From the Editor’s Desk: Beefing Up Your Green Building IQ
April 1st, 2009

Green Building, 2009

When we first started talking about green building five years ago, it was not a mainstream issue. Today it is. If you were among the attendees at Coverings this year, you know what we mean. Everyone is promoting the green qualities in their products, whether it’s recycled materials, local manufacturing, low- or no-VOCs.

(In case you have been living without access to any newspapers, magazines, television or radio, according to Wikipedia, green or sustainable building “refers to designs focused on increasing the efficient use of resources while also reducing the building’s impact on human health and the environment.” Though we may—correctly—think of this as the efficient use of water, energy and other resources, it also refers to protecting occupant health, improving employee productivity, reducing waste and pollution and other activities that would adversely affect the environment.)

If you have not yet had customers asking for green products, you will.

But getting your hands around green building – as we have learned in putting this issue together – is a tough task. First, there is a wealth of information – some of it reliable, some of it not. Second, it’s a very dynamic topic with new products and developments daily (or so it seems)! For example, take a look at Zoe Voigt’s feature on green tile on page 12, which points out newly developed tile options that also clean carbon monoxide from the air!

Beyond science, green building has an economic component as well. Saving resources like water, energy and even shipping costs saves money. In today’s sagging economy, green products offer a new market opportunity. Distributors and dealers who stock and sell green products have an advantage over those who do not, and that advantage is expected to grow as the marketplace recovers.

We’re all going to have to work hard to keep up with green building developments. TileDealer will continue to report on the green building story well beyond this issue. But we hope this is a good start.

Green building is not the solution to all of our economic problems, but it is important to note that one of the reasons for its growth is that municipal and commercial buildings are increasingly required to incorporate green products, particularly if they are aiming for LEED certification. Homeowners who are genuinely concerned about the state of our environment and frustrated with the cost of energy are now also onboard the green movement. Expect green building to play a significant role in the recovery.

Marketplace numbers

Annually at Coverings, the Tile Council of North America presents an industry update on the marketplace. As you can imagine, the numbers this year were down, but, as TCNA points out, this comes “after more than a decade of growth.”

Here are some highlights from that report:

Total U.S. tile consumption for 2008 decreased 21.5% (vs. 2007) to 2.10 billion sq. ft. This is approximately the same consumption level as 1999.

Most of this decrease came from imports, which fell 22.6% from 2.18 billion sq. ft. in 2007 to 1.69 billion sq. ft. in 2008.

Import penetration decreased each of the last two years—from an all-time high of 82.4% in 2006 to 80.2% in 2008—the lowest import penetration has been since 2004.

In 2008, Mexico surpassed Italy to become the top tile exporter to the U.S. (in sq. ft.), constituting almost a quarter (24.9%) of U.S. imports. This was the first time a country other than Italy has held the top exporter position (in sq. ft.). However, in dollar value, Italy retained the top exporter position.

Approximately two-thirds (66.1%) of U.S. imports in 2008 (in sq. ft.) came from three countries: Mexico, Italy and China.

Janet Arden

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