Understanding Green Building Certifications

As the global movement toward greener living continues to build momentum, the emphasis on energy savings is evolving from the sole component of green building design to being just one facet of the equation. Green building certifications now focus on things like product life-cycles, energy savings, manufacturing processes, and even things like access to bike paths or public transportation.

This effort has been pioneered by organizations like the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) and their Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification program. LEED is the premier method for evaluating the environmental impact of a building and its bent toward sustainable design. LEED certifications call for a 360° picture of the materials used within the building from cradle to grave.

The characteristics of the products you use to construct a building may qualify for “credits” for the LEED Certification Program. These credits are awarded for things like energy savings, recycled content, low chemical emissions, and contributions to indoor environmental quality for sound reduction. The full tally of the awarded credits equates to a certain level within the LEED Certification Program: Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum.

Naturally, when it comes to energy savings, insulation is acriticalfeature of green building design, but when it comes to LEED, it’s not just about whether or not the insulation saves energy when it’s installed; it is also about how and where the insulation is manufactured, what it’s made out of, and what happens to the material after it’s been thrown away. The LEED Certification Program evolves often to ensure that new data and technology are incorporated into the accreditation requirements.

Given these evolving requirements, there are a number of certifications and reports available that help entities like the USGBC establish qualifications for LEED certifications and energy credits. This blog will discuss the primary certifications and features you’ll see pertaining to JM Products that can help when designing insulation systems to maximize LEED credits.

Environmental Product Declaration (EPD®)
An EPD is an internationally standardized method to quantify the environmental impact of a product throughout its lifecycle. All EPDs must be independently verified and certified by a third party, like Underwriters Laboratories (UL).

These detailed reports take into account the amount of energy used to manufacture the material (including raw material acquisition), how much energy the material saves once installed, and what happens to the material once it’s been pulled from the building and sent to a landfill or recycled. This information can be used to perform a side-by-side comparison between how much energy is required to make a material and how much energy the material actually saves when in operation.

Many major manufacturers offer EPDs for some of their top products, and at JM we have EPDs [LINK: http://www.jm.com/en/building-materials/environmental-product-declarations/] for each of the following materials:

These EPDs can play a critical role in designing buildings for LEED certification, and many insulation system designers are beginning to rely more and more on the information they provide.

GREENGUARD® Certification Program
The GREENGUARD Certification Program is in place to help facilitate healthier indoor environments. This program sets “rigorous and comprehensive standards for low emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs),” for materials that are designed to be used in indoor applications. This is a voluntary certification program to help manufacturers create low VOC products and help consumers identify those products for their indoor applications.

There are two levels of GREENGUARD certifications: GREENGUARD and GREENGUARD Gold. To receive either of these GREENGUARD certifications, each material must be proven to meet their standards by empirical, scientific data from an unbiased, third-party organization. The GREENGUARD Gold certification has more stringent requirements than GREENGUARD and is a more common requirement for materials that are going to be used in locations like schools or healthcare facilities.

GREENGUARD certifications are recognized by LEED and can contribute to LEED credits.

SCS Recycled Content
SCS Recycled Content measures how much recycled material was used to manufacture a product. For example, if one-quarter of the material used to create the product came from recycled material, then the product would have a 25% recycled content rating. This figure can be established either by in-house auditing or third-party certification programs. It is then certified by SCS, an independent certification body.

LEED incorporates recycled content into its credit opportunities to encourage people to rely less on virgin materials and more on products that are manufactured with recycled materials. Recycled content credits can apply to a variety of building components beyond insulation, including things like the furnishings used in the building. Some materials are exempt from LEED’s recycled content credits, however, so be sure to confirm that the application and materials apply for the credits you are trying to obtain.

If you are planning on using insulation as part of an effort to design greener, more efficient buildings, or if you want more details on how you can use our products to earn credits toward LEED certification, we encourage you to contact us at 800-293-3393. We can help ensure that the products you specify or purchase are ideal for the energy-savings goals you are striving to achieve.