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November 16, 2006



Nice write up. I'd like to have been there myself, but the updates have been good and the USGBC's blog has been informative. I guess next year in LA?!

Steve Voien

Hi Joel,

Joel, good posting. There's a social aspect that balances the environmental and potential health aspects you describe. For low income people, vinyl is way cheaper than any alternative. It requires no costly maintenance and lasts forever. Plus it isn't wood, and it obviates the need for paint and those impacts. I'm not running down to Home Depot for a roll of the stuff, but I think it's important for us green proponents to understand that for many people potential health drawbacks that mght happen someday are less compelling than today's need to get some affordable siding up that will keep the rain out and the house warm. I'm surprised the the Vinyl Institute (what a wonderful title: President, Vinyl Institute) isn't making this argument. It's the most convincing one they have. And it illustrates how little room to maneuver low income people somtimes have when it comes to making healthy and environmentally sound choices.

Bill Walsh

I enjoyed "The View from Here" observations of GreenBuild but must correct one glaring inaccuracy. The US Green Building Council has not made a final determination about vinyl. Your posting quotes a draft document that has the words "Do Not Quote" printed, if memory serves, on every page. More to the point, this draft has almost certainly changed in response to the hundreds of pages of thoughtful comments submitted by not only environmentalists, but academics and experts in the field of life cycle assessment. According to the USGBC we can expect the final report soon.

For the time being, the final word on vinyl building materials is to "AVOID" see, www.greenspec.co.uk. Australia's analog to the LEED program, Green Star, offers 2 credits for vinyl reduction in green buildings. Here in US, the Green Guide for Health Care www.gghc.org, also cites vinyl reduction as a means of obtaining health-based green building credits.

Companies as diverse as Kaiser-Permanente Health Care to Firestone Building Products (membrane roofs) have phased-out PVC as part of their move toward sustainability.

The president of the Vinyl Institute might have detected "heightened interest" in vinyl while safely insulated from reality in his exhibition booth. Had he wandered the cavernous exhibition hall however, he would have seen that companies which manufacture both vinyl and non vinyl products -- flooring for example -- kept their vinyl line under wraps at GreenBuild.

I understand that the nature of the of the original post was to use the Vinyl Institute’s press release, and others coming out of GreenBuild, to make a point distinct from their content. But you had to be there to see the real sign of the times posted on vendor booths up and down the convention aisles: "PVC Free," "Contains No PVC, " and perhaps the most hopeful "Not Just PVC Free" are selling points to the green building market.


Hyping the supposed "low cost" of vinyl is akin to prescribing a burgers and fries diet because of their "low cost" today.

Hugh Toner

Dear Mr. Makower,

Thanks for your 12,000 mile “view” of GreenBuild 2006. I must note one point that needs to be addressed. The concept of green building is an important one but one that requires a depth of understanding greater than a casual reader of your “Two Steps Forward” blog might have. Case in point – you note that “environmental activists opposed the use of vinyl products in LEED projects … noting that the production of PVC releases dioxin.” In fact, EPA data indicates that concrete, copper, and aluminum manufacturing are larger sources of dioxin than PVC production. On the other hand, vinyl is reported to be one of the most energy efficient building materials to manufacture. Focusing on one attribute, rather than making a full evaluation of all of a product’s environmental attributes (as well as performance and economics) is contrary to LEED principles.


Great post altogether...I just wish this were not a forum for reprinting trade association press releases.

Jeff Stephens

As mentioned in my post (http://planetrelations.com/archives/34), I was at GreenBuild. Is gathering 13,000 people in one location to talk about sustainability sustainable? What about next year in LA with 25,000 and limited transit? At what point are there diminishing returns for the environment?


Nice write up. I thought your take was very interesting especially as a view from the outside. I too have looked at it from the outside and find that the USGBC's draft report is being held hostage by those that would be dealt a serious blow to what they've worked so hard for. Bill Walsh's comments about the hundreds of pages of thoughtful comments by environmentalist and academicians and experts does not mean anything if they are wrong. Quantity does not equal truth. In regards to vinyl, I am expanding my home and see many very useful products made of vinyl. If I can use those products and they last for 50 years or more and I don't have to paint or replace, how is that not sustainable? Also, does anyone ever talk about the manufacturing processes of other plastics or cement fiber. Does Bill walsh support the use of cement kilns or burning crude oil to manufacture those products? I'm really not interested in what people or groups have to say, I want a choice and there are those in our society that want to take that choice away from me.

Denis Du Bois

I was surprised not to see more lighting control vendors exhibiting at Greenbuild. Lighting controls are squarely in the intersection of green building and energy efficiency. Lighting consumes more energy than any other load in a commercial building, even though larger loads such as HVAC draw more power when they're on. When lights are on full brightness all day, they become energy hogs.

Excellent articles and podcasts from Greenbuild 2006 in Denver.

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