Money Saving Products Focused on Energy

Posted on July 25, 2010


The June issue of Buildings showcases 81 money-saving products for projects. By my count the largest percentage, over 25% (22 of 81), base their value on energy or resource savings; this includes IT or systems products that help track energy consumption. The remaining products are sprinkled among:  safety / risk mitigation, cleaning and infection control, reduced maintenance, and design / use flexibility. Many of the products tout their green qualities.

As an aside, sustainable design has long relied on  utility costs as the tipping point to its widespread adoption. This hypothesis was feasible because fossil fuel costs were rising stratospherically only a few years ago; electricity and water shortages were seasonally common in certain parts of the country, and gasoline costs were spiking. In addition, the eco-friendly energy replacements—solar, wind, hydro, biofuel, fuel cells—were not ready for mass consumption. To top it off, no one expected legislation (building codes, GSA standards) to outpace energy cost increases as the main impetus for green design adoption. Yet despite the mercurial and sometimes volatile costs of our commodities, code is leading costs as the green design driver, for now. 

How does this relate to building products geared at savings? Ecologically-friendly is now almost a baseline attribute among products. Soon it will be eye-opening for a product not to contribute to its respective LEED points. This makes a product’s “green-ness” a commodity attribute, not a differentiating feature; therefore, to stand out manufacturers must emphasize something else to be distinctive, like money-savings.

The interesting part is the savings comes from an angle, energy. I think energy is a smart bet on the part of product manufacturers. Safety, cleaning, maintenance and flexibility are all great selling points, but strategically they are not likely to gain visibility or consumer traction without an unusual event. As we learned, green for green’s sake is not marketable, but it will not take long for the next global crisis to launch commodity and energy prices skyward. And when they do, these companies will be ready.