Why Locally Sourced Building Products Make a Difference to Customers

5046595262_63441f95f1_oYour customers now live in a society where people’s relationship to their environment truly matters. This means a growing number of people are paying more attention to how everything impacts their communities. By promoting your locally sourced building products and materials, you show your company’s commitment to community investments in the future and the active role you’ll take.

Sustainable buildings and spaces factor in the entire life cycle of the construction process. The amount of energy it takes to make and transport materials is almost as critical as the selection of materials and the building process itself. Materials and products vary in the amount of energy they require for production, as do various transportation modes. For example, ocean and rail shipping are the least energy-intensive while aircraft is the most.

When transportation contributes to pollution, it affects public health. When you reduce transportation and lower energy use, emissions that cause climate change are also lowered. Building materials sourced locally mean shorter trips to haul, lower diesel fuel consumption and less greenhouse gas emissions. This presents an important marketing opportunity for you as a building products manufacturer.

Point out to customers that often times local materials and products can be less expensive, “greener,” very unique aesthetically and help keep the local economy afloat. Let’s also not forget that locally sourced products and materials are excellent for retrofit projects as well. These materials can easily be used in more traditional construction.

Here are four more reasons why locally sourced building products matter:

Transparency pays and consumers want the truth. With questionable ethics rampant in food production and mass production in general, consumers are rightfully concerned about what not only goes into their bodies, but the health of their living spaces. With that comes the desire to know where the products they’re living with come from. Having traceable products that boost the local economy engenders trust. Trust engenders loyalty.

Solid community bonds are forged. Making your community’s needs a priority with locally sourced product and materials ties you more closely to the community. Local material use can support the economy and foster connections with the community. The community then recognizes that you share its vision for sustainability and builds a deeper connection with your brand.

You are perceived as a responsible corporate citizen. When you share that you use locally sourced materials and products, it shows the community that you care about the health, quality and safety standards of your products, the surrounding environment where these materials are used and those who use your products. You’re now viewed as “one of the good guys.”

It’s a hallmark of quality. Consumers are seeking out that “made in the USA” label in hopes of finding quality. Use of local materials celebrates tradition and a simpler time when “homegrown” was preferred. It lets people know your company is authentic, and authenticity ups your street cred.

By educating your customers on your locally sourced offerings, you integrate community engagement into your brand’s identity while demonstrating the value of sustainability.

Photo credit:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/54359128@N00/5046595262

LEED Professionals Add Value to Building Products Marketing

101HIf IKEA’s chief sustainability officer Steve Howard is to be believed, we need to “go all-in on selling sustainability.” It’s not enough to just talk the talk—being knowledgeable about sustainability and selling this to your customers. It’s also about walking the walk—making it an intrinsic part of your organization by ensuring that credentialed LEED professionals are key members of the team.

Green or sustainable design has become the standard in building, and its growth will only continue. Reports from the McGraw-Hill Construction’s Outlook 2014 Executive Conference reveal that in 2013, 44 percent of all U.S. non-residential projects were green. In 2014, it’s projected that nearly 50 percent will be green building projects.

Projects aiming for LEED certification require a certain level of expertise, particularly when it comes to materials and products used, which means the demand for LEED professionals will grow along with it. To stay competitive—and relevant—to the building products industry, it’s now more important than ever to have LEED accredited professionals in your organization.

LEED expertise as a credentialed professional is one of the most sought after skills. The U.S. Green Building Council reports that in a study of U.S. job postings, the demand for LEED accredited professional (LEED AP) and LEED Green Associate credentials grew 46 percent over a one-year period. Since LEED is quickly becoming the gold standard, these are the leaders in your organization who will help advance the industry, continue educating customers and keep your business and brand relevant.

Here are the top five ways having LEED credentialed professionals in your organization benefits the business:

Business growth. Having this knowledge base within your manufacturing business adds to the bottom line. According to the 2013 Dodge Construction Green Outlook, nearly 70 percent of firm execs said having a green credentialed workforce enabled them to grow their green business.

Relevancy and competitiveness are baked in. These professionals help drive business value. With required continuing education and staying current on the latest in sustainability, LEED professionals have a greater understanding of customers’ needs and are better able to help your organization address them over time. They also serve as sustainability ambassadors who can relay the importance of this concept to internal clients and stakeholders.

Credibility increases. By having LEED credentialed professionals in your organization, you will be seen as a go-to source for LEED knowledge and expertise.

Transparency and authenticity demonstrated. Organizations that invest in their employees by supporting them as LEED credentialed professionals or work closely with marketing professionals who have these credentials show a commitment to sustainability as a companywide priority and to well-trained employees to meet the changing needs of the marketplace.

Expertise is proven. The LEED program is standards-based. Having access to a demonstrated knowledge of the LEED rating system and green building practices means your organization can help customers achieve their LEED goals. These credentialed professionals can offer suggestions on ways your customers can earn credits without incurring additional costs and identify opportunities for savings in other areas.

Consider credentialed LEED professionals in your organization as key value-added components of your business and a smart investment in the future of your enterprise.

Photo credit:  http://www.gratisography.com/

The Do’s and Don’ts of Marketing Green Building Products

8233501246_fe51a4006a_o
The key to success in marketing green building products is gaining trust and keeping mind share with building decision makers. 

No matter how great your product is it’s the marketing that determines the sale. To build a successful company, you need a great building product. But having a great product doesn’t lead to success by itself. You can have the right product for the right market and still fail because no one knows you exist. You have to stay focused on marketing at every stage of your business.

Below I’ve assembled a list of do’s, and don’ts, to help reach your audience and gain trust with them.

Don’t Do This. 

Green promotion requires companies to be honest with buyers and not mislead them by over promising. An important piece of advice I’d like to share with you pertains to “greenwashing.” In this industry, the potential to confuse consumers of your products with misleading green claims is high. Green issues are highly technical, fast moving and complex. If your claims are unclear, then you risk being labeled a greenwasher, which can seriously damage your company’s credibility.

To avoid making misleading environmental claims, make a commitment to abide by the FTC’s Green Guides. Also, make sure the claims you make about your building products’ benefits are backed by third party testing. While the energy efficiency of a product is dependent on a building’s climate, size, location, construction, and other factors, make sure you do the legwork to provide an accurate estimate.

There are quite a few recent cases where the FTC fined business owners for making “deceptive and unsubstantiated” claims about the energy and cost efficiency of their products. The fines associated with these cases range from $150,000 to $350,000.

Do This. 

Since you know who is most likely to buy green building products, then you know where they go online, where they assemble in groups, etc. Below are what I consider to be basic prerequisites for marketing green building products.

Promote on Your Website.

Since so many buyers are self educating on the web, it’s important that your LEED certification information is easily accessible–by this I mean easy to find–on your website. You might consider producing a downloadable PDF that explains which LEED prerequisites and/or credits your product may be able to earn. This information needs to be clear and state why your building product is LEED-appropriate.

Participate in Green Building Conferences and Expos. 

Greenbuild International Conference and Expo is the largest green building conference in the world. It features three days of speakers, industry showcases, networking opportunities, LEED workshops and tours of the city’s green buildings. The tens of thousands of attendees include architects, builders/contractors, building owners, code officials, developers, engineers and other groups.

BuildingEnergy is a cross-disciplinary conference and trade show in the northeastern U.S. put on by the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association. It presents 10 to 12 areas of focus on renewables and high-performance building to thousands of attendees, including engineers, builders, developers, policymakers, building managers, manufacturers, installers and others.

For a complete listing of green building events, visit GreenBiz.com or BuildingGreen.com.

Get Listed in Products Databases for Green Building.

EcoScorecard is a web-based tool that helps architects and designers measure the environmental impact of products and materials against LEED, CHPS, REGREEN, Green Globes and the Green Guide for Healthcare on a credit-by-credit basis. The goal of EcoScorecard is to make the search for green products easier and more efficient for the consumer. It’s also free for users since manufacturers pay for EcoScorecard.

GreenSpec is BuildingGreen’s online guide that lists over 2,200 green building products that meet the guidelines described in Environmental Building News (BuildingGreen.com’s publication). The difference between GreenSpec and EcoScorecard is that product manufacturers can’t pay to list their green building products. GreenSpec editors select products to feature in the guide. You can submit a product suggestion, but there is no guarantee that your product will be listed.

Learn more about the FTC’s Green Guides here.

photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/86530412@N02/8233501246

The 411 on LEED in Green Building Product Marketing

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMarketers seeking to have building products applied to the LEED® Rating System need to have a thorough understanding of the system, the credits that apply to their products and the certification process as a whole. 

The green building industry continues to grow because of environmental concerns, tax subsidies, savings in operational costs and the rising popularity of LEED.

According to Environmental Leader/Environment & Energy Management News, there are 17,434 certified commercial and institutional projects, representing 2.3 billion square feet. There are also another 29,599 registered (pursuing LEED but not yet certified) projects, representing 4.4 billion square feet.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, is a set of building rating systems for buildings of all types – commercial, residential and neighborhood communities. It works throughout the building lifecycle–design and construction, operations and maintenance, tenant fitout and significant retrofit.

The five rating systems address multiple project types, such as:

  • Building design and construction
  • Interior design and construction
  • Building operations and maintenance
  • Neighborhood development
  • Homes

LEED was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council and is intended to help building owners use resources more efficiently when compared to conventional buildings. LEED certification provides third-party verification that a building was designed and built using strategies aimed at achieving high performance in:

  • Sustainable sites
  • Water efficiency
  • Energy and atmosphere
  • Materials and resources
  • Indoor environmental quality
  • Innovation

Although building materials play a fairly substantial role within the LEED Rating System, LEED does not certify green building products. It certifies buildings. To receive certification, building projects must satisfy prerequisites and earn points to achieve one of the four levels of certification–certified, silver, gold and platinum.

The majority of building products will contribute to achieving LEED points through performance-based requirements. Some points will necessitate assessing the aggregate environmental or health value of a set of products and other points will require that certain limits or minimums be met.

In November 2013, the most recent update to the rating systems launched, LEED v4. This version allows for a wider range of building types and manufacturing industries. It also encourages optimization of energy and water use and furthers environmental issues like climate change.

Category5 CEO and owner Lori Malone is a LEED® Green Associate. The GBCI (Green Building Certification Institute) awards these nationally recognized certifications to confirm that an individual demonstrates knowledge and understanding of green building practices and principles needed to support the use of the LEED® Green Building Rating System.

Photo credit: Daniel Lobo via flickr

View the complete LEED Rating System.

View the entire list of credit categories.

Why Healthy Living Spaces Should Matter to Building Products Marketers

Oct 1 Healthy Living SpacesIf your goal is wellness (and whose isn’t?), you know eating healthy food and exercising are a big part of the equation. It’s just as important, however, to make sure the space you live in is healthy for you.   

To find out what healthy living spaces really mean and why they are a win-win for both consumers and green building products manufacturers, CMO-Scan spoke to Jillian Pritchard Cooke, founder of the Wellness Within Your Walls concept, and president of Atlanta-based interior design firm DES-SYN.

Q: Why did you feel Wellness Within Your Walls was important to bring to life now?

A: The [Wellness Within Your Walls] program has been in the planning stages for about eight years. DES-SYN was involved in the first LEED Certified Gold home in the country. Our first clients were husband and wife Laura Turner Seydel (Ted Turner’s daughter) and Rutherford Seydel and building what is now EcoManor.

Laura was interested in the design and function of the space. Rutherford was interested in the systems such as the geothermal, solar panels, and graywater systems with a desire to have them be the best they could be.

While working on this project, I also was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer so I began to think about the toxic side of building and decided to champion the healthier side of building. LEED was big at the time, and there were conflicting choices related to health, which were overwhelming to consumers. I decided to try to simplify the information, and that’s been a real focus—simplifying information from the manufacturer, the builder and the designer to the consumer.

Q: How has Wellness Within Your Walls impacted how you do business?

A: EcoManor met the LEED certification program requirements. We were very creative in the design and execution of the home to garnish additional points to meet the gold level status.

One challenge we had was that LEED deducts points for spaces over 5,000 square feet. The Seydels, a family of five, wanted to accommodate visiting guests and their family, and in order to do so, they built the house to be greater than 5,000 square feet.

We purposefully filled the home with healthy, non-toxic furnishings and interior building materials that told the story on how to reduce harmful toxins. Those purposeful choices helped us reach LEED Gold level. Marilyn Black from GreenGuard was instrumental. She worked closely with the Seydels and our design team to ensure that formaldehyde and other toxin levels erred on the side of safe.

At the time of installation, we used AMF Safecoat low-VOC paint. (Shortly after the installation many other paints became available that were no-VOC). EcoManor became the genesis of Wellness Within Your Walls (WWYW). Now our clients request that we design to the WWYW standard. This has increased our business exponentially.

Q: What lesson or takeaway is there from this model for building products marketers?

A: We’ve created four CEU (continuing education unit) credit courses available through IIDA and ASID that fall under the health and safety heading of the CEU courses. Anyone can take the four courses, which is followed by a test. If you pass, then you’re eligible for WWYW designation.

The intent is that manufacturers of home building products and furnishings would adhere to producing natural products free of toxins, sustainable products free of toxins or produce products in a responsible way, by using transparency, accountability, safety data sheets, and adequate labeling. Labeling relates to, for example, if you bring a product in your home with chemicals, what are the off-gassing procedures you should put in place so toxins don’t come into the home environment?

Q: Do you personally practice what you preach?

A: I live in a 100-year-old, 2,100 square foot house with hardwood floors. I have no pesticides in the garden so my pets don’t bring it in the house with them when they come inside. I clean with non-toxic cleaning materials. I believe in steaming to reduce germs. I believe in fresh air so all the windows in the house are operable. I have additional ventilation systems to reduce dust mites at different times of the year. I only burn soy and beeswax candles, and we clean our vents regularly. In addition, I use no-VOC paints and off-gas before I bring anything into our home.

Q: How are you expanding your Wellness Within Your Walls concept into the community?

A: We have set a goal of 50 states in 500 days. We are educating builders, contractors and designers through IIDA, ASID and NAHB. This is an organized, requested event that takes place in major cities. So far, we have already taught in Dallas; Atlanta; Charlotte, N.C.; and we’re going to Asheville, N.C. We’re also setting up dates in Louisiana, Chicago and New York. We are looking for ambassadors for the national program. As an ambassador, if you help WWYW plan the event, you can sit in on our four CEU classes at no cost and get your WWYW designation.

The response to this tour has been good. Retailers have been excited, wanting to fill their shops with products that meet the standards. We have also partnered with the Sustainable Furnishing Council (SFC), the NAHB, the UL GreenGuard certification program and other organizations concerned with sustainability that have a health platform. Our program offerings are solution-based and hinge on research-based programs.

Q: What do you feel is the next step for building product marketers with regard to your three categories of Natural, Sustainable and Responsible?

A: I think we are starting to see transparency, and with that comes accountability and proper labeling. I don’t think this is any different than the farm to table movement, where the consumers asked for it and the food industry responded.

The same applies to the building products industry. Consumers have asked for it, and home building manufacturers have no choice but to respond to the demand. Given a choice between a product that doesn’t disclose what it’s made of vs. products that do disclose and how to mediate and mitigate toxins makes them solution-based, and that’s what consumers are looking for.

Building products manufacturers all have choices as it relates to producing products that are safe, which is socially responsible.

Photo credit:  thinkstock.com

What Transparency in LEED v4 Means for Building Products Marketing

transparency

Processed foods and beauty products have long had their ingredients scrutinized and made public through appropriate labeling. Now it’s the building, construction and design industry’s turn.

The fourth iteration of the LEED ratings system, v4, launched in November 2013, focuses largely on transparency, particularly when it comes to material credits. Points will be awarded for companies’ disclosure to the public about what materials their products are comprised of and how their products are made. It’s sort of like nutrition labeling for building products.

Although some may feel this creates undue stress on certain players in the industry, it actually can serve as a wealth of opportunity for consumers. The more consumers understand about a product, its origins and how it can potentially impact them directly, the more likely they will be inclined to purchase that product. Knowledge, for consumers, is power.

Full disclosure
To leverage your product’s position within the LEED v4 rating system, it’s important to disclose three key things:

How your product is made, which includes base materials and/or ingredients used

Extraction point of the raw material

Location of manufacturing

Many opportunities exist for building products companies to be transparent about their product offerings. However, the building products and design industry is not totally in agreement about the best ways to convey that transparency.

Some believe environmental product declarations are the best way to go while others opt for health product declarations, which are similar to safety data sheets, and then there’s the product transparency declaration. Each of these has its limitations, but all strive to give a more comprehensive understanding of the product.

Whatever method you choose for disclosure, ensure that you don’t oversimplify any challenges and continue to perform best practices and ongoing education to give consumers the proper tools they need to select the appropriate building products for their needs.

The industry will soon accept LEED v4 as the standard. When that happens, building products marketers who have invested time and resources in educating buyers about their brand’s own green conscience through product transparency will be well prepared. In fact, they may find that they have blazed a clear path to success.

Photo credit: Unsplash.com

LEED Categories as Value Offering to your Building Products Marketing Customers

JuneBlog1_pic1 thinkstockLeveraging your knowledge of LEED credit categories, particularly for retrofit projects, can go a long way toward showcasing the value you bring to your customers. Much of the opportunity to generate or affect savings in some way occurs through credits related to building system improvements and retrofits/upgrades. For your customers working from a paid-from-savings approach, understanding which credits offer the greatest savings potential is critical.

The LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance rating system is designed to measure improvements, operations and maintenance while reducing environmental impact. The credit categories that offer savings opportunities within this ratings system include:

  • Sustainable Sites (SS) credits: These credits address maintenance activities and building systems related to a building’s exterior and site. This may include programs that reduce automobile use, heat island effect and light pollution.
  • Water Efficiency (WE) credits: Points earned here devote attention to plumbing fixtures and fittings, water usage, landscape irrigation systems and cooling tower water management.
  • Energy and Atmosphere (EA) credits: These credits promote innovative strategies that improve building energy performance. Areas addressed include building commissioning, refrigerant management, energy-use monitoring and emissions-reduction reporting.
  • Materials and Resources (MR) credits: Successful points support sustainable purchasing and solid waste management.
  • Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) credits: These credits promote improvements to outdoor air ventilation, indoor air quality, occupant comfort and green cleaning.
  • Innovation in Operations (IO) credits: Points here are awarded for outside-of-the-box design measures and building expertise not addressed in the other five LEED credit categories. They can be earned by achieving exemplary performance of an existing credit or by putting in place an operation, practice or upgrade not outlined in the rating system.

Your customers’ green retrofit projects mean that they will be paying close attention to green performance measures to help them realize economic savings and lessen environmental impact. Look to LEED’s credit categories to show your customers that you understand the importance of smart business decisions and that you serve as a resource to help them achieve a successful paid-from-savings approach.

Photo credit:  thinkstock.com

Think LEED in Marketing Your Building Products

marketing building products

As sustainability and energy efficiency initiatives continue to escalate, you can find business value and opportunity in marketing the environmentally responsible offerings of your building products.

Green construction has exploded and is fueling the entire construction industry. According to McGraw-Hill Construction’s 2013 Dodge Construction Green Outlook report:

  • Green is expected to grow up to 55% of all commercial and institutional construction by 2016 (up from 44% in 20120
  • Residential green construction will comprise a 22-25% share in 2013 and by 2016, this share is expected to increase to 29-38% – an estimated $89-$116 billion

Other key points found in the study include:

  • Health-related green building labels are taking force in construction specifications, growing more rapidly than any other aspect of green, according to Dodge SpecShare
  • One third of all home builders in the U.S. expect to be fully dedicated to building green by 2016
  • Green construction jobs are following the green building market; 35% have green jobs today
  • 81% of executive leaders in corporate America believe the public expects them to engage in sustainability – one of the key forces driving corporations to institutionalize some green efforts. 30% of senior executive officers report that they are greening two-thirds of the buildings in their portfolio – with 47% expecting to do so by 2015.

All you have to do is look at the growth and increases in market share to see the competitive advantage in LEED-oriented marketing. But there still remains confusion and misinformation about LEED, so it doesn’t necessarily market itself.

As a recap, LEED promotes a holistic approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five key areas of human and environmental health, which include sustainable site development, water efficiency, energy efficiency, materials selection, indoor environmental quality.

In your marketing messaging, I suggest you to take a page from technology marketing. Rather than highlight a list of sustainability points, your messaging should help your consumer visualize the benefits and advantages. By allowing them to visualize a sustainability solution, you are demonstrating that you are helping them get there.

It’s important to remember that when you help consumers solve problems, particularly in the rapidly-evolving green market, you can gain competitive distinction with unique marketing messaging.

The 2013 Dodge Construction Green Outlook Report is produced by a staff of researchers, economists and analysts, drawing from its Dodge project database, its construction market forecasts, proprietary market research, and secondary research, as well as extensive data and trend analysis.

photo credit: Sebastiano Pitruzzello (aka gorillaradio) via photopin cc

Sustainability as a Differentiator in Marketing Building Products

environment

Sustainability has come into widespread use due to increasing awareness of the environment and today’s consumers are letting businesses know that sustainable considerations become a tie-breaker when other factors are equal.

How good is your company at doing good? Historically, business has been built on the foundation of ensuring a healthy bottom-line. In today’s business landscape, the bottom line is still the end-all, but by adopting a sustainability differentiation strategy, more than just the financial bottom line is considered.

Sustainability is comprised of three elements: financial, environmental and social – also known as the triple bottom line. The advantages to it are increased revenue and market share, increased employee retention and increased community support.

Today, “business as usual” is anything but. The traditional model in which business exists solely to generate profits has changed. Now, companies are still expected to be profitable, but they are also expected to be an active participant — if not a driving force — in solving our world’s most urgent social and environmental challenges.*

Consumers now are more educated in their preferences, more sophisticated and more connected than ever before. They recognize their capacity to influence issues. Companies wanting to survive, and even move beyond the competition, will pay attention, as sustainability is a daunting influencer of trust and loyalty.

Within business practices, sustainability can be used interchangeably with corporate social responsibility, which can broadly be defined as a corporation’s initiative to take responsibility for its effects on the environment and to positively impact social welfare.

The ONE issue consumers most want companies to address is economic development – investing in communities through people, job creation and infrastructure.*

The building products industry, among others, has been slow to adopt this modus operandi. For this industry, now is a huge window of opportunity to derive a competitive advantage by following consumers, who are the ones driving the evolution of this phenomenon.

Nine-in-10 American consumers say they not only have a more positive impression of companies that support corporate social responsibility (93%), but they are also more likely to trust (90%) and be more loyal (90%) to those companies.*

Michael Porter, Harvard Business Professor and leading authority on company strategy, identifies a company’s chances to be profitable as either cost advantage or differentiation advantage. Applying sustainability practices to your business can contribute to a successful differentiation strategy in the marketplace.

With nearly 9-in-10 consumers feeling a responsibility to purchase products they think are socially and environmentally responsible, I think it’s time for the C-suite to take heed and go LEED.

*2013 Cone Communications/Echo Global CSR Study

photo credit: Jeff S. PhotoArt via photopin cc