Online Tool to Find Local, Healthy Energy-Efficient Building Products Expands

Building Clean—found at—offers an easy-to-use interface to access its one-of-a-kind database. Products and manufacturers of products available on the database include appliances, heating and air conditioning equipment, insulation, lighting, plumbing, roofing, sealants, water filtration, and now windows, doors, and skylights.

“We’re excited that Building Clean continues to expand and allow designers, contractors, developers, manufacturers, and consumers to supercharge efforts to find healthy, American-made products in a wide range of sectors,” said Lauren Asplen, director of the BlueGreen Alliance’s Healthy Sustainability Program.

Housing consumes more than 20 percent of U.S. energy. Building Clean is designed to make it easier for architects and designers, consumers, contractors and developers, and manufacturers to find American-made, healthy products so they can capture the benefits of energy efficiency retrofits—including lower utility bills, improved occupant health, and increased economic development.

“In addition to finding the products themselves, we provide useful information about the types of chemicals that can be found in products to educate users and help them find the healthiest options,” added Asplen.

Building Clean is an initiative of the BlueGreen Alliance Foundation and is a companion piece to the broader Energy Efficiency for All initiative, which is dedicated to linking the energy, housing, and health sectors to tap the benefits of energy efficiency for millions of low-income families.

Building Clean Workshop Shows How to Find U.S.-Made Products

U.S.-made products and insulation toxins were the subject at hand as a diverse audience of union and built environment leaders gathered for a half-day presentation on the BlueGreen Alliance Foundation’s Building Clean initiative November 15 in Minneapolis.

The session looked at, a new database that documents the extensive amount of building material manufacturing in the U.S.—a fact many do not understand given the continual media coverage of production jobs leaving the country.

“As part of the budget cutbacks in 2012, the government stopped tracking manufacturers and their products,” said Lauren Asplen, the BlueGreen Alliance’s Director of Healthy Sustainability Programs and manager of the Building Clean project. “Without the data, awareness of the numerous manufacturers still doing business here began to be lost. This database sets the record straight and gives those who need building materials an easy way to source them domestically.”

Attendees received a fact sheet that showed not only the extent of energy efficient product manufacturing in Minnesota but the policies that are driving a market for the products.

The workshop also looked at health issues that can occur from hazardous chemicals found in insulation, sealants and other building products.

Click below to download a fact sheet about Minnesota’s energy-efficient products market, policies that are growing it, and ways to ensure the jobs created in the industry are quality jobs.

CEMC Helps Manufacturers Enter Renewables Sector

Wind turbines in southwest Minnesota.

Wind turbines in southwest Minnesota.

As a result of a generous grant from the McKnight Foundation, the BlueGreen Alliance Foundation (BGAF) and its Clean Economy Manufacturing Center (CEMC) are driving an initiative in southwest Minnesota that helps interested and suitable manufacturing companies enter or further diversify into the renewable energy market sector.

The process includes on-site interviews, capability and compatibility analysis and then matchmaking to prospective original equipment manufacturers.

To compliment the work that CEMC conducted with manufacturers, BGAF met with policymakers and economic development professionals to hear their opinion on policy that could help manufacturers diversify. We learned that tax policies that help create a steady market work, and more are likely needed to continue good growth.

In addition, other programs may be needed to support the community and manufacturers as companies diversify. These programs would address worker training and retention, daycare support, worker/affordable housing and transportation.

10 Years of BlueGreen Alliance Foundation

It celebrated the past decade of work and looked forward to new challenges and opportunities that the partnership is tackling today.

Hundreds of supporters from around the country showed up to honor former Executive Director David Foster, United Steelworkers International President Leo W. Gerard, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune, former Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope, and Apollo Alliance Chairman Phil Angelides. They received BlueGreen Alliance Visionary Awards for their work in forming and maintaining this strong partnership of labor unions and environmental organizations.

We want to give a special thank you to all of the sponsors, allies, and supporters who attended the event.

Energy Efficient Housing Products for Multifamily Buildings

EE ManufacturingIn recent years the growing national interest to reduce energy costs in the housing sector has led to increased activity in the retrofit of multifamily buildings to make them more energy efficient. Not only do more energy efficient buildings reduce costs to tenants and contribute to a healthier environment, they also provide an economic development benefit.

With prospects of accelerated growth in the multifamily retrofit market, the BlueGreen Alliance Foundation is conducting a project designed to identify the job creation and economic development benefits that can be generated as a result of increased manufacturing activity in building products that contribute to energy efficiency. The information provided in this handbook is a useful tool for state economic development officials, contractors sourcing energy efficiency products and manufacturers looking to diversify their product lines.

This report, examining the broad range of energy efficient products, their supply chains and market opportunities, complements our database/website, which contains information on some 1,300 companies and completes the first phase of our project. In addition, the handbook includes a special section on energy efficient products containing harmful chemicals that may be hazardous to the health of tenants and installers.

Guide to Healthier Energy Efficiency Products: Focus on Insulation

InsulationInsulation is recognized as the primary energy efficiency product that can be harmful to tenants and installation workers. This has led many housing organizations to focus on ensuring that the materials used in new construction and retrofits do not create health hazards. Our goal is to raise awareness of these issues and help people make better informed product decisions.

To this end, we have collected the latest information on:

  • Chemicals in insulation products that may be harmful to building occupants;
  • Insulation products and materials that may contain these chemicals;
  • Potential health hazards from these chemicals or materials; and
  • Opportunities to reduce or eliminate exposure to these harmful chemicals.

Our work complements a broader national effort to create a cleaner economy by building and retrofitting multifamily housing that is more energy efficient and uses healthier materials. We want to thank a number of partners and colleagues who are working with us to make the built environment safer and healthier, including:

New Research Shows Formaldehyde No Longer Used in Residential Fiberglass Insulation

Well-Informed Public, Green Building Advocates Led Push for Manufacturers to Phase Out Toxic Chemical 

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Nov. 18, 2015) – New research shows the light density residential fiberglass insulation industry in the U.S. and Canada has finally eliminated the use of formaldehyde-based binders in its manufacturing. Formaldehyde is a human toxicant with a long history of use in residential insulation, but it—like 62,000 other chemicals—was grandfathered in and is unregulated by the federal government under the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976. In 1938, Owens Corning produced the first fiberglass insulation using formaldehyde-based resin and phenol formaldehyde remained the industry standard binder for the next seven decades. The movement to remove the chemical from insulation began in 2002, when Johns Manville shifted to an acrylic binder.

Healthy Building Network, in research supported by the BlueGreen Alliance Foundation, confirmed manufacturers’ statements on formaldehyde by examining formaldehyde pollution data for thirty residential fiberglass insulation factories in the U.S. and Canada over the past ten years. The reports confirm the reformulation: these factories released nearly 600,000 pounds of formaldehyde in 2005 but by 2014, these releases dropped by 90 percent, to about 60,000 pounds. As of October 2015, manufacturers are no longer using formaldehyde as a binder in light density residential fiberglass insulation. The report concluded any releases going forward will come from the production of some higher density batts, which are mainly sold on the commercial and industrial market.

“While other companies initially resisted moving toward the safer alternative, eventually the industry felt the public pressure building to replace the toxic chemical,” said Jim Vallette of Healthy Building Network. “HBN used the Johns Manville example—and the introduction of Bonded Logic’s formaldehyde free cotton insulation batts—to support a credit in the Green Guide for Health Care (GGHC) in 2003. And the green building community rallied around the effort to get rid of formaldehyde.”

Vallette said the market received the signals and changed. In late 2008, Knauf Insulation released its EcoBatt fiberglass insulation; CertainTeed began producing its formaldehyde-free Sustainable Insulation in 2010 for both residential and commercial/industrial applications; and in 2011, Owens Corning launched its formaldehyde-free EcoTouch brand. The last holdouts followed suit.

“Removing this toxic chemical from production is a win both for consumers and the workers in those plants,” said Jacques Koppel of the BlueGreen Alliance Foundation. “It took a combination of informed consumers and green building advocates to finally push companies to accomplish this. There’s no doubt that greener, safer alternatives are the future and this report shows you can successfully eliminate harmful chemicals if you have the will to do so.”

Energy Efficiency Not Only Reduces Manufacturer’s Costs but Provides Market Opportunities

Without a question, the cleanest form of energy is that which is conserved or not used at all. Energy conservation has been a focus in the residential and commercial sectors for many years, but industrial energy efficiency has been a challenge due to the broad spectrum of energy consumption mechanisms in industry. This webinar highlighted opportunities manufacturers have found by providing innovative products and solutions to the marketplace as well as programs available to help manufacturers strategically reduce their energy consumption.    Our speaker lineup included:

Jim Haider, Energy Specialist, Clean Economy Manufacturing Center:  Jim started this webinar off by providing a background on this industry and the opportunities available to domestic manufacturers. He provided information on a program he worked on with the Montana MEP Center and the utilities providing assistance to Montana manufacturing companies.

Andre de Fontaine, Advanced Manufacturing Office, US Department of Energy  Andre provided information on the Better Plant’s program within the Advanced Manufacturing Office of the US DOE.

Simon M Gidney, President, EC Drives: Simon discussed the innovations EC Fans & Drives has been able to bring to the marketplace and its customers in the fans and drives business. He highlighted the energy advantages their technologies have brought to its customer base.

Clean Energy Transition Policy Inventory for Pennsylvania

PA InventoryThis tool was developed to provide local economic developers, policy makers, and community organizers with accessible information on both state and federal policies and programs that can support their businesses and communities as renewable energy sources continue to expand as part of each focus state’s energy portfolio. This report contains detailed information on each state or federal incentive, including the name of the federal or state incentive, a brief summary, a detailed description, the information source and link to a website, the type of funding, detailed information on who is eligible for the program, the government agency that operates the incentive, and contact information.

To make this information easier to access for economic developers and business owners, we have included a “where to start” page. Whether you are an entrepreneur looking to start your first business or an existing business looking to develop your workforce or make your facilities more efficient, simply locate the section that applies to you and you will be directed to the policies and programs that will be most helpful in your endeavor. In the online tool, you can navigate the tool by clicking on a policy or program and the link will take you to the information about the incentive. Whenever possible, the policies were prioritized within each category, with the most generous and/or commonly used incentives listed first.

The “where to start” page also contains links to additional state and federal resources that provide low- or no-cost business consultation services, research and technology databases, and much more. Note that most or all of this inventory content was obtained from the sources cited and more information may be found by accessing the documented source directly. Please note that the inclusion of policies and programs in this inventory does not signify that the authors endorse the policy or program; rather the policies listed here all contain some useful incentives that will help these states make a transition to cleaner energy generation.

CEMC’S August Webinar Took an In Depth Look into the Geothermal Heat Pump Industry

Geothermal heat pumps can be installed almost anywhere and are an ideal way to heat and cool our homes, schools and workplaces. It is estimated that about 85,000 GHPs are installed annually across the United States. CEMC discussed the opportunities in this industry as part of its monthly webinar series in August.

The conversation began with Ted Clutter, Manager of Outreach and Member Services at the Geothermal Exchange Organization (GEO).  Ted spoke generally about geothermal energy and heat pumps, how they work while also highlighting the current market conditions and the potential growth for this industry.

Ted was followed by Herb Batrouny, Senior VP of Asia Pacific Operations for Water Furnace International, a global manufacturer of geothermal systems.  As the person in charge of the company’s global supply chain, Herb broke down the key components of a geothermal heat pump system, where they are currently produced and that supply chain opportunities stretch beyond the geothermal market into the Air Source HVAC industry as well.

Lastly, David Henrich, VP at Bergerson Caswell, Inc., covered the basics of a geothermal field installation and what materials and equipment are used during drilling, piping and installation process.