One-on-One…with Bill Griese
 
October 1st, 2009

“Tile has always possessed many inherent ecological benefits.”

Fourth Quarter, 2009

By Jeffrey Steele

As the standards development and green initiative manager for Tile Council of North America, Bill Griese is involved in the development and revision of ASTM, ANSI, ISO and other industry-specific standards, and coordination of TCNA’s environmental efforts. He serves as chairman for the ASTM C21 Committee on Ceramic Whitewares and Related Products, and works closely with TCNA’s Product Performance Testing Laboratory. A LEED Accredited Professional, he earned a bachelor of science degree in Ceramic and Materials Engineering from Clemson University.

TileDealer: Where does tile stand in the green building movement ?

Griese: The industry continues to stand in a favorable place, since tile and related installation material products have always possessed many inherent ecological benefits. Thanks to stringent industry installation standards and accepted practices, these benefits are sustainable for years as tiled surfaces last longer than competitive surfaces involved in the “green building movement.” Further, our industry continues to become more involved in the green building community. For years, our environmental messages and attributes have been positive. The on-going growth in demand for green products has provided us with a valuable opportunity to express these advantages in a prime time setting.

Other industries may have had a quicker start in their green marketing efforts, but through the assistance of industry associations, and the commitment of participating industry experts, the mechanisms are in place for tile to be a larger contributor in the “green building movement.”

TileDealer: Is tile gaining a better foothold after falling behind carpet?

Griese: In terms of environmentally responsible products and practices, I don’t believe it is accurate to state that the tile industry has ever fallen “behind” the carpet industry.

Rather, we have had a slower start in organizing our green marketing efforts. To their credit, the carpet industry has done a remarkable job identifying their environmental advantages and setbacks, implementing mechanisms to uphold industry expectations, and participating in various green building standards development processes. Given the inherent ecological advantages of tile products and the environmentally efficient processes that manufacturers have been implementing for years, along with an increased understanding of the green marketplace, it would be accurate to state that evidence of our “foothold” is already clear.

Through united marketing at the association level and increased participation in green standards organizations, our industry is now prepared to springboard ourselves far beyond competitive industries.

TileDealer: How can dealers market tile as green?

Griese: The environmental advantages associated with tile use can be broken down into many categories, including increased natural resource conservation; reduced energy, atmosphere, and environmental burdens of buildings; improved human health; and sustainability. Green marketing, as with any marketing, is largely dependent upon the target audience. When dealers go to market tile products as green, it’s important we look at it from two different perspectives. Is our target consumer an average homeowner more concerned with the “feel good” aspects of environmentally preferable products? When we address these consumers, we want to think more in terms of the tangible environmental benefits.

Or is it our second target, the architectural community, which is going to be more concerned with how tile products can be used on LEED projects? There are a number of ways the products can be used in LEED projects.

TileDealer: What certifications should dealers and consumers look for in green tile?

Griese: This is a question that is commonly asked. Although not always necessary for standard, rating system, or legal compliance, third party certification can assist in achieving more recognizable “green” products. The majority of third-party environmental certification programs encompass one of the following attributes: recycled content, VOC emission levels, or life-cycle assessments.

Some common third-party agencies include Greenguard, Scientific Certification Systems, and FloorScore. While there has been talk of industry certifications, there are currently no domestic tile industry-specific environmental certification programs. However, such steps have been considered and are currently being addressed.

TileDealer: What is and is not legitimate when it comes to green claims for tile?

Griese: Perhaps the most common measuring stick for the environmental contribution of building products is their ability to contribute to LEED projects. Tile products can be used many ways on a LEED project, and builders are encouraged to learn about various strategies associated with maximizing LEED points.

TCNA has written numerous articles, presentations and technical documents detailing the ways that tile products can be incorporated into LEED projects.

So it is legitimate to state that tile products can help earn LEED points. However, one should be cautious when reviewing claims that products earn points. Although there are some rare occasions when this is true, there are very few times specific products can singlehandedly earn entire points.

Usually, it is the combination of products and practices, each offering a percentage-based contribution, that result in the acquisition of a point.

TileDealer: How is TCNA dealing with green-washing issues?

Griese: Pro-activeness is the best way to address green-washing. TCNA’s membership encompasses almost all of the North American tile manufacturers. Through our routine Green Initiative meetings, we are able to identify our industry’s environmental messages. Our messages are unanimous, and consistent among all manufacturers. There are also talks of implementing strategies for recognizing products that possess green attributes outside the scope of our routine environmental messages.

TileDealer: TCNA does “green testing,” according to its website. Exactly what is green testing?

Griese: Our Product Performance Testing Laboratory now offers several tests to evaluate some of the environmental performance characteristics of tile products. We offer a variety of indoor environmental quality tests, including CA 01350 that is required for flooring products contributing to LEED and other green building projects. We also have the ability to test for leachable lead and cadmium.

Additionally, we can evaluate the solar reflectance index of tile products. This is an analysis of solar reflectivity and emittance, and is necessary for exterior tile hardscape products wishing to contribute to LEED and other rating systems. Further, there are several tests for fungus and microorganism resistance of installation products that our laboratory has offered for years, but have only been available as part of a package. We are now able to offer these tests a la carte.

TileDealer: How can dealers leverage the test results?

Griese: Test results indicative of positive environmental performance, or any type of positive performance, can contribute towards achieving a competitive edge that is advantageous in any situation. Our tests for VOC emissions and Solar Reflectance Indices can validate products for contribution in LEED and other green building projects. Third-party certification is convenient and is usually readily accepted on LEED projects. However, certification can be expensive, and is not always mandatory for products wishing to contribute in LEED.

It is important to understand that an independent testing service is a valid option when testing products that wish to contribute in LEED and other green building projects. Through our testing service, we issue a compliance certificate that can be handed by the supplier to an architect or project manager on a LEED project.

TileDealer: What is TCNA’s Green Initiative?

Griese: The TCNA Green Initiative identifies and addresses environmental issues pertinent to the use and manufacture of tile products. It is comprised of TCNA members, and provides an opportunity for members to be active in the green building community. Our Green Initiative does the following:

  • Provides a leadership role in conducting research and product evaluations related to the environmental performance of ceramic tile products;
  • Proactively forms positions on critical environmental issues relevant to the tile industry;
  • Whenever and wherever possible, develops tile industry-related education to increase environmental awareness leading to global thinking and local action;
  • Emphasizes the importance of considering the social, economic and environmental impact of the industry’s manufacturing and distribution processes;
  • Takes a holistic approach by addressing the environmental aspects of the industry’s products throughout their entire life cycle, in addition to looking for ways to reduce waste and promote recycling;
  • Works with local, regional, national and international organizations and governmental agencies, as well as the ceramic tile industry, to help create and comply with laws and regulations aimed at fostering sustainable operations, growth and reducing our environmental footprint; and
  • Offers technical input to green building organizations and standards committees.

TileDealer: What’s ahead for tile in the green marketplace?

Griese: Business as usual! For the most part, we will continue to increase education within the industry and spread our environmental messages to architects, designers, and the general public.


SOURCE: Bill Griese, standards development, green initiative manager Tile Council of North America, Anderson, SC 864-646-8453

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