More On GreenBuild 2010: Ideas for Greener Home Exteriors

Just so we are clear, I did do more than eavesdrop during my recent trip to Greenbuild in Chicago. It was a working trip. I was there on assignment for one of the magazines for which I write and also to soak up information on the latest and greatest green building products.

This year, there were several exterior products that drew my attention:

Eco Stucco™. Eco Stucco™ makes a lime plaster product that can be used on the exterior (and interior) of a building allowing homeowners to achieve a myriad of colors and textures for their home façade.

I’m well aware that the word “stucco” strikes fear in the hearts of anyone who knows about the synthetic stucco fiasco several years back. The product, while lovely, was ultimately doomed because of its association with moisture retention and subsequent mold, rot, etc. Eco Stucco, however, has nothing in common with synthetic stucco siding. Rather, it is a lime-based concoction which has a performance history that extends back to the days of the Roman Empire. It is also a product that incorporates very low embodied energy, making it arguably more environmental than cement-based products.

I won’t get into all the science here, but the information I received in the booth impressed me. First, it’s a good-looking product and its durability story is compelling. It shares many of the same characteristics of a clay-based wall treatment that I have (and love) in my own home. It is a product that “goes with the flow” of its environment, which means it accommodates structural and settling movements that can cause other finishes to crack. It has a water-vapor permeability that, according the company, lets moisture evaporate from the wall cavity so moisture issues aren’t a problem.

I have a personal appreciation for what I learned about the elasticity of the product. I know for a fact that the clay-based interior wall treatments in my own home have far outperformed the painted surfaces for the very same reasons Eco Stucco claims such durability. If you’ve used this product on the exterior of your home – I’d love to hear from you!

Parasoleil™. Parasoleil™’s tagline is “The Art of Shade™”, and art it is! The company makes various functional shade products out of any number of recyclable materials (copper, aluminum, wood, etc.), cutting intricate patterns into the material so that it casts the most fascinating shadows. It has both outdoor and indoor applications – though I see it primarily as an exterior product in high homes. It is frequently used as awning material, privacy screens, and various architectural accents, but the aesthetic possibilities are limitless. I think it is perfect for anyone looking to create a distinctive outdoor space.

The company professes a 4-6 week lead-time until shipping, which is pretty extraordinary for such a custom product. It is also completely U.S. made (which I love) and the company is a supporting member of the US Green Building Council (USGBC).

Synlawn®. – Call me crazy, but I genuinely have an appreciation for fake grass – in certain applications, that is, particularly after talking to the folks at Synlawn®.

Here’s the thing. Not everybody can have a lush green lawn, and let’s face it, the mowing, watering, and fertilizing practices some homeowners employ are not always environmentally astute. Irrigation is especially a problem in dessert areas like Las Vegas, which is why some hotel resorts have installed artificial grass on their grounds. Imagine the maintenance and landscaping savings on that!

Still, artificial grass (which is shockingly realistic looking, btw) is not going to be the lawn of choice for the average homeowner. But what if you have very limited lawn space and still need an area for your dog to do his business? Synlawn makes a product specifically for this application – and I’m told that pet owners love it. In fact, the company has promised to send me some application stories so I can actually talk to a homeowner who has the product.

Synlawn manufacturing incorporates an environmentally sensitive polyurethane that replaces a large portion of the petroleum-based polymers with soybean oil (a renewable resource). It also uses a recycled product of coal combustion.

Sure, it’s a little off the traditional, green path, but I liked these people. It was a fun, friendly, and interactive booth. I especially liked the fact that their product uses a US grown agricultural product (soybeans).

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