Green Building Materials Protect Our Environment

We’ve all heard the phrases “environmentally friendly” and “environmentally conscious,” but do we really understand their meaning and their implication in today’s construction world?

To learn whether builders and individuals care enough to ask for and use such products and building procedures these days, SB spent some time at Curtis Lumber on the Tom Miller Road in Plattsburgh. With a long history on both sides of Lake Champlain and knowledgeable experts at all levels, Curtis caters to a cross-section of clients from the individual building a deck or painting a kitchen, to the biggest contractors.

Jeff Chauvin has three decades in the industry, first with Gregory Supply, then with Curtis Lumber at the Plattsburgh location. He has paid his dues in all aspects of the operation. As a teenager he worked putting hardware away. His present position is as the primary buyer for the company.

When asked about increased demand for environmentally conscious building materials and procedures, his response was, “What greener product could you have than a piece of wood?” Thanks to special environmental programs, Chauvin said, “Many more trees are planted than are cut these days. More and more, we are doing the right things for the environment. There is increased attention to protecting wildlife and the environment in so many ways. There are strict boundaries when it comes to streams. And there is a great deal of recycling. We see more of that with each passing year.”

Chauvin explained “LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a third-party certification program from a nationally accepted organization for design, operation and construction of high performance green buildings. You get points in any project if you use LEED products. For example, if you use wood harvested within 500 miles of your site, you get points. You get more points for higher percentages of recycled products used on the job.”

Chauvin had high praise for LEED because it works to push the green building indus- try further. He explained that it inspires project teams to see innovative solutions that are “better for the environment and better for the communities.”

The Curtis buyer pointed out that the company’s site across the lake in Williston, Vermont has what he called “an FSC yard.” Another acronym, which means Forest Stewardship Council and it has stricter guidelines with a “chain of custody that can be traced right back to where the actual tree grew. ”It’s all certified from the harvesting and beyond. Not many places are FSC certified these days,” he noted.

Chauvin pointed out that there seems to be less desire or need for environmentally conscious products and procedures on this side of the lake when compared with Vermont. But, he was quick to add, things are beginning to change. He said more people in the North Country are seeking information on such things and environmental conscious- ness appears to be increasing.

He added, “A great many of our products have an increased percentage of recycled materials and that is progress.” He pointed to vinyl siding and showed a sample of what he called a PVC (polyvinyl chloride) board with 30-percent recycled content. It is said to be easier to handle and install and is described as having “the look of wood, only simpler with low maintenance”.

Chauvin also spoke of Cellulose insulation made from 100-percent recycled content from what he called “pre-consumer newspapers” and compared it to fiberglass. “The current trend is to get rid of formaldehyde and that is a positive step in the right direction.”
Dry wall? Chauvin said, “The paper on the face of the newest dry wall has a recycled element.” He also displayed samples of Boral TruExterior siding and trim made from 70-percent recycled materials including fly ash, a byproduct from burning coal. It’s another product that can be worked like wood and painted any color, but resists rot- ting, cracking or splitting, and is extremely durable.

Then there is a product called Roxul, made from pulverized lava rock, if you can believe that. The insulation board is not only dense and efficient, but it cannot catch fire, even when exposed to a torch.

When asked how homeowners and builders can learn of new and innovative materials and techniques, Chauvin explained, “A couple times a year, we hold a barbecue where we introduce all the latest materials. Company representatives are on hand to show off their products. We also have seminars for contractors.”

From windows to flooring, siding, insulation, and paint, Chauvin said the trend is toward environmental friendliness. He explained that the VOC (volatile organic compound) in paint is being reduced and eliminated.

Today’s homeowners and builders are striving for lower energy costs and that has led to changes in materials and building techniques as well as more efficient appliances. Times are changing.