GreenFormat Revisions: Public Comment Invited

Manufacturers could use this on collateral.

Formats are key to transforming data into usable information. The Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) has played a vital role in our industry by developing formats to organize construction information.

A decade ago, CSI launched GreenFormat, a website for organizing data about the environmental sustainability of building products. In the early days of "green construction", GreenFormat was a useful marketing tool for building product manufactures, a place to publish their information and demonstrate commitments to sustainability. Now, the GreenFormat website is off line and an Institute task team has proposed revisions to GreenFormat.

I question the continuing need for a GreenFormat. While our industry needs a way to organize the types of information included in GreenFormat, I argue that "sustainability" should not be separated from other types of product information.  My son is fond of saying, "the green building movement is over. It won." His point is that green considerations are now on par with other product attributes. "No one speaks about a 'fire safety' movement," he explains, "because fire safety is part of building design. So is sustainability."

In the effort to obtain LEED credits or achieve other sustainability goals, we are too often tempted to select products to meet a single criteria, for example, whether wood is FSC certified or if a product is PVC-free? These may be important criteria, but they are not the only ones. I believe there are no green products, only intelligent choices.  

Instead of GreenFormat, we need a comprehensive format for building product information. The format will have a place to indicate VOC emissions and life cycle performance, but it will also include installation instructions, structural and operational data, product limitations, cost, and other information necessary to make a sound decision about a using a product. CSI used to have Spec-Data format and  Construction Specifications Canada has a Product Format that deserves greater utilization. Sustainability information fits nicely into either of these programs.  For more info on them, click here.

You can download a draft of the proposed GreenFormat and a White Paper by its drafters at

Public comments can be submitted until February 28th (02/28/14). Submit comments to