Even before a pandemic rocked the world, there was a healthy dose of invention already taking place in manufacturing. Much of the discoveries were steeped in the building industry’s awareness of renewable resources around recycling waste and energy reducing materials. Post-pandemic, we can expect this to grow even more.

How specification is moving brands forward

This isn’t only good for new products but for products that were launched prior to the pandemic. There’s new life for products that improve indoor air quality for example. According to NielsenIQ, the US sustainability market is projected to reach $150 billion this year. With this in mind, brands that win market share will look at their R&D and current products that architects, designers and specifiers now see as necessary to meet specification recommendations for projects.

Let’s take a look at three hot trends that affect specification.

Sustainability – Starting with architects, engineers and large manufacturers, much is being put into creating, and then marketing, sustainability initiatives. Not only is a lot of time devoted to knowing what motivates consumers and MORs, but R&D budgets continue to grow every year.

Henkel Corporation in their 2020 annual report states that for purposeful growth they need to “boost sustainability as a true competitive differentiator.”* In 2020, they became the world’s first company to place a plastic waste reduction bond on the market. This resulted in proceeds totaling $117 million being invested back to reducing plastic waste. With a large portfolio of products aimed at the building industry, R&D is important to staying current and foreseeing future trends. It’s about finding sustainable approaches that will fit in with their consumers’ and B2B audiences’ motivations.

As architects, engineers, designers and specifiers monitor trends, they look for products that meet audience demand. Brands that market products that identify as sustainable will have a step up on the competition. But take note, the specifier audience sees right through disingenuous claims. Buildings with LEED and products with certifications such as UL Greenguard and Cradle to Cradle, have an added benefit because it proves the products are responsibly made and supports more thoughtful specification for building and manufacturing projects.

Indoor specifications – We’ve been hearing about renewable resources for many years now. In an article, McKinsey & Company states that we can expect an acceleration toward sustainability, including designs for healthier living, coming out of the pandemic. This long-term trend will represent a parallel shift which includes designs that cover access to local amenities, higher standards on air quality, and recycled and sustainable materials.**

Architects and specifiers in particular will want to be knowledgeable about the products coming down the road and those available now. Indoor air quality (IAQ) products built on environmental efforts over the years have taken hold while the call for new products to specify are going to be in more demand than ever before. Paint, HVAC systems, insulation are key products that specifiers are looking at more closely. Before they just had to work — but now they need to work even harder.

To be added to the specification workflow, brands need to be proactive in sharing their IAQ certifications. For example, the Sherwin-Williams’ site links to a sustainable product guide that lists all of their paint lines that have Greenguard certification.***

Repositioning existing products for specification – We’ve touched on R&D and the role it plays in driving new products that are sustainable. The marketing of new products to specification pros will require that campaigns target this audience specifically.

Perhaps the most encouraging part of this movement is that the time is right to revisit products that were ahead of their time. Change doesn’t come quickly, especially to a profession that prefers consistency and familiarity when providing specification to their projects. The advantage this time is that demand has been upended by a pandemic resulting in a broader approach to healthier indoor experiences.

Radiant Electric Heat’s CeramiCircuittm product uses infrared radiant heat which is a certified green product. Though this isn’t a new technology, they’re driving awareness and interest through thought leadership and relating it to their established product lineup. By re-energizing their marketing of CeramiCircuit, they’re highlighting their long-standing commitment in this area to help drive specification.

Reading the minds of specifiers drives brand awareness

The specifier audience is a niche market requiring knowledge about the trends they find important. Being able to educate them on your product is key to becoming a specification option.

According to The American Institute of Architects (AIA) Sustainability in the Architect’s Journey to Specification 2020 report that “although 80% of architects want to specify more sustainable materials, only one in three feel they are meeting that responsibility. They’re looking for knowledge and information that will help them design for sustainability and performance while communicating the value to clients.”

The time is right for companies to relaunch brands to bridge the gap between sustainability and specification. 

If you want to learn more about specification trends, send me an email and let’s talk about them.


*Henkel Annual Report 2020, Strategic framework for purposeful growth, page 97,

**McKinsey & Company, How construction can emerge stronger after coronavirus, May 8, 2020

***Sherwin-Williams, Sustainable Product Guide & VOC Info, pages 24-25, Aug. 14, 2020

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