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 March 2007
From the Editor's Desk

Sustainable Gains

Almost two years ago, I bought a hybrid car, part gas and part electric, and I haven’t looked back. While the hybrid was more expensive than its conventional counterpart, I’ve made up for the expense in fewer trips to the gas station.

An article in a recent issue of the Wall Street Journal cites similar experiences for consumers opting for green building alternatives. Like my hybrid, green building materials can cost more to manufacture — up to three to five percent for items like faux wood shingles and foam insulation — but the consumer regains economic ground in energy savings.

The article, whose thesis is the fact that manufacturers of green building materials have enjoyed increased revenue even during the recent housing slump, states that “nationally, green homes are projected to increase to between 5% and 10% of U.S. housing starts by 2010, from 2% in 2005.” This is good news not only for the environment, but for the green sector of a construction industry that is well represented in ASTM International’s standards developing committees.

This month features a handful of articles that show just a sampling of how the standards developed by these committees address issues of sustainability in construction materials and processes. Committee E06 on Performance of Buildings has the broadest take on the sustainability question in its standard E 2432, Guide for General Principles of Sustainability Relative to Buildings. Committee C16 on Thermal Insulation shows how all its standards development work has been about energy savings all along.

Lastly, materials standardized by Committee C27 on Precast Concrete Products have a hand in ensuring energy savings, too. According to the Journal article, concrete walls hold in cool air nicely; autoclaved aerated concrete improves on that record in that it’s produced from naturally occurring materials; it’s lighter, so it uses less transportation energy; and it produces less waste during construction, is easily recycled and improves indoor air quality.

At a time in the world’s history when it’s obvious that human activity affects the health of our planet, the incremental improvements offered by materials like these can add up to a big boost for the environment. We’ll be continuing this theme in next month’s issue on alternative energy sources, so be sure to check back with us in April.

Maryann Gorman
Editor in Chief

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