Archive for January, 2012

By Green Experts Team

Although the term “green building” tends to bring to mind images of clean, modern structures or even iconic edifices like the Empire State Building, a growing trend recognizes the importance of the effects of buildings and their materials on the people who live and work within them. As the IMRE Green IQ Team found at Greenbuild 2011, the intersection of sustainable building and human health has never been more important or recognized in the industry.

In part, this trend can be accredited to highly publicized cases of disease and health problems caused by exposure to chemicals in building materials like asbestos, which have drawn public attention to the danger of such toxins in recent decades. From production to use and disposal, some building materials emit dangerous chemicals that, over time, make their way into the bodies of the people who live and work around them. The Healthy Building Network identifies a number of chemicals in commonly used building materials, such as formaldehyde, PVC, polyurethane, mercury, lead and even substances in preserved wood, that have detrimental health effects and are increasingly found within human bodies.

Today, the movement toward chemical-free buildings is being advanced by three parties in the building arena: certification systems that provide incentives for reducing harmful chemicals in buildings, architects and designers who create demand for products that meet the specifications of the certification systems, and building product manufacturers that develop the materials to fit the bill.

Certification Systems: As part of the update to the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system in 2012, the system will offer a pilot credit for avoiding chemicals of concern when specifying building materials. The Safer Chemistry pilot credit is worth one point toward LEED certification and can currently be used in new construction, schools, healthcare and commercial interiors. Pending the success of this pilot credit, the reduction of harsh chemicals in building projects may be integrated in a future edition of the LEED rating system.

KC Lab1 300x218 Green Building – What Lies Within

The Science and Technology Center includes both office and laboratory space for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Region 7 is LEED 2.0 Gold certified.

Architects & Designers: Architects and designers are becoming educated and empowered by resources like the Precautionary List, a database of chemicals commonly used in building products that have potential to harm human or environmental health. The list was launched by the architectural design firm Perkins+Will in 2009, and serves as a resource for architects and designers who wish to eliminate building products and materials with harmful chemicals from their projects. The firm has since expanded the list into a larger Transparency Site that also includes a list of asthma-inducing substances and flame-retardants with toxic ingredients.

Building Product Manufacturers: Driven by the incentives of certification systems and demand among architects and designers, building product manufacturers are innovating new products and developing technology that helps to not only reduce the harsh chemical content of building products, but also make them more sustainable overall. Take, for example, Iowa-based manufacturing company ReWall, which manufacturers building materials made from 100 percent recycled products while eliminating glue, water and chemicals from the manufacturing process. ReWall recycles some 2 million tons of polyethylene-coated cups and cartons that would otherwise enter U.S. landfills every year, and employs a manufacturing process that uses 86 percent less energy than the process used to create its competitor product, drywall. With the incentive of specification by green-minded architects and designers, companies like ReWall will continue to push the bounds of technology to improve product performance and reducing negative impacts, driving green building to new heights.

As the details of building products become more accessible and transparent, especially through resources like Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs), the building community will be emboldened with the knowledge necessary to make informed product selections that support healthier buildings and environments. The buildings of the future will support a healthier environment and healthier people, all while reducing negative impacts on both.

By Social Marketing Team

The biggest trend of this week cannot be anything other than the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. While it may be lacking the “newness” this year, there’s no shortage of technology.

We have been watching the show closely as each innovative technology was introduced this week. Here are the five products that captured our attention, products that will appeal to builders, designers and homeowners alike.

  1. Steelcase introduces media:scape mini & mobile, new tools that heighten collaboration & interaction. – Custer (@Custeronline)
  2. NetChef turns Android into a kitchen appliance – CNET News (@CnetNews)
  3. Dropcam’s Wi-Fi Video Monitoring Camera with Night Vision Provides Peace of Mind When On the Go – Screen Media Daily (@MotionStream)
  4. Belkin WeMo looks to make home automation simple, all controlled from your iPhone or iPad – iMore (@iMore)
  5. Nearly every device in your house, from your television to your refrigerator, is going to be networked and could very well be Android –powered – CNET (@CNET)

With so much news this week from the Show, what stood out for you?

By Building Experts Team

Why do we love lists? Because they keep on giving, and we have more for you.

Last week, we covered the 5 best building and sustainability wrap-ups of 2011 around the blogosphere. This week, we tackle the design space. Contractors, architects, designers and remodelers are constantly challenging themselves to create powerfully designed interiors for modern homes, businesses and municipalities alike, a new breed that refuses to view beauty and performance as mutually exclusive. The same rules apply as last week: To know where the industry is going in 2012, you must have a strong grasp of what themes drove 2011. Here’s our picks for the best 5 summaries of 2011′s most important design trends:

  1. Interior Design Magazine’s top 10 of 2011 – Wow. Just wow. The definitive interior design publication highlights their top 10 articles of the year, including 3 “Best of Years” articles for office renovation, fashion retail space and kitchen.
  2. Design Milk’s 2011 year in review: Best of interior design – Let your mind run wild! Design Milk always finds interiors that push the boundaries. Here are their top ones from 2011.
  3. People’s Choice: Top 10 most popular Curbed posts of 2011 - Curbed is a favorite site of ours for keeping a pulse on design, but their editorial team also does a fabulous job of uncovering projects that break from tradition, challenge the status quo and rethink the norm. Their top 10 most viewed posts of 2011 is almost a highlight reel of these types of projects.
  4. Freshome’s 20 most popular projects presented in 2011 – is one of the sites we go to when we want to see truly breathtaking design. Each of these 20 aspirational projects could lay the seed for the next new powerfully designed interior.
  5. BUILDER’S 10 top design trends of 2011 – Amy Albert highlights 10 trends supporting a key overarching theme of 2011: Innovative responses to the shifting priorities brought on by economic conditions and tough times.

OK, your turn: What design trends influenced your work in 2011? What “trends of the day” will continue to inspire you this year?

By Building Experts Team

The beginning of a new year always brings thoughtful reflections on the year that has just passed. The building industry is no different, and our team of industry experts spent some of their time off around the holidays doing the very same thing. To find out what’s to come in 2012, they first had to review the most important news of 2011. Here are 5 articles that guided our thinking. It’s the great list of lists: The top 5 wrap-ups of 2011’s biggest stories.

  1. HousingZone’s top 11 stories for 2011 – HousingZone editors highlight the top housing news and trends for the year, breaking out their most popular stories based on web traffic.
  2. Curbed’s 10 weirdest, strangest houses on the market in 2011 – Curbed editor Rob Bear digs up the most eye-popping homes he saw on in the real estate listings last year. A great read for some inspiration… or maybe just fascination.
  3. BUILDER’s 10 most popular articles of 2011 – Clair Easley reveals the top 10 most popular articles from BuilderOnline’s Reader’s Choice Awards. No less than 6 of our votes made the list. Can you guess which ones?
  4. Top 10 Jetson Green Articles of 2011 – Jetson Green is always at the top of our RSS feed reader. This recap highlights the top 10 stories on sustainable building, eco-building and green technology based on retweets, Facebook shares and Google +1s.
  5.’s 10 biggest green building stories of 2011 – Paula Melton recaps a huge year for the green building industry with the top 10 most-read articles in Environmental Building News.

Help us add to our list. Post a link to a 2011 recap you read in the blogosphere over the last few weeks.

By Kelly Nowlan

Sustainability has gained a lot of notoriety in recent years, with 50% of the public believing that global warming is caused mostly by human activities. From the clothes we wear to the cars we drive, it seems everything we touch these days has the potential of bearing or failing to bear the sustainability seal of approval. But how convinced are we that all of those marketing claims about products being sustainable, are, well, sustainable?

We at IMRE wanted to know, so we engaged a formidable group of architects and interior designers to find out. Who better to ask? These opinion leaders are a litmus test to whether countless brands in the Home & Building industry are marketing their sustainable products successfully.

Over 800 architects and interior designers responded to an online survey conducted jointly by IMRE, The American Institute of Architects and the American Society of Interior Designers, which revealed the majority of architects and interior designers, 87% and 86% respectively, are in fact concerned with how products are manufactured with regard to sustainability.

But, brands who market themselves as sustainable should take heed: while most architects and interior designers pay careful attention to manufacturers’ sustainability claims, both are similarly skeptical when asked if they are confident that products referred to as “sustainable” actually are.

  • 40% of architects and 34% of interior designers are “uncertain” if products claiming to be sustainable are actually sustainable.
  • Almost 22% of architects and 11% of interior designers are “somewhat” or “not at all confident” that products are actually sustainable.
  • Only 2% of architects and 3% of interior designers are “completely confident” in manufacturers’ claims that products are actually sustainable.

Furthermore, as popular as the topic of sustainability has become in recent years among the general population, architects and interior designers alike claim their clients could use more education. Both parties agreed that only one quarter of their clients understand what the term sustainability actually means, and 88% of architects and 82% of interior designers said that their clients think sustainable products cost more.

Conversely, regardless of how architects, interior designers and even their clients feel about the viability of sustainable product claims and the cost associated with them, they are actually being used with greater frequency. More than half of architects (54%) and interior designers (55%) expect their number of sustainable projects will increase this year.

Just as many Americans are concerned about global warming, nearly 60% of both architects and interior designers state the primary reason they specify sustainable products is due to their own professional sense of environmental responsibility. In other words, they specify sustainable products because they want to, not because they have to.

The bottom line: Architects and interior designers are doubtful of manufacturer claims about sustainable products, and there is the perception – whether right or wrong – of a higher cost associated with them. But given that sustainable projects are predicted to be on the rise, the winning brands will deliver credible sustainability messaging. The question is, will your brand be a winner?

To receive a full copy of the survey results, please contact Meghann Malone at

IMRE will be offering a free, one-hour webinar on Wednesday, February 1, 2012 from 11am-noon EST with topline results from this survey and recommendations for improving sustainability communications in 2012.  To register, send your name, company name, email and phone number to

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