Getting Acquainted with Green Building Green building. If you are not familiar with this term yet, you will be.
July 1st, 2004


July-August 2004

Green or sustainable building is the term used to encompass a philosophical and practical approach to building and renovation – both commercial and residential – that meets certain goals such as conserving energy and water, reducing waste, improving air quality, and in general reducing the building’s impact on the environment. In addition to conserving environmental resources, green buildings typically provide significant cost savings with regard to long term factors such as energy use and maintenance. They also often provide additional intrinsic – but not necessarily quantifiable – benefits, such as better indoor air quality which promotes various health benefits to the building occupants. Office and other public buildings situated and designed to make the most of natural light typically lead to lower rates of employee absenteeism. At its best, green building incorporates energy and resource saving throughout its construction and occupancy. Beyond the structure itself, green or sustainable building practices encompass land usage associated with the building, and the generation and disposal of construction waste as well as waste throughout the building’s occupancy.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has identified five elements related to green building:

Designing and operating buildings to use energy efficiently, including renewable sources of energy, such as solar, wind, and biomass.

Designing and operating buildings to use water efficiently.

Using building materials that have a reduced effect on the environment throughout their life cycle (e.g. recycled content, low toxicity, energy efficiency, biodegradability, and/or durability).

Reducing the waste from construction, remodeling, and demolition.

Designing and operating buildings with a healthy indoor environment for their occupants.


Finding support for these efforts

In residential construction, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) is leading the industry in development of voluntary green building guidelines to “provide a nationally recognized baseline for determining minimum thresholds for resource-efficient, cost-effective home building that are practical for the entire industry.”

NAHB has contracted with the NAHB Research Center (NAHBRC) to work through the development process. Richard Price, director of Environmental Communication for NAHB, told TileDealer that the guidelines, which are currently in a draft version, focus on how a house is built as opposed to what is a green product. However, he said, “NAHBRC is seeking relevant guidance on how builders could best install and use their product(s) in order to enhance the home’s energy efficiency, moisture management, IEQ (indoor environmental quality), etc. from all product associations.” (See

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is a national coalition of building industry leaders working to promote green building. They have developed the LEEDâ„¢ Rating System (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) for the U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Office of Building Technology, State and Community Programs, that sets performance-based requirements for building components and materials in commercial building.

You may have heard the term LEED Certification. USGBC has determined that commercial buildings are eligible to meet the requirements of LEED Certification – that is, they have earned sufficient points from meeting various LEED criteria for everything from siting to energy performance – to earn recognition as a LEED certified building. Certification is awarded by USGBC. It’s a complicated process that is usually initiated in the design and construction planning stages. The benefits of LEED certification include demonstrating commitment to green building and qualifying for a number of state and local government incentives. In some jurisdictions, proposed construction is required to meet LEED standards. Building experts anticipate this trend to continue. Energy and water conservation will – of necessity – become increasingly important. New developments in building materials continue to expand the options for environmentally friendly products. (For more on the USGBC and LEED, go to

How does tile fit?

In general, tile embodies many of the qualities generally attributed to green building products, including low toxicity, energy efficiency, and durability. Tile is installed with increasingly environmentally acceptable materials that go a long way towards improving indoor air quality. Tile often replaces other flooring materials such as carpet, which attract and harbor dust, mold and other possible allergens, which impact the indoor environment.

Sabrina Morelli, LEED Program Coordinator, USGBC, told TileDealer there are four areas where tile may fit into LEED’s performance standard:

MR (Materials and Resources) 3: Re-used product, i.e., installation of salvaged or refurbished materials from one project on another.

MR 4: Specifies a percentage of post-industrial recycled content.

MR 6: refers to local or regional materials manufactured within 500 miles of the project.

EQ (Environmental Quality) 4.1: Refers to indoor air quality and the use of adhesives and sealants that meet or exceed specified limits.


Clearly the trend is not to label specific products for green or sustainable building. However, as green building philosophies and practices continue to develop, products that accommodate the performance standards will benefit. Becoming knowledgeable about these trends will be increasingly important.

To learn more about green building, see visit the following websites:

National Association of Home Builders

Model Green Home Building Guidelines

National Green Building Conference

US Green Building Council (USGBC)


Greenbuild 2004

Environmental Protection Agency


Sustainable building links



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