Composite and PVC decking products have increased the size of their foot print on the traditional wood decking market. Combining warranties against color fade, manufacturer defects exceeding 20 years, claims of extreme durability, splinter free finishes, hidden fastener systems, and essentially a maintenance free deck upon completion – why would you choose any other deck material? Perhaps the biggest contributing factor to increasing popularity of composite decking is their “green” features. The number of interpretations of “green” building products is enough that any building product may fit into “green” building initiative guidelines. Some “Green” products use recycled components, or low toxicity binding agents, some shipping containers use more recycled product than others, some product is shipped on fuel efficient vehicles. Every composite lumber company in the market today could fit into some type of green initiative.

Here you’ll find the industry definition of green building products, a brief over view of the L.E.E.D program (the leader in Green Building initiative), the makeup of composite/PVC decking and some of the manufacturing processes which contribute to “green” attributes and some of the pros and cons of Composite/PVC decking.

Green building (also known as green construction or sustainable building) refers to both a structure and the application of processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building’s life-cycle: from planning to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, and demolition.[1] This requires close cooperation of the contractor, the architects, the engineers, and the client at all project stages.[2] The Green Building practice expands and complements the classical building design concerns of economy, utility, durability, and comfort.[3]

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a set of rating systems for the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of green buildings which was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council. Other certificates system that confirms the sustainability of buildings is the British BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) for buildings and large-scale developments. Currently, World Green Building Council is conducting research on the effects of green buildings on the health and productivity of their users and is working with World Bank to promote Green Buildings in Emerging Markets through EDGE (Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies) Market Transformation Program and certification.[4] There are also other tools such as Green Star in Australia and the Green Building Index (GBI) predominantly used in Malaysia. 

-From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

LEED is intended to provide building owners and operators a concise framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable Green Building Design, construction, operations, and maintenance solutions.

Developed by USGBC (United States Green Building Council), LEED comprises a suite of rating systems for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings, homes, and neighborhoods. LEED is a certification system that deals with the environmental performance of building based on the overall characteristics of the project. They award credits based on meeting the standards in their Rating Systems. LEED is an international mark of excellence, which lets the end user know that the product meets environmental and sustainability bench marks.  LEED does not certify, endorse, or promote and products, services, or companies. LEED’s rating systems generally have 100 base points plus six Innovation in Design points and four Regional Priority points, for a total of 110 points (LEED for Homes is based on a 125-point scale, plus 11 Innovation in Design points). Each credit is allocated points based on the environmental impacts and human benefits of the building-related impacts that it addresses.

End users of Green Building Products with LEED Certification can expect lower operating costs of their projects, the products have been produced efficiently or contribute to the efficient operation of the overall project or both, and many will qualify for money saving incentives such as, tax rebates, and zoning allowances.

Composite Deck Products

Composite Decking products typically consist of 50% reclaimed wood by products, and 50% recycled plastics such as trash bags, plastic milk jugs, and shampoo/laundry detergent bottles. The plastic products used are typically made from High Density Poly Ethylene or HDPE. These plastics have a higher tensile strength and are chosen to contribute to the density, structure, and durability of the composite deck boards. The wood component incorporated in composite decking is often referred to as wood flour. Wood flour can come from many different sources ranging from Lumber Mill by-products, recycled/reclaimed door and window trim, recycled wood framing material, cabinets, or any other natural wood product. These accumulated wood products are then ground into a powder similar in constancy to “flour”, combined with the plastic mix and a Urea Formaldehyde free binding agent, and formed into the decking boards. The plastic then encapsulates the wood flour providing a barrier resistant to harsh weather, splintering, mold, and decay. The majority of composites are then wrapped with a protective coat which gives the surface of the product its durability, as well the color of each deck board.

In addition to using recycled and reclaimed materials in the construction of the boards, Composite decking companies pride themselves in their efficient, waste free, manufacturing processes. For example, after the boards are compressed and formed, water is used to cool the boards. This water, as it washes over the boards, comes in contact with the multiple chemicals used during the manufacturing process. This water is contained in a closed loop system which is recycled and used over and over again. No water is released from this system back into the environment. Nearly all composite companies pull their recycled content from the areas immediately surrounding their manufacturing plants, relieving their local landfill sites of thousands of tons of recyclable waste annually. Due to the recycled content, and environmentally responsible manufacturing process, the majority of composite decking products are recyclable as a finished product.

PVC Deck Products

PVC decking differs from traditional wood flour composite decking, using no recycled materials during the manufacturing process and there is no wood or wood flour incorporated into the construction of the board. PVC stands for Poly Vinyl Chloride. The PVC resin component of these boards is derived from abundant, naturally occurring salt, and combined with natural gas. Color is added to the resin mixture; the boards are then molded and embossed with the chosen texture or grain pattern. PVC Decking products use only sustainable virgin materials during their manufacturing process and achieve their “green” designation through product packaging, transportation, longevity of the product, and no maintenance life cycles.

Manufacturers use recycled packaging such as plastic wrap, cardboard, or wood crates to protect their product during transportation. Protective packaging shields the product from damage and reduces the amount of damaged product entering the landfill sites, and less non-biodegradable waste products entering landfill sites is always better for the environment. PVC decking is significantly lighter than its Wood Composites, reducing freight costs and the Carbon foot print generated transporting through distribution channels.

PVC decking is extremely durable. PVC composite deck boards are scratch and dent resistant, they do not chip, cup, or warp. You can expect a 25 Year life span from a PVC composite deck. The durability and longevity of PVC decking combined with its minimal maintenance requirements, is a deck that looks great for many years without having to sand, stain, or paint, thus minimizing the use of paint or chemical products containing harmful VOC’s.