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Vinyl Siding: A Green Alternative

If you are looking for an environmentally friendly product to cover the exterior of your home, then vinyl siding is a great option to consider. Homeowners and builders alike are becoming increasingly cognizant of the fact that we need to employ greener building practices and greener home building products in our homes and commercial buildings in order to protect the future of the planet. As green building initiatives continue to mold the future of the building industry, vinyl siding will be a product that can lead the way.

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Green Vinyl Siding

Why is vinyl siding considered a "green" building product? There are a number of factors that make the product such an eco-friendly choice. For one, the materials used to make modern vinyl siding are more environmentally friendly and healthier to the environment than ever before and are greener than the materials to make most other exterior siding products. Add to that the fact that the manufacturing process itself, as well as the installation process for vinyl siding, produce limited amounts of waste in comparison to other exterior siding options and you can begin to understand why vinyl siding is considered to be a green alternative.

Other factors that add to the environmentally friendly nature of vinyl siding include the fact that vinyl siding is lightweight which reduces the amount of fuel used during transportation of the product and the product is durable so it lasts a long time, while also requiring virtually no maintenance. This means that the siding will not need to be replaced that often and that other products such as paint, solvents, sealers, and such will not need to be used to maintain the product, which will avoid the addition of additional chemicals or fumes from being introduced into the environment.

Let's start with vinyl siding's benefits as they relate to green building options. Vinyl siding is durable, low maintenance, and sustainable. In addition to these benefits, vinyl siding is also beautiful and cost effective. In fact, vinyl siding is the only exterior siding option that has programs in place for both product certification and installer certification, which ensures that minimum standards are maintained.

The ASTM, which is an independent quality control agency, has set up a program to provide product certification to ensure that vinyl siding products meet at least minimum standards as determined by ASTM, in relation to materials, siding colors, and the manufacturing process. ASTM has also developed a certified installer program in which installers of vinyl siding can learn ASTM-approved installation and application techniques and can then demonstrate that knowledge in order to become a certified installer.

In addition to being the only product that has quality and environmental control techniques in place to benefit consumers, vinyl siding has been developed in recent times to be more energy efficient than in years past. The development of insulated vinyl siding, which boosts a home's R-value, and therefore makes the home more energy efficient is a big step in the right direction when it comes to more environmentally building.

Homes require a great deal of energy, in the form of heating, cooling and electrical in order to be livable. Over the life of a home, that adds up to a lot of energy. The more energy efficient a house is, the less energy used, and the less energy used, the better it is for our planet. Energy efficient homes are more sustainable and are more eco-friendly. Insulated vinyl siding is one of the types of innovations in the building industry that shows a commitment to building more energy efficient homes. The product is designed to increase the R-value of the exterior walls of a home, which makes the home more efficient. Reports have shown that insulated vinyl siding can increase a home's R-value by up to 16% in comparison to more traditional vinyl siding options. By making the home more efficient, it reduces the amount of energy the home needs to consume in order to provide comfort and therefore reduces the carbon footprint of the home on the planet.

Another step in the right direction when it comes to vinyl siding as a green building alternative is the way the product is manufactured. This relates not only to the materials and compounds used to create the vinyl siding products but the manufacturing process itself. The process of manufacturing vinyl siding is a very efficient one. There is almost no waste produced during

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the manufacturing of vinyl siding because any scrap or extra materials can typically be reground into a recycled vinyl product. Some of the recycled vinyl can be incorporated directly into the vinyl siding product. The rest of the recycled vinyl can be used for other purposes.

When it comes to the composition of vinyl siding products themselves, they are fairly eco-friendly as well. The composition of most vinyl siding is made from polyvinyl chloride or PVC. This is made from the chlorine extracted from salt, combined with the ethylene made from natural gas. Salt is one of the earth's most abundant and sustainable compounds. Most of the natural gas that is used to manufacture the ethylene used in vinyl siding comes from domestic sources, so it does not rely on imported oil. Using domestic products rather than those imported internationally cuts down substantially on the negative effects to the environment.

Vinyl siding has also been shown to emit significantly lower levels of toxic chemicals, such as mercury and silver, into the environment than other exterior home siding products do. Those products that have been certified by VSI, the Vinyl Siding Product Certification Program, must also be completely free of lead in the product. This requirement that vinyl siding products contain no lead is part of ASTM's standards.

The manufacturing of PVC, used to make vinyl siding, has also been shown by the EPA to emit less dioxin than many other siding manufacturing processes. Cement production, which includes cement based products such as stucco, brick and mortar, generally create more dioxin in the environment than vinyl siding manufacturing. In fact, it may emit as much as 10 times as much dioxin as vinyl siding manufacturing does. The dioxin in cement production comes mostly from the combustion of non-hazardous and hazardous waste in cement kilns. Over the last 20 years, in comparison, the levels of dioxin emitted by vinyl siding manufacturing has decreased by almost ninety percent, despite the fact that there has been considerable growth in the volume of vinyl siding production. According to a report in 2000 by the EPA, PVC production was responsible for less than 2% of the dioxin released into the environment. In contrast, heavy equipment (approx. 2%), industrial wood burning (approx. 3%), and diesel trucks (approx. 5%) produced more dioxin per year than PVC production.

The materials used in vinyl siding production have also been shown to not be harmful to homeowners, installers, builders, or the general public. On the other hand, silica-based fiber cement siding, such as James Hardie siding products, can cause adverse effects on health to installers, such as silicosis, which is an incurable lung disease. Installers of fiber cement siding products are advised to used dust masks or respirators during installation as well as special tools. Health problems can also be associated with the installation of brick and mortar products. There are no special instructions required for vinyl siding installers in order to maintain their health.

Vinyl siding has been shown to consume less than half of the energy during manufacturing as compared to what is required during the manufacturing of brick and mortar. This contributes to less global warming when vinyl siding is manufactured as compared to brick. Another reason that vinyl siding is more environmentally friendly than many other siding options is based on the weight of the product. Because vinyl siding is lighter in weight than almost any other siding option, the transportation costs and the amount of energy consumed to transport the materials are lower for the product than for others. Less weight equals lower energy consumption during transportation which results in a more environmentally friendly product.

Once the vinyl siding has been manufactured, it then has to be installed. The installation process of vinyl siding also has environmentally friendly repercussions. There is minimal waste produced during the installation of vinyl siding in comparison with other exterior siding options. Vinyl siding waste is substantially less than that of masonry siding, such as brick or stone, and is also less than wood or stucco siding options as well. Less waste means more of the product is used as intended and doesn't wind up in landfills, which is good for the environment.

Another environmentally benefit to vinyl siding relates to the maintenance of the product. There is virtually no maintenance required to maintain vinyl siding, other than maybe an occasional cleaning with water and a bit of soap. That means no painting, staining, sealing or caulking. All of these products can emit harmful chemicals, fumes, solvents or toxins into the environment. In contrast, wood siding needs to be stained or painted and sealed periodically, stucco needs to be repainted and sealed on occasion, brick requires repointing of the mortar every few years, and fiber cement siding requires occasional painting and caulking. Not only does the fact that vinyl siding requires no maintenance add to the environmental friendliness of the product, but it also reduces the ongoing cost required to keep it looking its best - an added bonus.

Vinyl siding is also an extremely durable product that is manufactured to last for a long time. Over the years, the product has focused more and more on durability to make it as sustainable as possible. What makes vinyl siding so durable? It is made to resist wind, water and chemicals so that it can hold up under any conditions. It is also manufactured using advanced color processes that resist fading and discoloration so no matter how much it is exposed to the sun, it will maintain its color and beauty for many years (this was a problem with earlier versions of vinyl siding). Vinyl siding also is not affected by insect damage or rot due to water, mold and mildew as wood can be. Durability also relates to how long the product can stand up without constant upkeep and since it requires virtually no maintenance and lasts a long time, it is considered to be a very durable product.

The fact that minimum standards are maintained by ASTM for both manufacturing quality and the installation process ensures that improvements continue to be made going forward to make vinyl siding the best possible product for home exteriors. The VSI Vinyl Siding Product Certification Program ensures that any products with certification meet or exceed the standards of ASTM D3679. This certification program is good for consumers and pushes the vinyl siding industry to continually make improvements in the quality of the product. Durability of the product and improved color retention are two key components to continually improving the product.

The life expectancy of most vinyl siding is considered to be for the life of the home, as described in a Study of Life Expectancy of Home Components, published by NAHB in February 2007. What the term "life expectancy" means is not yet completely defined since vinyl siding has only been around for about 30 years, but it is expected to last a long, long time.

Not only have improvements in vinyl siding manufacturing aided in the durability, and thus sustainability, of the product, but innovations in the color process have also added to the ever increasing spectrum of colors available for vinyl siding products. Advanced color formulation and testing methods have resulted in more and more color options that can retain their color despite constant exposure to wind, sun, rain and other natural elements. Vinyl siding has more color options that any other type of exterior siding option on the market. Around 350 colors of vinyl siding have already been certified for their color retention and that number continues to grow as color formulation and testing continues in the industry on a regular basis.

There are many reasons why vinyl siding is considered such an environmentally responsible choice. From the components of the products, through to the manufacturing process, transportation of the materials, installation and maintenance, vinyl siding has proven to be a greener choice for exterior home and building siding than just about any type of siding product. Homeowners, builders, architects, contractors, building designers and just about anyone involved in building construction or remodeling can help make our planet a greener place by selecting an environmentally friendly building product like vinyl siding.

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