Green Product Registries – Part 2

This is my second article about green product registries. In my last post, I introduced the topic and explained how these registries aid stakeholders in a building design project to make environmentally conscious decisions and how they provide a useful vehicle for manufacturer’s to highlight their compliant and environmentally preferable products.

In this article, I talk about three prominent registries, examine their business models, and discuss their pros and cons. If there is interest, I’ll explore more registries in future posts and, of course, I welcome your questions and your feedback on your experiences with product registries.

1) Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS) High Performance Product Database

CHPS seeks to improve student performance and the educational experience by encouraging the construction of the healthiest schools possible. The CHPS Product Database, still in Beta mode, is a well-organized searchable online database of products that meet CHPS and other green building criteria. The database expands upon the prior CHPS low-emitting materials (LEM) table to include attributes such as recycled content, rapidly renewable material content, organically grown material content, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certified wood products, and life cycle/multiple attribute claims.

The database is free to users. Manufacturers pay to list their products. In order to qualify, these products first must meet basic criteria. Upon approval of a manufacturer’s application by CHPS, fees are assessed – currently $25 per product and $25 per attribute per product – and products are listed. Fees are due annually. Low-emitting product claims are valid for two years following testing and then retesting is required.

From my perspective, the advantages of the CHPS Product Database are that: 1) CHPS has a prestigious position as a non-profit organization with a mandate to provide leadership in school construction, and 2) CHPS takes its database offering seriously, e.g., it has incorporated quality control elements into the program and is the only program that provides a detailed procedures manual. A downside is that the submittal process can be tedious and some manufacturers have complained about lengthy review periods. For low-emitting product claims, CHPS currently is trying to decide and control how broadly a test of a single product sample can be applied across other products. Currently, the database lacks critical mass as it contains only slightly over 300 products. Assuming CHPS can solve some of the procedural problems and issues, I anticipate it could grow to be a major player due to the strength of the CHPS brand and the fact that it is cited in the CALGreen building code (mandatory in CA) as a source of information on compliant products.

2) GreenWizard

GreenWizard is a startup company whose main goal is to get as many products in front of as many decision makers as possible. Their database has over 1,000 companies listed, with over 100,000 products. They provide software called WORKflow to guide users through building product selection primarily for LEED projects and to generate LEED documentation. There is a free version available to registered users, which allows simple searches of the product database. Use of the advanced search function focuses the search on various green attributes, multi-attribute product certification programs, and/or single attribute certification or labeling programs. If you purchase a subscription to the professional version of WORKflow (I haven’t tried this), you can compare LEED and green attributes of products side-by-side, estimate and model LEED credits, populate LEED credit templates, and send requests for information and quotes to manufacturers. If a project needs help, GW has a LEED AP consulting service called Find-Spec-Buy.

As stated, the basic user subscription is free; subscriptions with full functionality start at $10/mon. Manufacturers can list their products for free. Some of the participating certification and labeling programs are probably entering the data for manufacturers. GW also functions as a B2B organization with manufacturers using GW as a marketing agent. Manufacturers enter into an agreement whereby purchases facilitated through the system generate a fee for GW based on the dollar amount of the sale. Additionally, manufacturers can pay to place logos and videos on the site.

How does all of this work? The basic product search functions well. I particularly like their MasterFormat number entry design and the advanced search features. However, I discovered that attributes are not entered for all of the listed products. For example, when I searched on resilient flooring, CSI 09 65 00, without any attributes checked, the search returned 35 manufacturers and 10,485 products. Browsing the individual entries, I noticed that many did not have any attributes listed. When I checked the CA Section 01350 Compliant box, I got 1 manufacturer with 942 products; with FloorScore checked there were 6 manufacturers and 1092 products. Another thing you need to consider if you’re a user is that there doesn’t appear to be any quality control features built into the system – you’ll need to do your own due diligence.

GreenWizard is definitely one of the biggest players in the green product registry business, and is worth checking out if you are pursuing LEED certification for a project. If you are a manufacturer interested in promoting your green product, GW definitely has critical mass – just be sure you understand the data submittal process and get all the correct boxes completed, or it will be a wasted effort.

3) ecoScorecard

ecoScorecard entered the scene in 2007, which makes them a veteran in this business. ecoScorecard seeks to facilitate the process of specifying and documenting green products against environmental rating systems. ecoScorecard’s orientation is definitely toward manufacturers. As stated on the site, the system provides a clear and concise platform for manufacturers to communicate how their products help customers with green building projects. They emphasize that manufacturers should be transparent and supply the necessary documentation to support product claims.

How does it work? ecoScorecard creates a mini website for a participating manufacturer that mirrors the manufacturer’s product catalog. A user can search the site for the attributes that are of interest. Once a product is selected and added to a project, a downloadable report, i.e., spec sheet, is produced that provides detailed product information. For LEED projects, an analysis is produced showing all of the credits that can be obtained by using the product. The user can easily contact the manufacturer’s sales organization for more information.

ecoScorecard is free to users. Nearly 50 companies have created accounts on the site and relatively large numbers of products are listed. All costs are borne by the manufacturers. The cost of setting up an account with ecoScorecard is not listed on their website, so if you’re a manufacturer you’ll have to contact their sales office. Other possible features of their business model also are unknown.

ecoScorecard’s maturity in the product registry business and their large manufacturer orientation clearly shows. The site is highly polished and the format is very user-friendly. There is no indication of quality control features, but the way the site is organized makes it clear that the listing manufacturers are taking full responsibility for their product claims. The one drawback is that there is no global search function so you have to look through each manufacturer’s site to find products with particular attributes. But perhaps this isn’t too important as products typically are first selected on functionality and aesthetics so a specifier would know where to focus for the supporting environmental documentation. I give this registry a high mark.

Al Hodgson; May 2, 2011

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