In years past, it wasn't too difficult to distinguish green materials and products from the “nongreen.” Eco-friendly products were rather obvious, mostly because they were either ugly or strange-looking. And, to make matters worse, green materials and products usually cost more than their conventional counterparts. A decade ago, the premium for green building products was as much as 20 percent higher than the standard product cost, according to industry experts.
That's no longer the case. Today's green materials and products blend in with traditional products. Growing demand for eco-friendly building elements has given rise to a whole world of green products. In fact, it's easy for multifamily developers and owners to sneak green products into their projects without anyone being the wiser—that is, until they start saving money on their electricity bill or breathing easier because their paint lacks volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
For example, environmentally friendly paint is now available in a wide spectrum of colors. The Home Depot and ICI Paints recently introduced a new line of “green” paints called The Freshaire Choice Paint. It has no VOCs and comes in 66 colors.
“With the variety of products and the different styles per product, it's very easy to build 100 percent green,” says Paul Novack, director of sustainability for Green Depot, a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based retailer that exclusively sells green building products. “Manufacturers have increased their line of green products to make them more attractive and more stylish.”
Trex's Brasilia decking collection, too, is a green product that doesn't sacrifice performance or quality. Like a growing number of sustainable materials now available, Brasilia's technology and design allow it to rival traditional decking options when it comes to realistic looks and textures, says Scott Fedor, senior product manager of decking at Trex. And it's made of 98 percent recycled, eco-friendly material—meaning that its production removes trash from landfills and never requires the cutting of trees.
Some owners and developers still contend that cost is why their multifamily product is not more environmentally friendly, but the so-called “green premium” is disappearing quickly as green building materials and products become more readily obtainable. More manufacturers are producing eco-friendly products, and these products are available through a variety of retail and wholesale channels—buyers don't have to go out of their way to find green products.
There is no doubt that sustainable building materials have become more affordable—the cost differential between green and nongreen materials and products has diminished to less than 3 percent, according to green building experts. In most cases, the price for green materials is comparable to nongreen materials. The market for green building materials is expected to reach $4.7 billion by 2011, a 17 percent increase from today, according to a report issued by SBI, a Rockville, Md.-based research firm.
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