Green Light for Green Garage Doors?
© 2007 Door & Access Systems
Publish Date: Fall 2007
Author: Carla Rautenberg
Green Light for Green Garage Doors?
How the Garage Door Industry Is Responding to Environmental Concerns
By Carla Rautenberg, DAS Special Correspondent
Even before there’s a hybrid car in every garage, door manufacturers are grappling with going green. They say that demand for environmentally friendly products from builders and architects is hot, especially at the high end of the market. And some are betting that average customers will be clamoring for green garage doors soon.
By 2010, about 10 percent of new home construction in the U.S. will be green, if a National Association of Home Builders survey of their membership is correct.
But how do you define a green product or a green structure? For the construction industry and the public at large, that may be the million-dollar question.
“Most of what you see in the green movement is voodoo marketing,” Home Depot Senior Vice President Ron Jarvis recently told the New York Times. “If they say the product makes the sky bluer and the grass greener, that’s just not good enough.”
Jarvis was reacting to manufacturers’ responses to Home Depot’s new Eco Options marketing campaign. When the giant retailer invited its suppliers to participate in the program, it was inundated with more than 60,000 items, ranging from paintbrushes to electric chainsaws. Some manufacturers actually claimed green status for products simply because they were encased in recyclable packaging.
So there’s plenty of hype. But at the same time, standards are being developed, products are being evaluated, and the potential market is vast. Garage door manufacturers tell DAS that builders and architects are increasingly specifying green materials and products for their major projects.
Practical, Profitable, Planet-wise
Just as individuals can find many ways to be more environmentally responsible, there are many paths to turning a garage door green. These include:
- Recycling manufacturing scrap
- Reducing pollutants created by the manufacturing process
- Using recycled or renewable materials in the creation of the door
- Increasing the R-value of insulated doors
- Making doors more durable
- Keeping doors and door packaging out of landfills
All manufacturers interviewed for this story currently recycle their steel and aluminum scrap. Some are also recycling scrap rubber and plastic. In each case, they sell the scrap to recyclers rather than actually recycling it within their own manufacturing process.
Taking it one step further, “We avoid scrap by bringing in the proper width of steel in the first place, and all our insulation is cut to fit to eliminate scrap,” says Tom Sojak, executive vice president of Ankmar.
Cleaning Up the Process
Painting is one example of a step in the manufacturing process that, done traditionally, can pollute both air and water. Martin Door has tackled this issue by installing an “environmentally safe, high-tech powder-coat paint line” for its sectional steel doors. The system enables one employee to powder-coat 10 doors per shift.
The unit washes and preps the door panels with a system that monitors the acidic content of the water. The runoff is tested and not released into the sewer until its pH levels are appropriate.
Any discharge of unwanted, untreated chemicals is prevented with a system of alarms and safety valves. An air-filtration system captures and removes residual powder that does not attach itself to the negatively charged door panel.
Recycled or Renewable Materials
With about 40 percent of the steel content of garage doors being recycled material to begin with, virtually every manufacturer can claim to be green in at least that respect.
“More than half of the doors we produce are made from post-industrial/consumer content,” states Jason Moreno, product manager for residential door systems at Overhead Door.
“Wood doors are as green as you can get, since wood is a renewable resource,” says Bill Earnest, director of marketing for Wayne-Dalton. “We don’t use any rainforest woods, but rely on hemlock and cedar from North American sources.” Wayne-Dalton makes solid wood, steel, fiberglass, and vinyl doors.
Ankmar recycles unused Douglas fir from sawmills to create its CladPanel line of wood composite doors. With both front and back skins made from recycled newsprint, these doors are SCS Green Cross Certified to have 100 percent recycled content.
“At the Greenbuild show, the amount of traffic into our booth is just incredible,” according to Ankmar’s Sojak. “There’s been a big change in the last two years. Custom builders and developers are showing tremendous interest in moving to a green house.”
Jeld-Wen’s 100 percent recycled wood fiber doors, distributed by Amarr, also carry the SCS Certification. Both Ankmar and Jeld-Wen insulate their wood composite doors with CFC-free expanded polystyrene insulation.
Increasing the R-Value
“We probably have a higher mix of insulated doors than most other companies,” claims Wayne-Dalton’s Bill Earnest. “Energy efficiency is the most important aspect of being green, and we push that with our insulated doors.”
Wayne-Dalton’s steel doors are insulated with blown-in polyurethane and boast R-values of up to 18, versus 6 for some insulated wood composite doors.
Antone Clark, chief communications officer of Martin Doors, urges manufacturers and installers to keep ventilation in mind as garage insulation becomes more effective. He cites instances in which gas fumes have ignited, causing tightly sealed garages to explode.
BuildingGreen.com concurs, noting, “The energy performance of overhead garage doors is less crucial than for entry doors leading to conditioned spaces. In fact, the prevalence of vehicle emissions and other VOCs in garages may necessitate ventilation instead of airtightness. Material choices are a higher priority environmental consideration for overhead doors. Look for recycled content.”
A tax credit can make insulated doors even more marketable. “The industry worked really hard for the tax credit for energy-saving garage doors,” says Pat Lohse, vice president of retail marketing for Clopay Building Products.
Many insulated garage doors may be eligible for the tax credit, but hurry. Consumers must have any qualifying new doors installed before the end of 2007. Full details of the program are available in Naomi Angel’s Legal Update column in the summer 2007 issue of this magazine, or online at http://www.doorandaccesssystems.com/articles/legal/legal28.asp.
Durable Doors = Green Doors
“This country needs to build better products so they last a long time,” according to Clopay’s Pat Lohse. “A garage door that is well built and durable is the most green product you’re going to have, because it won’t end up in a landfill.”
The fact is, the greatest demand for green products remains at the higher end of the housing and commercial markets. Since higher-priced doors tend to be more durable than their less-expensive counterparts, they are likely to satisfy this component of “green-ness.”
On the commercial side, “Green is a rapidly growing market segment” in the experience of Andrew Cornell, president of Cornell Iron Works. He cites the design community and wealthy clients as the focus of the demand.
“Green isn’t always more expensive, but it often is,” he says. “Progressive technical companies tend to be interested for their buildings. Universities are getting interested. Again, they have more money to spend than, say, a municipality ordering a door for their wastewater treatment plant.”
Keeping Product Out of Landfills
Landfill space is at a premium, so the proper disposal of discarded garage doors is a green issue. Antone Clark of Martin Doors says, “Here in Utah, dealers bring doors back to us and put them in our recycle bins.” As dealers have to pay ever-higher landfill fees to dispose of used doors, that’s an idea that could spread to other regions.
A move to recycle more doors may collide with practical considerations when it comes to separating insulation from the basic substance of the door, be it metal, wood, or plastic. Wayne-Dalton’s Bill Earnest points out that the primary insulating materials, polystyrene and polyurethane, “… are technically recyclable, but there are hardly any facilities in the U.S. that do it.”
To keep door packaging out of landfills, “We would like to eliminate shrink wrap so that our customers don’t have to dispose of it,” says Pat Lohse.
She says Clopay is currently doing a test by shipping one of their most popular models, minus the packaging, to 10 selected dealers. “We’re doing a two-month test and will send a questionnaire to the dealers involved. If this is successful, we will roll it out to the entire product line.”
What’s the Real Market for Green?
The short answer is, nobody really knows. The U.S. Green Building Council has certified nearly 900 buildings under its LEED program, with another 6,500 projects slated for certification, according to bizjournals.com. On a nationwide basis, that’s miniscule. Furthermore, the same source states that green building technologies garner only 0.2 percent of all federally funded research.
Given that even the term “green” itself still eludes a precise definition, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised.
Danger: Consumer Fatigue
In an Aug. 2 story entitled, “Do ‘Green’ Appliances Live Up to Their Billing?” the Wall Street Journal’s conclusions amounted to a rousing “maybe, sometimes.”
One woman purchased a $1,000 energy-saving washing machine, only to be rewarded with dingy whites and clothes that came out of the wash covered in cat hair. She has had to wash many loads twice, wiping out any energy savings, and she noted for the record, “I curse that machine every time.”
If Energy Star appliances continue to disappoint, there is a danger of poisoning the well. Consumers might start bypassing products labeled “green.”
The Bottom Line
What’s the next big thing in green? Wayne-Dalton’s Bill Earnest replies, “Defining what’s green … because the answer is so complicated.”
“You almost have to be a scientist with a lab to decipher the dizzying array of claims,” Robyn Griggs Lawrence, editor in chief of Natural Home magazine, told the New York Times. “It’s hard to get information on what makes a product green.”
While standards and benchmarks are being developed, the garage door industry could add value by relying on some of the fundamentals outlined in this story. Increase recycled content, clean up processes, increase energy efficiency of both product and manufacturing plants, recycle scrap, and perhaps help to create mechanisms for recycling old doors. These are the basics of a sustainable industry.
Jason Moreno of Overhead Doors believes, “Green fundamentally changes how you live. It opens your eyes to the fact that everything you do is interconnected. Homeowners are starting to realize that.”
Green Alphabet Soup
SCS (Green Cross) Certified – Scientific Certification Systems is a leading third-party provider of certification, auditing and testing services, and standards. Its stated goal is to recognize the highest levels of performance in food safety and quality, environmental protection, and social responsibility in the private and public sectors, and to stimulate continuous improvement in sustainable development.
USGBC – US Green Building Council is a community of leaders working to transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built, and operated. It envisions an environmentally responsible, healthy, and prosperous environment that improves the quality of life.
LEED – The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System is the nationally accepted benchmark developed by USGBC for the design, construction, and operation of high-performance green buildings.