The Right Angle on Sustainability: Green Squared by Jeffrey Steele – Part One
 
March 19th, 2012

Everyone knows tile is green. So why is the new Green Squared standard and certification program launching at Coverings so important to the industry? How did it come together, who took part in the development process, and what is likely to be its impact over time? TileDealer is excited to preview this new program and share some important basics with you.

Why it’s important

The tile industry has long recognized that its products are inherently sustainable, says Bill Griese, manager of standards development and green initiatives for the Anderson, SC-based Tile Council of North America (TCNA). Tile is selected in building and remodeling projects because it endures and is made from natural materials, which is “the very definition of green,” he asserts.

“But we wanted to take it to the next level, and continue to improve from a manufacturing standpoint, a material and resource standpoint, and an energy standpoint,” he adds. “We also wanted to look beyond the environment and focus on social issues. What it came down to is we are really an industry rooted in standards. That’s how we set expectations for ourselves. We have a long history of very good standards for both products and installation.”

There were other reasons for pursuing the establishment of a standard, says Tom Bruursema, sustainability director for Ann Arbor, Mich.-based NSF International, one of three certifying bodies for the standard. “This initiative around building materials and sustainability has been ongoing for a number of years,” he says. “Standards for flooring materials like carpet and resilient flooring have been around for some time, so it’s only natural for the tile industry to have its own standard . . . You often hear sustainability referred to as the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit. These standards are comprehensive in that sense. They look at product and corporate initiatives as well.”

Dan Marvin, director of quality assurance and technical service at Florida Tile in Lexington, Ky., who served as the chairman of the Green Initiative Committee, worked closely with Griese to put together the standard and ensure stakeholders from architects, manufacturers and the green community would be represented. Creating a standard was essential to give tile a voice, he says.

“There were a number of single-attribute green accreditations, such as GreenGuard, but none that addressed manufacturing or corporate governance or some of the other big picture aspects,” Marvin reports.

The multi-attribute quality of Green Squared is also emphasized by Noah Chitty, the Crossville, Tenn.-based technical services director for StonePeak Ceramics. “The standard was important for the tile industry to undertake,” he says. “It’s clear green rating systems in the U.S. are going away from a single-attribute criterion and toward multi-attribute criteria. We’ve put together a pretty comprehensive standard for the industry that goes beyond just criteria of products, and also addresses corporate strategies and facility strategies.”

In addition, it’s important to understand that had the tile industry not created Green Squared, two things would have likely occurred, Chitty adds. One is that some certifying company would have written a standard for green tile, without seeking the input of the tile industry. Second, in the absence of a standard set forth by the tile industry, other industries that did have standards would look increasingly enticing to those involved in green building projects.

Asked if the standard and Green Squared certification will most impress architects and the U.S. Green Building Council, Atlanta-based U.S. Gypsum field marketing and technical services manager Steve Rausch responded in the negative. “Absolutely not,” says Rausch, who sat on the TCNA Green Initiative Committee. “You have stakeholders, people who need to understand how to interpret and validate products. You have consumers demanding that, home builders, remodelers, as well as the architectural community.”

Creating the standard

The first meetings concerning what would result in the standard’s creation and the Green Squared program were convened in 2008, and grew exceptionally intensive in 2011 as efforts were made to “get people to buy in,” says Marvin, who adds “Florida Tile is the first to go through the process.“

Industry representatives were assembled to discuss and define what it meant to be a green product, Griese adds. The result was the establishment of the standard, ANSI A138.1 American National Standard Specifications for Sustainable Ceramic Tiles, Glass Tiles and Tile Installation Materials, covering not just tile, but everything in a tiling system. That includes mortars and grouts, liquids and paste goods, sheet goods like membranes and panel goods like backer boards, as well as tile. The consensus-based standard requires an evaluation of products in five performance categories: Product characteristics, manufacturing, corporate governance, innovation and end-of-life.

The standard was created by the ANSI ASCA 108 committee, comprised of representatives from manufacturers, designers, the green building community, architects, and distributors. “It was a consensus process that included all stakeholders, and was approved unanimously,” Griese says.

*To Be Continued in March/April TileDealer Issue

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