Sales & Management: How Tile Fits With Green Building Being knowledgeable about Green Building can give you a competitive edge
May 1st, 2006

By Janet Arden, Editor

May-June 2006

Recently the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) announced that 2006-2007 is the time frame in which green building—which encourages environmentally responsible and sensitive construction materials and techniques—will involve more builders (and presumably consumers) than not.

This is a big step for a movement that’s only about a decade old.

A bit of background

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), founded in 1993, is an industry-led and consensus-driven nonprofit coalition for advancing buildings that are environmentally responsible, profitable and healthy places to live and work. The USGBC has developed the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) rating system that awards points—based on a fairly complicated scale—for using environmentally responsible products and practices. This can range from managing construction waste to optimizing solar energy.

From a regulatory point of view, codes, ordinances and regulations are increasingly favoring green building qualities. A number of governmental bodies have begun to require green construction in their buildings or in buildings in which they have a vested interest. The LEED program has been adopted by various governmental bodies at all levels.

But green building is also driven by culture. The environmental movement is increasingly mainstream. As NAHB discovered in its survey, builders are increasingly green because “they believe it’s the right thing to do.”

NAHB has published its own Model Green Home Building Guidelines designed to move environmentally-friendly home building concepts further into the mainstream. The guidelines, used right now by about 30 communities across the country, help facilitate the adoption of green home building practices and the formation of additional local programs in the parts of the country not currently served by these programs.

The guidelines contain sections covering such topics as site preparation, resource efficiency, energy efficiency, water conservation, and indoor air quality. This last category is particularly important to the tile industry, since the NAHB guidelines call for the installation of moisture resistant backerboard, not paper-faced sheathing, under tiled surfaces in wet areas. The intent of the recommendation is “to reduce the risk of problems if water penetrates tile surfaces in kitchens and baths.” The recommendations go on to say, “A cement-based backerboard does not contain organic paper that can deteriorate, swell (potentially causing cracking in the grout), and be a substrate for mold growth when wet. Cement backerboard is resistant to the deleterious effects of moisture.”

Earlier this year, the Responsible Solutions to Mold Coalition (RSMC) (see March/April TileDealer) was established within the tile industry to ensure the communication of more accurate information about mold avoidance and control.

Obviously, moisture control is only one of the issues related to green building. Others include—but are not limited to—recycled products and products manufactured close to the building site to cut the costs of transportation in both dollars and energy,

What does this mean for consumers & tile dealers?

Green building has become increasingly important in construction and remodeling, first, of course, because residential and commercial consumers are asking for it. They want to save energy and water and enjoy improved air quality. Typically these factors add up to long-term operational savings as well. This is always advantageous, but even more important in these days of volatile energy costs.

According to the USGBC, LEED certified buildings have lower operating costs, higher lease rates and happier and healthier occupants than conventionally built structures.

If you’re selling and/or installing floors, backsplashes or bathrooms for these builders, it’s time to do the research and get more knowledgeable about green building issues. Consumers are increasingly well-versed in green building as well—or at least they want to be—making your knowledge about green building issues an important factor in distinguishing yourself from the competition.

Knowledge will not only help you answer questions, it may help you outflank competitors who are not well-versed in green building.


The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is the nation’s leading nonprofit coalition for advancing buildings that are environmentally responsible, profitable and healthy places to live and work. Major programs supporting its mission include the Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Green Building Rating Systems™ for New Construction, Existing Buildings, Commercial Interiors and Homes; LEED Workshops; LEED Professional Accreditation; the Greenbuild International Conference & Expo; and a robust local chapter program.

Today, USGBC includes nearly 6,000 member companies and organizations—representing more than 1000% growth in the past four years alone. During that same period, more than 458 million square feet of building space has been registered or certified under LEED, and the annual US market in green building products and services has grown to $7 billion.

The Council is as diverse as the marketplace, including building owners and end-users, real estate developers, facility managers, architects, designers, engineers, general contractors, subcontractors, product and building system manufacturers, government agencies, and nonprofits. Leaders from within each of these sectors participate in the development of the LEED Rating Systems and the direction of the Council through volunteer service on USGBC’s open committees.

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