On the eve of the International Living Future Institute’s annual Living Future unConference, the green building news of the day is nothing but net positive. I had the privilege of attending the 2015 Net Positive and Getting to Zero building energy conferences where design teams, builders, and manufacturers congregated to share and celebrate technical and policy breakthroughs. Whether they are rallying to the Living Building Challenge, LEED, or Passive House standards, the outcomes are impressive. The templates for future restorative and regenerative buildings that generate more water and energy than they use exists today with off-the-shelf technology.
The Bullitt Center is the exemplar for the Living Building Challenge (LBC) ratings system. Since the grand opening on Earth Day, 2012, the solar array, thermal wells, building envelope, and mechanical systems have performed beyond expectations. That’s two years of net zero energy (NZE) for a commercial scale building constructed without materials prohibited in the LBCv2.0 Red List.
Four years ago, the Bullitt Center project team approached PROSOCO and our collaborative partner, Building Envelope Innovations (BEI), with the LBC aspirational goal of removing phthalate plasticizers from our high-performance R-Guard CAT-5 air and water resistive barrier sealant and coating system. Instead of walking away from the project, we launched an aggressive reformulation and testing effort aimed towards replacing 20-40% of the functional materials in a range of specialized products.
And it worked! We’re obsessed about product and assembly performance at PROSOCO and believe that a perfectly green product that doesn’t contribute to occupant comfort or building performance and longevity isn’t worth the materials it is made of. The original specification hinged on performance demonstration in one of our Building Envelope Analysis (BEA) test chambers. The ultimate proof came in March, 2013 when the completed Bullitt Center was closed up for its blower door test and achieved 1.0 ach@50 Pascals. In comparison, high-performance homes typically perform in the 1.5-3.0 ach@50 Pa range, with the elite Passive House structures shooting for 0.6 ach@50 Pa.
BEA test chamber. Capable
of simulating 225 MPH wind-driven rain.
The next aspirational goal came in the form of the LBC Declare label materials transparency program. To achieve the LBCv3.0 Materials Petal, project teams are required to ask product manufacturers for ingredient, VOC, and Red List content down to the 100 ppm range consistent with Declare.
As of today, Declare is the toughest materials transparency standard in the sustainable building sector. As a formulator of wet-applied coatings and sealants, PROSOCO does not have the luxury of averaging out polymers, pigments, and associated residuals by factoring in bulk mass wood and metal found in complex assembly products. To achieve Declare level transparency means engaging in hundreds of hours of research and supplier outreach. The latter requires years of discussions to convince suppliers of the ROI for researching their supply chains and exposing intellectual property.
I’m proud to announce that the core R-Guard Cat 5 sealant and coating products are now listed on the Declare Products website with the coveted designation of “Red List Free”. Along with the previously listed Consolideck LS concrete floor hardener/dustproofing coating, we have added the entire Consolideck ColorHard pigmented stain system to the Declare product catalog. LBC design teams need only list the Declare registration numbers for automatic fulfillment of Materials Petal documentation requirements.
Inside the USGBC and chapters like Cascadia GBC, we talk a lot about market transformation. The USGBC LEED technical committees and staff are using 2015 to work out all of the documentation and submittal kinks to make LEEDv4 a shovel ready tool to keep LEED in motion. USGBC was just a plucky, little upstart of a green building advocacy organization fifteen years ago. Today, there are 1.85 million square feet of building space certified per day.
I had the opportunity to visit early and modern LEED Platinum buildings on either side of America this year. Looking at technology in the NZE Packard Foundation headquarters and the Sidwell Friends School is like comparing what’s under the hood of a Tesla to the science experiment that was the General Motors EV1. The innovation curve is impressive and sets the stage for pushing net positive systems into the mainstream.
By design, the International Living Future Institute is impatient and is forging ahead with new aspirational initiatives. PROSOCO is honored to be a member of the Living Product 50 manufacturers group. Given the pace of change over the last fifteen-years, it’s anyone’s guess what sustainable buildings and building products will look like in the next fifteen, but I’m thrilled to be working with dedicated collaborators that aren’t afraid to discover what comes next.