One-on-One…with with Howard Pryor
April 1st, 2009

“The key for me is healthfulness and impact on the environment.”

Green Building, 2009

By Jeffrey Steele

If you wanted to learn about green building and tile’s role in this movement, one of the best advisors you could find is Howard Pryor. Director of architectural services for Harrisburg, Pa.’s Conestoga Ceramic Tile, Pryor also chairs the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association’s (CTDA) Green Building Committee, and serves as a member of the Green Initiative Committee of the Tile Council of North America.

Importantly, he’s no Johnny-come-lately to issues of sustainable building. Pryor has long been interested in sustainable design, and works on a daily basis with some of the nation’s most outstanding LEED AP professional architects to help disseminate word of green building’s role in today’s commercial and residential construction.

Pryor recently set aside an hour for a wide-ranging One-on-One discussion with TileDealer. In this candid interview, he reflects on his growing interest in green building, the importance of membership at a local level in the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), and finally what the CTDA’s Green Building Committee can do to help tile dealers and distributors better grasp the issues impacting sustainable construction.


What is your position and how did you become interested in Green Building?


My title is director of architectural services for Conestoga Ceramic Tile in Harrisburg, Pa., with additional locations in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. We celebrated our 50th anniversary in business last year, and as a distributor we represent 37 ceramic tile manufacturers. We sell to dealers and ceramic tile contractors, but not to the direct consumer. My position focuses on the commercial market. We also have a director of sales and marketing, and his focus is on the residential dealer market.

Years ago, I had a very good friend named John Becker who was an architect, and he was actively involved at the very beginning of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). He was heavily into the movement that was then in its infancy. We would have long conversations and talks about architecture, design and the future of our country. The concern was that all the natural resources were being taken away, and we needed to conserve natural resources for the future.

Many architectural reps in the past just showed product and tried to get their products specified. I took a different approach, becoming a Certified Construction Specifier (CCS). I was chairman of certification for the Mid-Atlantic Region for the Construction Specification Institute (CSI), and taught architecture spec writing for seven years. And then I decided to take the exam to get the CCS certification. The pass-fail rate for architects on that exam is about 30-70 percent, and today you can’t even qualify to take it unless you are a construction specifier. I started writing my own construction specifications, and in so doing began incorporating my own manufacturers’ products as products that would be used in these specifications. Rather than selling ceramic tile to architects and interior designers, I sold my construction specifications. The area architects really became interested in how to install it, and how to put it in commercial structures without failure. That’s why I got involved in the Tile Council.
What I’m leading up to is I’ve always been interested in the technical side of ceramic tile. And when I saw that sustainable design was going to be the future of architecture, it was natural for me to become interested in that.

TileDealer: When and how did you get educated in green building?


Two years ago when I saw the rush by all my architect and interior design friends to get LEED certified, and also when I became aware of architectural libraries being created specifically for green products only, I thought it prudent to read and learn all I could about LEED. Many people even today do not understand what LEED is, what it stands for, and how points are accumulated, for instance.

TileDealer: What was most helpful to you?


I went online and learned all I could about the USGBC. Next, I downloaded the study guides to the manuals for LEED certification. The committee members of the Green Building Committee of CTDA have been extremely helpful in supplying information and feedback on anything relating to Green construction.

(The committee members are: All Tile, DavidJones; American Olean Tile, Tom Facca; Anthony Bogo Ltd., Lisa Bogo; Arizona Tile, LLC, Mark Huarte; Bonsal American, Kevin McFadden; Cleftstone Works, Peter Galgano; D & B Tile, Carole Schafmeister; East Coast Tile, Frank Donahue; Fin Pan, Inc., Lisa Schaffer; Florida Tile, Inc., Dan Marvin; Florim USA, Matteo Casolari; Florim USA, Jana Gatlin; Jaeckle Wholesale, Richard Deutsch; Laticrete International, Kirby Davis; Laticrete International, Mitch Hawkins; Mediterranea, George Larrazabal; Miles Distributors, TomMiles; Noble Company, Eric Edelmayer; Orchid Ceramics, Kurt Graves; Orchid Ceramics, Brian McKeown; Schechner Lifson, David Mack; Schluter Systems, Earl Maicus; Jason Neu; Specialty Tile, Gary Moore; Statements Inc., Ryan Calkins; StonePeak Ceramics, Noah Chitty; Sun Touch, Tracy Hall; Tile Council, Bill Griese; Tile Outlets, Curt Rapp; and United States Gypsum, Steve Rausch.)

TileDealer: Is membership in the USGBC at a local chapter level helpful, and if so how so?


Membership is very helpful. Changes are occurring every day, and new information is constantly being disseminated. Also networking among the membership enables you to stay on top of the important issues regarding green construction.

For instance, I just heard some think you can just assemble product within a 500-mile radius and that would qualify you for the MR 5.1 & 5.2 points. Manufacturer reps are telling their contacts this, and I’m not sure that’s correct.

There are two areas that you can get LEED points with ceramic tile. The main area within LEED certification is materials and resources (MR). MR 4.1 and 4.2 have to do with recycled content. MR 5.1 and 5.2 have to do with regional manufacturing. In others words, if your source manufacturer is within 500 miles of the project, you earn points based on the total value of the cost of materials being used. Some reps are putting the label on their architectural binders saying this product will give you LEED points. But LEED does not give points for products, only projects. The problem is people do not understand the LEED rules, and that’s why education is so important.

TileDealer: Are thereother resourcesdealers and distributors should tap for Green building information?


The first resource I’d suggest is Second, they should contact CTDA. Our committee has developed a Green Building Powerpoint presentation that all members may use to educate themselves and their customers—including retail ceramic tile dealers, commercial architects and interior design firms—on the LEED movement. This Powerpoint presentation was created as a program for members to put on for their customers, explaining how ceramic tile fits in with green building design.

TileDealer: How do you reachout to architects and specifiers to let them know you have Green products?


Many manufacturers are promoting green aspects of their products. Florida Tile and Laticrete, Inc., for instance, have their products certified by Green Guard, an independent third party testing and certifying firm recognized by the USGBC, which tests and certifies products for recyclable content.

Florida Tile and Laticrete provide stickers for their architectural binders that reflect this certification. My architectural reps and myself are placing these stickers in prominent areas on the architectural binders, and also asking the firms if they have a green product library in which those binders can be placed.

TileDealer: How do you choose Green products for your company?


At the Coverings show this year, every time you walked into a booth and talked to a manufacturer the first thing they talked about was the recycled content of the product offerings they were showing. This tells me that is foremost in their minds as manufacturers. When you’re talking about recyclability, there’s a distinction between post-consumer and pre-consumer recycled content. Post consumer is something that’s been used already. Almost all ceramic tile manufacturers’ products include pre-consumer recyclables. In LEED certification you get a half point for pre-consumer recycled material and a full point for post-consumer recycled material. I feel that manufacturers need to begin talking about lifecycle analysis of their product offerings, meaning the entire history from the extraction of the raw materials to the end of the useful life—cradle-to-grave lifecycle analysis of the products they offer. That’s what we examine when selecting products to promote. The key for me is the healthfulness of the products for end users, and the impact those products exert on the environment.

TileDealer: How much green education do your employees need?


Everyone needs to understand what the movement is all about. Ceramic tile has been around since 575 BC. Archaeologists use ceramic tile shards to date civilizations. We have taken our product for granted. We know our products are made from dirt. How much greener than that can you get?

Weassumed everyone knew this and remained silent while the carpet, vinyl and wood industry were out tooting their own horns about their recycled content to the USGBC. What has happened is, our products have taken a backseat when one is looking for floor and wall selections on their green projects.

But carpet or resilient floors could be reprocessed dozens of times before a tile floor would wear out. And petrochemical content in carpets and resilient and other engineered floor materials is a serious detriment to indoor air quality, and a health threat to people who live with these materials. We haven’t been getting that word out.

But that is now changing. CTDA along with TCNA and NTCA are becoming very active in promoting our features and benefits to the Green Building communities. Everyone involved in the ceramic tile industry needs to play parts in getting this message out. They have to be careful, though, not to “Greenwash” their claims.

TileDealer: What’s the best way for employees to be trained?


The best way for them to be trained is by participating in CTDA Management Conferences, and industry trade shows where educational seminars are being held on green building with ceramic tile. Participating in CTDA webinars that offer current information on what is happening within the green movement is also advisable.

TileDealer: Any last thoughts?


I think Anthony Bogo stated it best in his graduate field report for his CTC certification with CTIOA. He wrote, “We must recognize and seize the opportunity that the green building movement presents our industry, above and beyond many other competing surface materials. As an industry, we must direct our energy on educating the American public with regard to what makes tile a wise choice for the health and benefit of our homes and businesses. We preach to ourselves within the confines of our own trade journals, when we should be aiming our message at a greater audience.

“We have assumed our market would spontaneously understand the nature of our product category, but it does not. Americans, unlike Europeans and other cultures, do not have a historical reference or traditional connection to tile. It’s our responsibility to get the correct and truthful information into their hands. Our products truly help end users to solve real problems and create healthier work places and homes. We can feel good about being part of the solution.”


Howard Pryor, director of architectural services

Conestoga Ceramic Tile, Harrisburg, PA

Office: 717-564-6860

Cell: 717-903-3081


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Foster and Clark Real Estate
CTDA - Online Education
CTDA - Membership