A recent trio of meetings, all unrelated and occurring by chance, gave me three different perspectives on how the green building movement will affect the products we sell.
The first was with Serious Materials, a Silicon Valley infant that, this year, will begin producing EcoRock, a drywall that the maker says will take virtually no energy to produce. The second was with the Homasote Co., a New Jersey venture that, for 99 years, has recycled Trenton's paper refuse into everything from the rooftops of Model Ts to sound-deadening drywall. And the third was with an LBM executive from the upper Midwest, who told me how he's excited by the green movement because he expects it will enable him to sell more expensive products.
Three meetings, three conclusions: "Hot news–we're creating green products!" the first says. "Ho hum, we've been green for eons," says the second. And finally "Ka-ching! Going green will make us rich." I agree with responses 1 and 2, but odds are you can't count on No. 3.
Green is one of the qualities we highlight in this edition of the ProSales Product Review, our once-a-year, whole-hog focus on new and improved products that we believe you should consider selling.
We focus on what's new, such as a type of drywall that one of Serious Materials' units recently put on the market that will take less energy to make, or new window technologies that will provide better insulation than ever.
But Homasote's story makes me wonder whether our focus on new innovations unfairly ignores companies that have been quietly green for years. Right now, Homasote processes up to 250 tons of post-consumer paper each day, and its water-recycling program was winning awards back in 1956. Set against that decades-old record, Serious Materials has some serious catching up to do.
Be they old or new, the onslaught of green products is so large that we didn't carve out a special section of this year's review for the topic. Instead, green became one of the four criteria–the others are "convenient," "innovative" and "high tech"–that product editor Vicky Markovitz and the ProSales team used to select the 200 products out of the 5,000 or so candidates that made these pages.
In fact, the message from the 2008 International Builders' Show and other recent exhibitions is that this country is moving so quickly to embrace green products–be it via consumer choice, government fiat, or industry standard–that soon green will be a given. Not so far into the future it seems, the only standouts will be products that aren't demonstrably green.
Yes, at the moment there's a group of early adopters that are willing to pay a premium for green products, but surveys suggest that the products they covet are items like Energy Star appliances and compact fluorescent lights, not LBM-specialty commodities like framing lumber, insulation, and drywall. Indeed, a survey of builders and remodelers conducted last fall by ProSales' parent company found that 22% said they never plan to buy certified wood. That was a higher mark than for all but one of a dozen product categories.
Most signs point to green becoming accepted by the public only when its qualities come at pretty much the same price as they're paying now for nongreen stuff. You might not reap extra profits from selling green, but your communities will be the better for it.
If there is any issue of ProSales each year that comes close to being a one-person production, this is it. That's because virtually all of the research and copy that goes into the Annual Product Review is the endeavor of one person: Victoria Markovitz, our product editor. Vicky took on the job last summer after interning with ProSales' sister publication, Building Products, while attending the University of Maryland. Despite her relatively short time with us, her desk already is piled as high with product samples and news releases as that of any grizzled veteran.
Craig Webb, Editor