More on GreenFormat -- Comment Deadline is Friday

In a previous post, I expressed concerns about the proposed revisions to GreenFormat. have the following, thoughtful letter from George Middleton, AIA CSI, Chair of the GreenFormat Revision Task Team:
Michael – Thank you for your comments about GreenFormat. You have highlighted an important issue we face in the GreenFormat Task Team where we typically receive two kinds of feedback:

1. Technical Feedback – what gets said, how it gets said, where something goes, what headings should be, etc.

2. Existential Feedback – we need GreenFormat, we don’t need GreenFormat, it should be broader, it should be narrower, give us more, make it stop, etc.

For the moment we answer the existential comments by simply saying that GreenFormat exists. That decision was made some years ago and it is currently a CSI standard. It has moved on to be a standard separate from its earlier iteration as a product search and comparison website. So since we serve at the behest of CSI’s Technical Committee and CSI as a whole, our charge is to bring our best thinking to what GreenFormat could be or should be going forward. Presumably the market will determine whether it is useful or not, and will vote with its support and dollars, using GreenFormat as the basis for useful secondary products not unlike we see today with MasterFormat, SectionFormat, etc.

With that said, I tend to agree with you that perhaps all the materials, products, systems and technologies we deal with could be adequately described using a universal set of salient feature criteria. As you point out, it’s probably true that the industry has no pressing need for a FireSafety Format, a ProductMaintenance Format, or a DecorFormat.

But what separates GreenFormat from those hypothetical formats is an important component of sustainability that historically has been advocacy for a green point of view. There are people in the marketplace for whom GreenFormat’s sustainability-related content is potentially useful in marketing and selecting green products that presumably have lower environmental impacts and are therefore better choices for the planet and its people, than products not having green properties. As you point out, whether or not that ends up being true depends on how those products are actually chosen. Many would agree that a comprehensive life-cycle (holistic) approach is better than depending on single attributes which might in fact lead to choices that don’t perform as intended. There is nothing sustainable about that.

Perhaps GreenFormat’s role going forward can be that of a filter or a sub-set of a much larger set of product selection criteria. It can serve to organize and classify the information that building owners, designers, constructors, suppliers and even regulators exchange as they consider the environmental, economic and social impacts of the products they make and use. The challenge of course will be for the tools based on GreenFormat to enable good decisions by being sound, objective, science-based and comprehensive enough for users to make choices that are actually better.
I have expressed my existential feedback in my blog post. George's letter motivated me to also submit my technical feedback directly to the committee.

If sustainability is an important part of your product marketing, I urge you to send your feedback in the next few days.

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