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How to Sell Green Building Materials

Having a “green” building product doesn’t mean what it once did, but there’s a wave of new demand in this building products category that most companies don’t know about. Learn how manufacturers can use the right language and positioning to grow sales with green products.

Photo of Zach Williams
Photo of Beth PopNikolov
by Zach Williams and Beth PopNikolov

Jessica McNaughton joins the show to discuss a new trend in green building and how manufacturers can get an early lead in this market.

More About This Show

The Smarter Building Materials Marketing podcast helps industry professionals find better ways to grow leads, sales and outperform the competition. It’s designed to give insight on how to create a results-driven digital marketing strategy for companies of any size.

In this episode, Zach and Beth talk to Jessica McNaughton, President of CaraGreen, to learn more about biophilic design and how building materials manufacturers can capture market share in this new green trend.


A New Wave of Demand: Where Green Building Stands Today

Jessica NcNaughton is President of CaraGreen, a building material retailer focused on productive, healthier spaces. The company was founded over 10 years ago when LEED first came to the forefront as building standard and a North Carolina designer couldn’t find a source for suitable building materials.

While the “green” movement became popular by evoking an idea of nature, trees and the environment, it got overused. According to Jessica, a lot of companies paid to get a label without including any validation of their claim. Consequently, consumers fell into “green fatigue” and felt it just meant they’d get charged more with no real benefit to them.

The next shift in environmentally-friendly building was sustainability, offering the idea of a closed-loop ecosystem. This trend also became fatigued as it had no real standards for measurement.

Within the last two years, Jessica says, the new term found for this type of material is “healthy,” which applies to both the environment and the consumer.

What Architects Want

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Architects are seeing a shift in the building industry from a focus on the building itself towards the well-building standard, which is focused on people and the building’s occupants. It centers around personalization of a person’s experience and comfort level within the building.

Building materials manufacturers can capitalize on this trend by contextualizing how your product is better in terms of health and wellness. Most manufacturers today are missing a relatable story as to why people should purchase their products. You need to get away from the idea of a green label and instead focus on the impact of the product on the environment and people’s health.

Introducing Biophilic Design

One of the biggest challenges manufacturers have faced in the past regarding green products is that the standards have always been an all or nothing thing. New building standards are all about people and a great way to incorporate this is with biophilic design.

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What exactly is biophilic design?

It’s all about bringing nature into a space. Research shows that people have an inherent desire to be close to nature, even though we spend the vast majority of our time indoors. By mimicking natural elements indoors, employees will be calmer and more productive.

Biophilic design is based on 14 principles, so you can take any of them and incorporate into your marketing at the smallest level, then work up incrementally. Buildings are starting to include more and more biophilic elements such as plants, fish tanks, water features, but also less direct ways such as sound masking and acoustics, rugs that looks like grass, and glass stairs.

Manufacturers Doing Biophilic Design Well

Jessica says that most manufacturers have not yet jumped onto the biophilic design train from a marketing perspective. A few who are doing well in this space include 3form and Kirei, both of which are in the acoustic panel space.

Plywood companies also have a great opportunity in the biophilic space. Rather than focusing so much on volume, they could position themselves as a natural material that can help employees feel more relaxed and work more efficiently.

Jessica gives the same advice for aluminum railing manufacturers. They can incorporate both elements of risk and daylight when positioning their product with glass stairs.

Today’s Consumer Demand

Jessica sees a lot of biophilic consumer demand in movements such as tiny homes and van life. There’s a huge demographic of people shifting towards “just the space I need.” These people are incredibly media savvy and often document their journeys on social media platforms like Instagram.

Because their living quarters are so small, they’re very cognizant of the types of building materials using in their homes. Wool insulation, for example, is very on-trend because they don't want fiberglass so close to them; instead, they want something healthy that sequesters formaldehyde.

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Another popular product in this segment is paper stone, which not only has an organic look but also has a story about how it’s healthy for people and the environment.

Manufacturers need to realize that consumers are smart and have already done research when they come into a showroom. That means your sales team needs to supplement that knowledge with an impactful story in order to stand out. A great example is to shift how you talk about recycled content. If your product has partially recycled paper fiber, tell your audience how many trees didn’t get cut down because of you, not just that your product is recycled. Give it a number and a story on why your product makes the environment healthier.

Advice for Manufacturers Getting Started

Jessica recommends browsing online resources at Terrapin Bright Green, which has great white papers to look at biophilic design principles and how you can incorporate them into your products and marketing.

To get in touch with Jessica, you can email her at [email protected]. For more trends around sustainable and green building materials, you can also listen to CaraGreen’s podcast.

Have questions about how to create a story on the healthy aspects of your product? We want to help! Shoot us a line at [email protected] with your questions.