CSI's GreenFormat: A new tool in green product evaluation

August 11, 2010

Help is finally on the way for all you weary product specifiers who spent the better part of the decade trying to make sense of the green products maze. In mid-November at the Greenbuild show in Boston, the Construction Specifications Institute plans to officially launch its much-anticipated GreenFormat product database, which will offer users a free searchable database of hundreds—and eventually thousands—of green building products and systems for the construction market.

It's not as if GreenFormat will be the only green product database available to the industry—BuildingGreen Inc.'s GreenSpec directory has long been a popular tool for designers and specifiers working on sustainable projects. What makes CSI's venture different is that, like its MasterFormat system, GreenFormat is not a product evaluation system, rather a framework for organizing products and systems based on individual properties—in this case, sustainable properties.

The database will be open to any manufacturer that wants to list its products (not just those that have been hand selected because their products meet specific standards), and the submission process is designed to be simple and straightforward. As a result, CSI anticipates a high level of participation from building product manufacturers, as well as a steady stream of loyal users who are already familiar with the organization's trusted MasterFormat system.

To submit a product, BPMs will complete an online questionnaire that collects all pertinent sustainable information and organizes it into 14 searchable categories. For instance, categories 1-3 will list general information like product name and manufacturer by MasterFormat number, while categories 6-12 will organize products by key sustainable attributes, such as the product's composition, embodied energy, life-cycle properties, and operations-related performance. The system will provide BPMs with a consistent, easy-to-use platform for defining the sustainable attributes of their products and specifiers with a method for evaluating green products that's more efficient and thorough than wading through product brochures and spec sheets.

The only potential drawback to CSI's approach with GreenFormat is that, unlike green product standards like Greenguard and Cradle to Cradle, products are not required to be third-party tested to validate the manufacturers' green claims. Instead, CSI, with help from BuildingGreen Inc., will perform random information checks in the product listings. In addition, the database tool will feature a feedback loop for reporting questionable information and a process for investigating claims.

For more on GreenFormat, visit: www.greenformat.com.


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