PORTLAND, ORE. — BuildingGreen Inc., publisher of the GreenSpec Directory and Environmental Building News, selected its Top 10 green building products of 2004. The third annual award, announced in November at the U.S. Green Building Council’s Greenbuild Conference here, recognizes the most interesting products added to the GreenSpec Directory during the past year (though some products may have been on the market longer).

“Reflected in our Top 10 list this year is concern about energy,” GreenSpec coeditor Alex Wilson noted. “Two of our winning products convert sunlight into usable energy: one a glazing panel that generates electricity, the other a solar water-heating collector that relies on an advanced, high-tech design.”

Gaining recognition for water saving is a pressure-assist toilet-flushing mechanism that uses 1gal. per flush, almost 40% less than the federal standard for toilets. Toilets with this flush mechanism outperform many 1.6 gpf models on the market, Wilson said.

About half the Top 10 products this year are used primarily in commercial buildings; the rest are used in homes or in all types of buildings.

A driver in the development of green products is the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system, which awards points for certain product characteristics or the energy or water savings they can achieve.

The 2004 BuildingGreen Top 10 products include:

* The FlushMate IV pressure-assist toilet flush mechanism from Sloan Valve Co. Pressure-assist toilets have an inner airtight flushometer tank that is pressurized after the flush as the tank refills (air is compressed at the top of the tank). Pressure-assist toilets appeared after 1.6-gpf toilets first entered the market in the early 1990s and some products did not provide satisfactory performance.

In 2003, Sloan Valve introduced a 1.0-gpf FlushMate IV mechanism for pressure-assist toilets, and the first toilet models with this mechanism became available in 2004. While still producing a distinctive “whoosh” during the flush, FlushMate IV is quieter than the higher-volume flushometer-tank toilets, Wilson said. The Sloan FlushMate IV flushometer is used in toilets manufactured by Mansfield, Capizzi, Mancesa, St. Thomas Creations (Vitromex) and Vortens, with other manufacturers expected to introduce FlushMate IV products in 2005.

* The Winston Series CPC Collector from Solargenix Energy is a residential and commercial solar water heating system. The basic system is comprised of 12 small compound parabolic collectors that focus sunlight onto absorber tubes through which heat-transfer fluid is piped. One to three collectors are commonly used for residential solar water-heating systems, depending on the size of the hot-water storage tank.

A roof-integrated thermo-siphoning configuration is possible with new construction. The collectors carry a 10-year warranty.

The system’s heat exchanger, SOLPAC, is available as a separate item. Coupled with one or more solar collectors, it packages the components needed to convert existing electric or gas water heaters into solar water-heating systems.

* The multiple-stage Cold Climate Heat Pump from Nyle Special Products rivals many geothermal heat pumps in performance, achieving an average coefficient of performance of 2.7. The Cold Climate Heat Pump can operate efficiently at much lower temperatures than conventional air-source heat pumps, Wilson said.

When the outside temperature drops to about 35° F, a booster compressor kicks in, increasing the refrigerant temperature and pressure as it improves performance. Then at about 20° F (when most air-source heat pumps switch over to electric resistance heat), an economizer is activated that further boosts performance by capturing waste heat from the refrigerant and increasing its heat-absorbing properties.

In cooling mode, the heat pump’s SEER is 16, which is higher than many dedicated unitary air conditioners. While more expensive than standard air-source heat pumps, the installed cost is less than that of most ground-source heat pumps, Wilson said.

* Photovol Glass PV Glazing Panels from MSK Corp. include a semitransparent, building-integrated photovoltaic glazing element that allows visible light transmission while generating electricity.

The 1,800-plus products listed in the GreenSpec directory are selected by editors of Environmental Building News based on criteria developed over the past 13 years. Listings in GreenSpec are free. Environmental Building News and GreenSpec do not carry advertising so editors can make recommendations freely; both are supported by users of the information.