While the building and construction sector as a whole is making strides towards greater accountability, greenwashing is still a widespread practice within the industry. And it’s an issue because the deliberate lack of transparency makes it much harder for architects, designers and specifiers to choose products with desired environmental profiles, from manufacturers with science-based sustainability credentials to corroborate them.
“It's encouraging to hear that the governments want to clamp down on companies that are trying to promote their products as ‘green’ in spite of not having any evidence to back these claims up,” says Jules Di Bartolomeo. Jules is the Managing Director of Verosol, global leaders in solar control fabrics, and has over 25 years’ experience in profitably growing multisite, complex businesses across Australia, Asia and New Zealand. “There are no certifications that demonstrate where the fabrics come from, nor stewardship programmes. There's nothing of substance to confirm these claims. To us, accountability and transparency are extremely important.”
Verosol is one of the organisations that have made it their top priority to ensure that both a comprehensive stewardship programme and 3rd party certifications from recognised organisations are in place that provide an utmost level of transparency, while helping architects achieve top marks in the Green Building Council Australia star ratings.
The majority of their key products are Global Green Tag and GREENGUARD Gold certified and hold both the Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) and Health Product Declaration (HPD). Verosol is also committed to ensuring it only partners up with sustainable suppliers, and works with organisations like Global Green Tag, who thoroughly check the supply chain.
“Using highly regarded certifiers like Global Green Tag for instance means that architects can easily see our credentials when they input data into the Green Building Council Australia rating tools,” Jules explains. “So, it’s a really easy way to see what our products are made of, where they come from – and how they can help industry professionals achieve five or six stars. And it’s really easy to see that our products are epitomes of best practice.”
While that can certainly help architects, designers and specifiers navigate the complexity of sustainable specifications, there’s more to look out for where deceptive marketing is concerned – particularly in the initial stages of the project. Jules explains that there are window furnishings companies out there that claim to be offering properties similar to Verosol’s high performing products but at a much lower price tag. “People tend to copy products that have a competitive advantage,” he says. “And many try to copy the metallised blind. For example, certain companies will simply coat their fabrics, which isn’t the right way of going about because it can affect the performance, and the coating might even come off.”
The process of metallising the fabrics is an incredibly comprehensive one, and while Verosol’s blinds are made to measure and assembled in Australia, the intricate process consisting of vaporising of the aluminium into the base clothe takes place in a state-of-the-art factory in Eibergen, Netherlands, where Verosol’s purpose-built machine to metallise fabric was first invented.
But, of course, even though a product might appear cheaper to purchase, the need for maintenance or replacement, as well as the long-term energy costs and environmental implications, can significantly increase the overall cost, often making it a less efficient and affordable option in the long run.
In fact, Verosol was engaged to come in and help replace what ended up being an inferior and low-performing window covering on a project. “This is an interesting one because our product was actually originally specified for this project. The architect had done a fantastic job researching the solutions for this large project featuring lots of glazing and it was clear our product was the perfect choice,” Jules explains. “However, the project controller was obviously doing his job and tried to minimise the upfront costs, which resulted in them finding an alternative, cheaper product.” Jules adds that the project controller reached out asking if Verosol could match the price.
“Naturally, we asked for the specification of the fabric so we could assess and analyse it. The comparison between the cheaper alternative and our product we undertook clearly indicated that it wasn't apples for apples. More like chalk and cheese,” Jules smiles. “There were not only huge differences in performance, but also issues related to sustainability. It was a PVC fabric, and just because it was metallised meant that the project controller lost sight of the environmental implications. So yes, greenwashing is most definitely a problem.”
Jules points out that it’s a problem the industry has to tackle as a collective. “We highlight to architects, designers, builders and developers what our products can do, and why they are unmatched. Education is an important part of that, of course, and we have three CPDs already out and are working on the next one. The onus is on those parties to make the right decision – and see beyond a deceivingly low price-tag.”
Verosol makes the choice for architects, designers and specifiers easy not just because of the performance and environmental qualities of their products. In order to make the process as efficient as possible, they created a digital specification hub for architects and other industry professionals. Comprehensive yet easy to navigate, the hub enables users to create a specification and then cut and paste the spec, putting it straight into their schedules. “Within two or three steps, they’ve got a spec they can input,” Jules says. “We know the architects are incredibly time poor, so we try to make this process – as well as access to all information – as easy as possible.”
With high-performing products and relevant certifications, commitment to architect education and innate desire to tirelessly innovate towards a more sustainable future, Verosol emerges as a clear choice for any industry professional who wants to have it all: trustworthy information, verified performance of product and the quality of the supply chain, as well as long-term cost efficiencies.
This podcast was brought to you in association with Verosol. Listen to this episode of Talking Architecture & Design here.