the Fast Cool button immediately lowers the refrigerator and/or freezer temperatures to accommodate new food additions, such as hot leftovers. The refrigerator's energy use is equivalent to powering a 60-watt light bulb, according to the firm. "I found my next fridge!" raved one judge. Cost: $2,099. 800-253-3977.

Broan-NuTone . Ultra Silent Humidity Sensing QTRE100S fans activate manually or after they detect rapid increases in moisture levels, the maker says. The Energy Star-rated fans automatically shut off after 20 minutes, and help protect baths from mold and mildew, the firm says. The fan "should be required in all baths," extolled one judge, adding that it is an "easy sell to clients." The Home Ventilating Institute certifies that the product operates at 100 cfm and 1.5 sones. Cost: $293. 800-558-1711.

Serious Windows . The company has been garnering a lot of attention for rising above the usual level of window performance; even Vice President Joe Biden called its products the "most energy-efficient windows in the world." The manufacturer's windows deliver performance of R-5 to R-11, four times higher than major brands and current Energy Star standards, the maker claims. The energy savings make Serious Windows a "serious cost benefit," commented one judge. A range of styles is available, including double-hung, gliders, and casement, in vinyl and fiberglass frames. Cost: Unavailable. 800-797-8159.

Kichler Lighting. The compact size and flexible installation of Design Pro Discs expand the options for placement of energy-efficient LED lighting. The lights are 3/8 inch thick, and include captive screws and 3 feet of wire spooled within each disc for straightforward installation. "Its size makes it an easy fit anywhere," one judge noted. "Its innovative design opens up many locations for use." The Energy Star-rated lights use 75 percent less electricity than comparable incandescents, says the maker, and they deliver high brightness and sharp color rendering greater than 90 CRI. Cost: $84. 866-558-5706.

Mitsubishi Electric & Electronics USA . Mr. Slim M-Series heat pump systems qualify for an Energy Star Tier 2 rating, measuring in at 22 or 25 SEER, up to 75 percent better than the industry standard of 13 SEER, the maker says. Even at 17 degrees F, the MSZ-FD models produce up to 13,600 BTU/h of heat, says the company. No ductwork is required at installation, and the product includes zone control to cool and heat only desired spaces. "It is significant to have an electric source heat pump operating at this level of efficiency," one judge remarked. "They have created a quality product with simple measures for application." Cost: Suggested list price starts at $2,180. 800-687-1966.

Dow. The Thermax wall system is a new approach to steel stud wall design that makes it easier to minimize an apartment building's energy usage in a cost-effective manner. Integrating rigid foam insulation, flashing, and spray polyurethane foam, the system provides an R-value of up to 28.8, blocks air infiltration, and helps prevent moisture intrusion. Assembled with fewer materials and installation steps than traditional gypsum walls, Thermax shields both the cavity and studs with continuous insulation--a new requirement under the latest ASHRAEand IECCstandards. "Thermax is truly innovative because it reduces the number of trades involved in erecting the wall assembly and, because of the spray-applied interior wall insulation, the smallest penetrations are eliminated," said Birmingham, Mich., architect Victor Saroki of Victor Saroki & Associates in a testimonial. The product is Energy Star-qualified. Cost: approximately $8 per square foot, installed. 866-583-2583.