The Five Best Green Building Products of 2011 (So Far)

Photo: Indow Windows

Back in January, we gave you our favorite green building products of 2010. Because we received such a great reaction, and because 2011 is shaping up to be quite a stellar year for green construction, we’ve decided to share our top products of the year thus far.

The following products were each selected by a panel of experts and featured in Sustainable Industries’ annual top 10 list.

All were chosen with an eye toward environmental impact, market feasibility, aesthetic, and value, and each are compatible with USGBC’s LEED accreditation system. So they must be good. We hope you like them as much as we do.

1. Modlet, by ThinkEco – It’s a well-known fact that our electronics and appliances consume energy even when we’re not using them, simply by being plugged in. Surge protectors, which have been on the market for years, can curtail this problem by allowing you to switch off the flow of electricity to any appliance plugged into it. But these clumsy devices often must be located in hard-to-reach places like behind a desk, and users may forget to switch them off consistently.

The modlet (short for “modern outlet”) is a sleek, easy-to-use solution to these problems. Roughly the size and shape of a typical wall outlet, it is attached to any wall outlet and appliances are plugged into it. The modlet’s energy usage is monitored and controlled online, so users can set it to turn off while at work and while sleeping, and on at other times. The modlet can easily shave 10% off your electricity bill.

At a cost of about $13 per square foot, including installation, Indow Windows are a great, cost effective option for those unwilling or unable to replace their windows. It’s especially good for those who want to retain their home’s original character. Have a closer look at the windows on the interactive 3D display at right.

2. Indow Windows – Sam Pardue’s idea for the Indow Window came when he discovered it would cost him $35,000 to replace the charming original windows of his home with energy-efficient double-pane windows. So he came up with a PVC-free silicon tubing that can be applied to the inside of a window’s frame. The tubing prevents air leakage, making windows much more energy efficient.

3. HydroRight dual flush converter, by MJSI – A fourth-generation plumber developed this simple, easy-to-install toilet tank insert that converts any standard toilet to the water-saving dual flush variety common in Europe and Asia. The device can be installed without the use of any tools, and can be found at most home improvement stores for just $20. It can reduce a toilet’s water consumption by 30% and pay for itself in four months.

4. Greensulate, by Ecovative – In a recent post we told you about how upgrading your insulation can improve your indoor air quality by preventing the growth of mold in walls. And there’s no better choice for your new insulation than Greensulate, a great new energy efficient insulation. Greensulate is not like any other insulation currently on the market: it’s grown rather than manufactured, which means far less emissions and resources are used in its construction.

The ingenious process involves using fungi to bond agricultural byproducts, resulting in a super efficient rigid board insulation that’s completely safe –– so safe, in fact, that it poses no allergy risks and can be installed without any special safety gear.

5. Breathe Living Wall, by DIRTT Environmental Systems – Speaking of improving indoor air quality, houseplants can do wonders to absorb dangerous indoor air pollutants and generate fresh oxygen, as we looked at in another recent article. There are a number of products on the market aimed at getting enough houseplants inside your home to make a difference. Most, however, are either large, bulky systems that require plumbing hook-ups or are merely indoor planters that can make a room look cluttered when more than a handful are used.

DIRTT Environmental Systems, which has made a name for itself by designing green wall and flooring solutions, has come up with a modular system of aluminum planter panels that can be affixed to any wall. Watering the plants is easy and the clean design makes this living wall easy on the eyes, too.

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About the Author: Alex McQuilkin is a writer and student interested in sustainable design and urban living. He is studying urban planning at Columbia University in New York.