The Birds and the BEES of Vinyl Siding’s Sustainable Benefits

by Don Browne

New Sustainability Work Group Uses Facts & Science to Assert Vinyl Siding’s Eco-Friendly Assets

We all know about “the birds and the bees” talk we have with our children when they reach the appropriate age. For home builders and installers, there is a similar conversation they need to have with their clients that can be just as awkward as the “big talk” we have with our kids, especially if the homeowners demand eco-friendly materials for their home.

We call this talk “The Birds and the BEES of vinyl siding.”

Installers and home builders love vinyl siding because it is easy to install, and homeowners like it for the cost savings. But for those homeowners, architects, and specifiers who are concerned about reducing their carbon footprint, it’s the BEES of vinyl siding that will appeal to their green ambitions.

BEES stand for “Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability software,” and it is a tool developed by the NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) that measures the life cycles of different types of cladding.

According to the BEES analysis, vinyl siding outperforms brick and fiber cement when it comes to life cycle by scores that are 3 times and 2 times greater respectively, and has global warming impact and ecological toxicity ratings that are even lower.

Promoting the BEES results on vinyl siding is part of an overall mission of the Vinyl Siding Institute’s newly formed Sustainability Work Group to effectively educate key stakeholders on the green benefits of vinyl and polypropylene siding. The platform of the group is more to the point than the Birds and the BEES – and is based on facts and science.

The BEES analysis reveals that:

  • Brick and mortar are responsible for more than 300 times the human health impact of vinyl siding, and fiber cement is responsible for more than 200 times the human health impact of vinyl siding.
  • There is virtually no manufacturing waste in the making of vinyl siding; and
  • Vinyl siding production emits significantly lower toxins than other cladding options.

As for the facts, the science of the BEES tool confirms what we have known all along about vinyl:

  • It is lightweight so it travels with greater fuel efficiency;
  • It is easy to install, requiring fewer materials, AND has very minimal material waste after installation compared to other types of cladding;
  • It does not have to be painted, stained or caulked like other high maintenance exteriors;
  • It is arguably the most durable cladding available.

It is important to elaborate on some more facts regarding the ease of installation as a sustainable benefit. Proper installation ensures proper heating/cooling efficiency, durability, and ventilation, as well as minimizing the risk of mold and harmful toxins.

Vinyl is without a doubt the easiest cladding to install. The Vinyl Siding Institute is way ahead of the curve in educating contractors on proper installation.

We do acknowledge that the ease of installation is attractive to homeowners who are “do-it-yourself” home improvement warriors. Notwithstanding, vinyl and polypropylene survive the amateur installation to deliver quality performance.

“I have inspected over 5,000 homes in my career,” asserts Scott LeMarr of Honest Home Inspections in Muskego, Wisconsin (who is also a Laboratory Certified Mold Inspector and Assessor [CMIA]), “if fiber cement is not installed correctly, it deteriorates quickly. I have seen a lot of self-installations of vinyl which were not done right, yet the product still performs at the highest levels.”

LeMarr and a host of other professionals I have interviewed for this blog also wonder why homeowners would choose wood because the durability is not there, while the materials needed AND the post-installation material waste are rather significant.

There is a need to educate these professionals on how to best approach their customers with the “Birds and the BEES talk” about vinyl siding as a primary eco-friendly option. This is one of the main reasons for VSI’s formation of the Sustainability Work Group.

In this new blog series, we will elaborate more on the key topic areas to effectively inform the market (including the homeowners). And we will use facts and science as our best weapons.  These topics include:

  • Debunking myths, false claims, and misperceptions about vinyl and polymeric siding
  • Identifying the 7 Sins of Greenwashing” and what the VSI is doing to follow the FTC’s Green Guides on responsibly marketing vinyl siding’s sustainability
  • Giving a thorough life cycle assessment of vinyl and polymeric siding, including its durability and recycling advantages
  • Discussing the upstream supplier update report and the 5 key areas that measure the eco-friendly performance of industry providers and their products
  • Highlighting vinyl siding’s potential to be a big player in the “new urbanism movement” and the sustainability goals that are tied to this cause

So have “the talk” with your clients desiring eco-friendly solutions for their properties, and feel confident in showing them “the BEES of vinyl siding.”

Don Browne is a writer and entrepreneur who believes that the power of words can change the world. He provides unique writing services for clients in the construction, health care, IT and hospitality sectors. He has a passion for small business and start-ups, as well as writing about Irish history, family and corporate biographies. As a homeowner and father of four, Don looks forward to writing more about sustainability issues within the housing industry.


Topics: performance   advocacy   benefits of vinyl   environment   recycling