Greenbuild Learning: Choosing Products for LEED v4 | leed v4

Greenbuild Learning: Choosing Products for LEED v4Posted: Dec 2014 Posted by: Mats Inc.


Manufacturers have been gearing up for the transition to LEED v4 for the past two years or longer by working diligently to develop and publish Life Cycle Assessments (LCA), Environment Product Declarations (EPD), and Health Product Declarations (HPD) in support of Material and Resources credits. As a product manager on the manufacturing side of the building industry, it had not crossed my mind just how complicated and confusing all of this new product transparency documentation has become for the Architect and Design community until I attended the “Stuff We Buy and Stuff We Spec” session at the Greenbuild 2014.

During this educational session, individuals from several Architect and Design firms discussed the challenges they face as product manufacturers develop these documents using different protocol platforms, different information and different metrics. Designers already have to prioritize a large variety of product attributes including functionality, durability, cleaning requirements, safety, esthetics, price and more. Evaluating product data for impact on human health will make choosing products a more time-consuming and even daunting task.

Many hands make light workTo demonstrate firsthand what Architect and Design firms go through when trying to choose a green product, the session leaders divided the audience into twelve teams. Each team was tasked with evaluating the technical documentation and EPD for five different toilets in order to select the toilet that they thought was best. Some of the toilets had better flush rates, therefore using less water, several had longer warranties, indicating durability, and a few had characteristics that reduced carbon footprint. There was a lot of information to sort through and each product had numerous favorable and unfavorable attributes. Our team chose a toilet based on carbon footprint, price and flush rate, giving weights to each category. Other groups used different strategies and the results varied across teams. The exercise gave the audience a much greater appreciation for the challenges design teams are facing.

Session presenters explained one method that is being adopted to conform with LEED v4 product disclosure requirements called the “checkbox” approach. Whether it is lack of pertinent knowledge, concern over potential legal implications or both, some architect and design firms are collecting EPDs, HPDs, and other disclosure documents but are not necessarily reviewing or evaluating the data contained in them.

Architects and designers are likely to continue to avoid, or have difficulty, using the information disclosed to make effective decisions until the industry is able to synergize the requirements, formats and data sources of the accepted protocols. Fortunately, last spring, Google facilitated a harmonization initiative by awarding the USGBC with a $3 million grant to launch a task group charged with finding synergies between GreenScreen, C2C, Pharos, Health Product Declaration Collaborative and International Living Future’s Institute. The progress made from the task force efforts will likely accelerate use of the disclosure documentation by allowing project teams to more effectively compare product data.

While we await the harmonization advancements, the session leaders offered the following advice to assist designers with the intimidating task of choosing the best products for the LEED v4 project.


1. Start with one manufacturer

Approach the selection process systematically. Begin by comparing only one manufacturer’s products and selecting the top product from that company. Then look at another manufacturer’s products, and do the same. Eventually, the pool of products will be reduced to just the top product from each manufacturer, making it more manageable to evaluate and make the final decision.

Survey Check Box with Green Checkmark and Pencil

2. Align selection criteria with project goals

Update old selection criteria to align with the new green project goals. Selection criteria previously focused on performance, durability, availability etc. and now must include new standards such as toxicity, health implications and life cycle analyses. Standards have been evolving and specifiers should make sure they are including these new values in the selection process.

One apple and orange on white background

3. Use a tool to track and compare products

Use a database tool to upload and track product data as it is being evaluated. (One of the tools recommended was called Evernote, a note taking software.) Record only the product attributes being evaluated in the database, therefore eliminating clutter and making it easier to compare the products side by side. The attribute evaluation process will get easier and less repetitive as more products are added to the database. Set strict requirements. The product must have either an ingredients report or a publicly available EPD to be added to the database.

As the transformation to product transparency continues to unfold, we all have our work cut out for us. Leaders directing protocol platforms, designers and manufacturers must work together to learn, grow and advance as we create greater and more sustainable building products.

Categories: Architect & Designer News, Sustainability

There are currently no comments on this blog entry.

Comments are closed.

Leave a Comment

Upcoming Events

Media Contact


Contact Us