USG Corp. held a teleconference yesterday with the press to preview some of its latest products along with additions to its USG Design Studio website. Among the highlights were a new online tool for assessing a product's LEED credits, and the new Next Gen Durock cement board.

Fareed Kahn, president of USG Building Systems, began the roughly one-hour meeting by talking about the current economic downturn and what it means for the industry, specifically for architects and contractors. "It's a very difficult environment," he said. "Our customers are facing extreme and unprecedented challenges." He positioned his company's newest products and services as an answer to those challenges. "We're looking at the overall value [of our products], by making customers more productive while saving them money," he said.

Scott Crandall, USG's product marketing manager for the Durock brand, said the company's just launched Next Gen Durock cement board is designed to help contractors increase their productivity. "Durock Next Gen offers easier scoring, snapping and fastening ... and it's 25 percent lighter than our original Durock product, making it the lightest cement board on the market," he said.

He added that USG plans to unveil "new packaging for smaller jobs" for the company's original Durock tile membrane. Specifically, the company will offer a 75 sq. ft. roll of Durock and adhesive in one package, aimed at use in small installations including "laundry rooms, foyers and kitchens," he said.

The company also unveiled a range of drywall tools under the Sheetrock name, including a mud mixer with "tri-fold mixing action," outside drywall corner rollers, a T-Square with a 3/16" aluminum blade and 1/2" finger guard, and a corner bead hopper designed to prepare the company's paper-faced metal bead for installation.

Additionally, a LEED Request Tool is scheduled to go online next week on the USG Design Studio website The tool will offer users a wide range of information on a product's potential LEED points, as well as offer the ability to print out dynamic reports. Initially the tool will primarily cover the company's line of ceiling and drywall products, but will grow to include all of its products over time, the company said.

Kahn said the LEED tool is one way in which the company is promoting its "green" philosophy. "We take a holistic approach on environmental sustainability, but we need to do a better job of tying that strategy" into a cohesive message, he acknowledged. "Greenbuild is coming up in November, and we're going to have a strong [presence] there," he added.-Michael Chmielecki