Remodelers have always had to keep abreast of new developments in building products, but a couple of developments are in the works that will push the need to know into high gear.
I learned more about both of them at the Vision 2020 conference, a day-long event celebrating the one-year anniversary of a program by our sister publication ECOHOME that explores the future of sustainability.
One is the coming water crisis. As Mary Ann Dickinson of the Alliance for Water Efficiency explained, most consumers have a distorted perception of their water supply. They think there is plenty of tap water, and are so confused about its quality that rather than drink tap water or pay to filter it, they buy bottled water at 10,000 times the cost per gallon.
According to Dickinson, this attitude is changing fast for two reasons. One is the drought currently affecting 65% of U.S. counties. It will create shortages in 40 states by next year, and when that happens, it won’t be long before California is no longer the only state that has legislated a 20% water use reduction by 2020.
The other reason is the connection of water and energy. Not only are our water supply and waste water treatment systems driven by electricity, but the largest withdrawal of water worldwide is for power-plant cooling. Not just nuclear power plants, but steam plants as well, because they use cool water to condense the steam so it can be returned to the source. True, that’s not exactly consumption, but as Dickinson points out, the water has to be there in the first place. When we run out of water, we also run out of power.
Obviously, there’s a lot to learn to be able to answer customer’s questions about fixtures or faucets or water heaters. But soon the discussion is likely to range far beyond water-related products.
In fact, according to Nadav Malin, we are well on our way to achieving the kind of transparency in building product labeling that we have in food nutrition labeling. Malin, president of Building Green and also a contributor to Vision 2020, says that product information programs such as the Environmental Product Declaration, which is currently available in Europe and just starting in the U.S., will make available more information than ever before about product ingredients and their effects on the environment. And he explained that the “Health Product Declaration” will do for the long-term health effects of product hazards what Material Safety Data Sheets did for short-term health effects. According to Malin, version 1 will be released at Greenbuild 2012.
The days of taking building products for granted are over. As consumers become better educated about the products we put into their homes, the need for remodelers to stay ahead of the curve grows ever bigger.
Don’t get caught unawares.
—Sal Alfano, editorial director, REMODELING.
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