New buzz around NIST environmental software

New buzz around NIST environmental software

The National Institute of Standards and Technology has adapted what it calls its Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability (BEES) software to help agencies evaluate environmentally friendly products under an Agriculture Department rule that went into effect this month.

Under the USDA rule, part of the 2002 Farm Security and Rural Investment Act, agencies must give preference to 'biobased' products starting in Feb. 2006. The USDA defines a biobased product as "a commercial or industrial product, other than food or feed, which utilizes biological products or renewable domestic agricultural (plant, animal, and marine) or forestry materials."

'The government spends about $250 billion a year on industrial products' such as greases, fuel additives, hydraulic fluids, solvents and fertilizers, said NIST economist and BEES developer Barbara Lippiatt.

According to the USDA rule, agencies must:

  • Develop in-house programs to give buying preference to biobased products

  • Train their procurement staffs

  • Report to Congress every two years on their progress in avoiding use of non-environmentally friendly products.


'We initially designed BEES to evaluate the environmental impacts of manufacturing cement and other building products,' Lippiatt said. 'Then the Environmental Protection Agency recommended to USDA that the tool be used for biobased products' made from renewable agricultural or forestry resources.

Biobased product makers can submit data to NIST about their environmental inputs and outputs of energy, raw materials and effluents. NIST outsources the data analysis to First Environmental Inc. of Boonton, N.J., and evaluates the results for USDA.

Lippiatt said she expects to gauge the impacts of about 100 biobased products in 89 categories each year for the next three years.

The 14.6M BEES 3.0 download runs under Microsoft Windows. Lippiatt estimated it currently has about 15,000 users around the world, including manufacturers, builders, educators and trade associations.

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