Top 5 Building Product Specification Resources For 2021

Posted On: 
Jan 11, 2021
Product specification

What are the top 5 building product specification resources for 2021? Our team reviews powerful tools and resources that can empower companies and increase specification opportunities. The strategies include a mix of free resources and premium products to deliver significant ROI.

What Will Happen in 2021?

Last year was a dumpster fire for many building product manufacturers. The COVID-19 pandemic inflicted severe damage to the construction industry. COVID-19 will continue to negatively impact the industry in 2021. The pandemic has caused manufacturing job losses, delayed several high dollar projects, resulted in canceled projects, and stricken fear into many manufacturers.

As of January 2021, several states have reached peak levels of COVID-19 infections. Supply chains have been disrupted, workers have been furloughed, and tens of millions of people are still unemployed. The good news is that a vaccine has been approved and rolled out. In the next few months we will find out its effectiveness in combatting the pandemic and returning the AEC industry back to some form of normalcy.

Looking forward, there are several resources that building product manufacturers can use to increase their product specification opportunities, build brand awareness, network with design professionals, and create the necessary tools for specification. Our team has reviewed both free and premium resources to compile the ultimate list for 2021. The resources are grouped in the following categories:

  1. Education
  2. Product Disclosures
  3. Material Databases
  4. Pandemic Planning
  5. BIM & Drones


As the old saying goes, education equals specification. If design professionals don’t know the benefits and applications of your product, they will not specify it. In addition, product reps, management, admin, and other team members need education to do their jobs and stay up-to-date on the latest trends, technology, codes requirements, etc. Therefore, education plays a critical role for both design professionals and building product manufacturers.

Specs 101

One of the latest and most comprehensive product specification series ever produced was launched in December 2020 by the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI). The six education modules were produced by CSI and Ron Blank & Associates to teach product reps, sales and marketing, management, admin personnel, consultants, students, and others about underlying elements of construction specifications. The state-of-the-art video modules feature professional voice over, high resolution video and graphics, and music and animation.

Specs 101 is an incredible resource for those new to the construction industry as well as older veterans who would like to brush up on their knowledge. The Specs 101 video modules guide you through the nomenclature, intent, and processes of specifications as defined through the expertise of CSI professionals. This groundbreaking series marks the first attempt by CSI to share the core ideas of specifications in an easily digestible format that serve as the backbone for certifications, publications, formats, and standards. The video series can be purchased at the CSI site and CSI members receive a discount.

Free LEED Exam Prep

2021 will most likely see the official launch of the LEED v4.1 green building ratings system. LEED v4.1 was in the beta phase in 2020 and will now be voted on this year. The launch of the new ratings system will usher in a multitude of changes for both design professionals and building product manufacturers.

LEED v4.1 raises the bar on building standards to address energy efficiency, water conservation, material selection, day lighting strategies and reducing waste. LEED v4.1 offers many new opportunities for building product manufacturers including additional point contributions and easier to achieve LEED credits.

If you are planning to obtain your LEED credential before the new exam is released, now is the time to prepare. The Free LEED Exam Prep program is not only a no-cost solution, it’s also the only video LEED v4 education course in the industry with animation, music, and effects. The Free LEED Exam Prep program has educated thousands of design professionals and helped them obtain their LEED AP or LEED Green Associate credential. This is the best free resource in the construction industry in 2021 for product reps to learn about LEED.


The pandemic has proven that remote learning is a critical part of any product manufacturer’s toolbox. Successful manufacturers quickly adapted to remote education and were able to deliver Zoom and GoToMeeting presentations to AEC firms. Companies that have not shifted to AIA webinars have seen a significant decrease in specification opportunities and networking with decision makers.

Webinars will continue to be a dominant force in 2021. Although no one knows when face-to-face AIA lunch and learns will return to normal, it is thought it could be six to eight months before firms allow them. Webinars achieved winning results for manufacturers throughout 2020 with record attendance, lead generation, and AIA hours awarded.

LEED Specific Hours  

For the eighth year in a row, the free LEED Specific Hour course continues to dominate the industry in regards to participation rates, lead generation, user experience, and awards. With less than a dozen free LEED Specific Hour courses available, the rare as a unicorn education programs have surpassed industry benchmarks and resulted in significant ROI for companies like TOTO, Big Ass Fans, CDA, and others. The uncommon course offers a powerful tool for the manufacturer who wants to crush the competition.

In 2021, LEED Specific Hour courses will continue to dominate the education industry as more people obtain their LEED credential. Video case studies, LEED credit contributions, and product disclosures all provide ripe content for LEED Specific Hour courses. If an AIA HSW course offers a gentle shower of leads, the LEED Specific Hour course generates a tsunami of specification opportunities.


Over the past ten years, a multitude of product databases have been launched to appeal to design professionals working on sustainable design projects. Most of the databases we will discuss are free while others charge a nominal fee. We based our selections on the number of platform users, products available, site navigation, product disclosures listed, and industry feedback. Most of the platforms list “compliant” products for LEED, Living Building Challenge, WELL, CHPS, and others.


Manufacturers need to share product information, certifications, declarations, and testing effectively and efficiently across the global building industry. Project teams need access to a multitude of product options, with sustainability information, in a single location. mindful MATERIALS is one of the largest and most used material databases in the construction industry.

Currently, building product manufacturers may upload a limited number of their products at no-cost. Manufacturers may also sign up for a premium account with mindful MATERIALS partner GIGA to obtain cloud-based metrics on disclosures downloaded, firms interested in their products, and more. Companies with HPDs, EPDs, VOC emissions testing, etc. are primed for this platform. mindful MATERIALS will continue to be a force to be reckoned with in 2021.

Sustainable Minds Transparency Catalog

The Sustainable Minds Transparency Catalog is another materials database widely used by specifiers and project teams. The platform includes material disclosures across multiple CSI divisions and features nearly 1500 brands. The catalog listings are grouped by environmental performance and material ingredients.

Manufacturers can obtain a limited free listing or pay for a premium listing with more benefits. Companies with EPDs, Cradle 2 Cradle, and Declare Labels are sure to find a welcome home here. The intent of the platform is to make it easy for architects, engineers, and contractors to find the sustainable products they need. This is an expanding and continually updated platform that will see new options in 2021.

Health Product Declaration Public Repository

The HPD Public Repository is the central hub for all published HPDs. In fact, HPDs for LEED projects must be published here or they can’t contribute to the LEED v4.1 Credit: Building product disclosure and optimization – material ingredients. The HPD Public Repository is an extension of the HPDC website which has many free resources for product manufacturers.

The HPD Public Repository is where product manufacturers can self-publish their own HPDs using the HPD Builder. The HPD Repository charges a nominal fee to publish HPDs but the public at large can search the database for free to find products. Product manufacturers who want to ensure that they develop a “LEED compliant” HPD can hire an approved third-party consultant to do the work and save time and money.  

Rate It Green

Rate It Green is a directory and network for the green building industry. Rate It Green helps design professionals find green building products and services, while also helping product manufacturers and service providers build their reputations and reach new clients. The site tends to focus on residential projects a bit more than commercial.

Individual memberships and basic company listings are free of charge. The platform has a large social media presence and outreach. The directory is constantly updated with new sustainable products, group discussions, CE course information, webinar listings, and industry conversations.


With the launch of LEED v4 in 2013, a multitude of product declarations and certifications swept the industry. Progressive companies at the forefront led the vanguard and produced these documents for LEED projects. They were the early adopters and product specification winners, as many companies delayed developing these transparency documents.

2020 saw an unusually intense development schedule for HPDs, EPDs, and Declare Labels. As product manufacturers downshifted their operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies that had delayed developing transparency documents for years, suddenly invested in producing them. Although there are several transparency documents, we’ll review the top 3 most widely requested and discussed disclosures.

Health Product Declaration (HPD)

The HPD is the most requested, widely used, and popular transparency document in the industry. Building product manufacturers who have delayed development of HPDs are going to be left further behind in 2021. Manufacturers who have been reluctant to produce HPDs from 2013 to 2021, need to understand that this document is becoming mandatory for not only LEED projects but many other ratings systems. If your company doesn’t offer published HPDs, you’re in trouble in 2021.

Declare Labels

The Declare Label answers three questions- where does a product come from, what is it made of, and where does it go at the end of its life? The Declare Label can be used for the Living Building Challenge and LEED. The requirements and costs for developing Declare Labels compared to HPDs is greater, so manufacturers are encouraged to start with HPDs first on their sustainability journey. There are third-party consultants that can help manufacturers develop Declare Labels to ensure they meet the strict requirements.

Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs)

EPDs are a commonly requested transparency document and major players in the industry have developed them for their products. EPDs are the most expensive documentation amongst our group as well as the most difficult to produce. Large and medium sized product manufacturers with budgets to spare have been able to develop them. Verified EPDs will contribute more points in LEED v4.1 when its launched in 2021.


As we noted previously, the COVID-19 pandemic is still unfolding with many states experiencing peak rates and hardships. The pandemic will continue to have major impacts on the construction industry in 2021. Therefore, manufacturers need to refer to resources that can help combat COVID-19 to help their workers stay safe.  Here are free resources that manufacturers should consider:

COVID-19 Guide: Preparing For the Workplace

The COVID-19 Guide: Preparing For the Workplace is a free course that reviews COVID-19 planning guidance based on traditional infection prevention and industrial hygiene practices. The course discusses the need for employers to implement engineering, administrative, and work practice controls and personal protective equipment (PPE). The guide helps identify risk levels in workplace settings and to determine any appropriate control measures to implement.


The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) developed this COVID-19 planning guidancebased on traditional infection prevention and industrial hygiene practices. It focuses on the need for employers to implement engineering, administrative, and work practice controls and personal protective equipment (PPE), as well as considerations for doing so.

AIA COVID-19 Resources For Architects

To better understand how your product may integrate with new COVID-19 designed projects, manufacturers should refer to the AIA COVID-19 Resources For Architects. The information is intended to provide guidelines, policies, and tools for members and will be updated frequently as new resources become available.


Finally, we discuss our last category, BIM and Drones. Building information modeling (BIM) has been around for years. The largest and most successful AEC firms use BIM for their projects. There are dozens upon dozens of BIM software, however Revit is the dominant player. Smaller manufacturers are increasingly getting asked for BIM Objects for specification. Manufacturers must ensure that the BIM content they create is dependable and created by a reputable vendor. BIM content with errors can create delays and harm a manufacturer’s reputation. As we move early into 2021, BIM will even become more critical for product specification.

Drones are quickly becoming one of the most used resources in the construction industry. Construction drones monitor worksites for equipment malfunctions, security breaches, and can perform topographical mapping surveys for roughly 1/20th the standard cost. Manufacturers can utilize drones to document projects, produce factory tours, and product demos. Many manufacturers are hiring out drone operators to produce high quality video footage to increase brand awareness about their products, factories, and projects.

What challenges do you see on the horizon for 2021? What resources do you recommend for product manufacturers for the next year?

For more information or to discuss the topic of this blog, please contact Brad Blank