Editor’s Desk: Tile Did Not Have To Reinvent Itself To Be Green
May 3rd, 2011

Janet Arden

Ceramic tile has always been green. It comes from the earth, is combined using age-old techniques, lasts indefinitely, and can be recycled into more tile. Long before it was stylish to do so, tile manufacturers had learned to recycle water and other byproducts. In fact, some industry leaders might say other construction materials have been playing catch-up to compete with tile’s green qualities.

As green building and sustainability became more important, tile reached farther to better meet green demands. Many tiles meet a number of the United States Green Building Council’s LEED point requirements, such as Recycled Materials Content, Regional Materials, Low-Emitting Materials, and Heat Island Effect. Depending on the project and the materials choice, there is potential for even more valuable LEED points to help achieve the desired LEED rating.

This issue features a look at some of the most recent green innovations in the tile industry, including new materials and Carbon Offsets. Stylistically, some of the most popular green innovations, like super slim tiles and those made from recycled materials, continue to morph with newer, more appealing colors, textures and finishes.

Going greener.

Environmental awareness goes well beyond the choice of an environmentally preferable tile. It increasingly means making conscious choices to reduce our carbon footprint and save energy, including in your business. Operating a greener showroom and/or warehouse is a money-saving proposition in the long-run (though it may require some initial investment). More importantly, however, it delivers a green message to the consumer choosing to do business with green companies.

According to the U.S. EPA, a green business holds a marketing edge over its non-green competition, is recognized as an environmental leader, and improves its bottom line with operating efficiencies that result from energy and waste savings. Employees benefit from improved health and morale. All of that sounds great in today’s marketplace where you need every advantage to distinguish yourself from the competition. But, greening your business is not a simple task. It’s a process, and we give you some tips to get started in our feature on Eye on the environment: Distinguish your business by going green.”

Greening your bottom line.

Finally, we have all had experience with the “tire kickers” who stop by our showrooms, drink our coffee and generally take up valuable time comparing and pricing products, only to leave and order from an Internet e-tailer who offers a seemingly lower price per foot (if you don’t count their delivery, handling and stocking charges) and no customer service. This issue’s Sales & Marketing feature, “Converting Bait and Switch Customers,” offers some practical insight on meeting – and beating — this competition.

Wishing you a very green season!

Janet Arden

Leadership Letter: Go Green!
April 1st, 2009

Green Building, 2009

This spring I had the privilege of attending my son’s college graduation from Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. His major was Appropriate Technology, which is the study of wind power, solar power, biodiesel and similar green technologies. Who knew five years ago (yes, he graduated on the five-year plan) when he selected that curriculum how much the emphasis on sustainability would grow throughout government, industry and popular culture. Now green building is having a major impact on the tile industry.

The CTDA is committed to educating our members, their customers, and consumers about green building. The association has enjoyed a great deal of success with our relatively new Green Building Committee. The committee is approaching green building from a number of different angles. Here are just a few of their current initiatives:

  • Developing a white paper on the sustainability of ceramic tile, which we can all use to help promote the green aspects of tile to architects, designers and building owners.
  • Developing an educational promotion piece appropriate for consumers.
  • Developing green building pages for the CTDA website, www.ctdahome.org.

A number of committee members are also participating in the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) on the Chapter Level in their own cities. This is a wonderful way to network with others committed to green building and to stay well-informed on a topic that is constantly evolving. It is, of course, also a great way to promote tile—and your business—as a green product at the local level. You can learn more about the USGBC, including the location of chapters, by going to their website, www.usgbc.org.

Going green in our businesses
The recent Coverings exhibition and trade show in Chicago provided numerous opportunities to learn more about green initiatives in business. I attended an inspiring seminar on green practices for companies with many great ideas for our business. At our company we are turning off lights and appliances when not needed, including the lights in our warehouse with skylights. We are also working on reducing unnecessary printing and using mugs for coffee instead of disposable cups. I’m sure that with some creative thinking we could all make changes that would add up to quite an impact.

My wife and I stayed in Chicago for the weekend after Coverings. We were able to participate in a fascinating green building tour of downtown Chicago put on by the Chicago Architecture Foundation. The city of Chicago is definitely an inspirational leader in construction sustainability with rooftop green spaces to reduce heat, natural lighting to reduce electrical consumption, and use of recycled materials.

As a tile industry leader, CTDA is committed to being at the forefront of education on ceramic tile sustainability and LEED qualification. CTDA will also be a leader in promoting the green aspects of ceramic tile to the construction and architectural community as well as the overall flooring industry.

Those of us in the tile business can all do our part to educate ourselves and others on the great, inherent sustainability of ceramic tile. The Ceramic Tile Distributors Association will be there to help.

Go green!

Rob Henry
CTDA President

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

Installer Update: Green Installation Materials
April 1st, 2009

Green Building, 2009

By William & Patti Feldman

Green has gone mainstream. Increasingly, builders, owners, specifiers, and governments are attuned to the benefits of sustainability and environmentally friendly products.

Ceramic tile itself is an inherently green material and cementituous tile installation materials have no or low VOCs, as well. Many manufacturers of tile installation products give especially high priority to eco friendly manufacturing processes and materials and often make that clear on their websites. For example, they may be made of recycled materials and they may meet recognized stringent indoor air quality standards and employ dust-free technology.

While greenness cannot be seen, certain aspects can be certified against known standards, whether by the manufacturers themselves (which is first-party certification), via assessment by a trade association or other organization within the field (second party certification) or by an unbiased independent testing organization (third party certification). Manufacturers who have gone to the effort of earning certification for their products will likely put that information into their marketing and on their websites.

“Gaining certification that materials and manufacturing processes are green is becoming extremely important and will continue to grow,” says Howard Pryor, chairman of the green building committee for CTDA and director of architectural services for Conestoga Tile (www.conestogatile.com.) “Not only are architectural firms building green libraries, but for many commercial projects they are only specifying products recognized as green through certification.” This, he points out, avoids reliance solely on comments that might be considered greenwashing. “If this trend continues, you are going to see a lot of companies moving toward getting certified.”

Another way to show greenness is to register a project to receive certification credits from the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program, a nationally recognized and widely accepted performance oriented rating system evaluating sustainability and the environmental impact of new construction and of renovations in existing buildings.

Last year, the numbers of LEED-registered and LEED-certified projects doubled over the previous year, jumping from approximately 10,000 registered projects at the end of 2007 to over 20,000 registered projects by the end of this past January.

The use of LEED compliant products can help contribute to a project earning credits in one or multiple of the six environmental categories: Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy & Atmosphere, Material & Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality, and Innovation & Design Process. The credits accrue per project and the total number of points determines the earned designation. Platinum is the highest, followed by Gold, Silver, and Certified. The characteristics of an individual product can help contribute to the overall point collection within each project.

Selecting green products

Architects and specifiers often look for certification that a product can help contribute to the overall point collection within each category.

“Product selection is a key to sustainable design,” suggests Steven Rausch, field marketing and technical manager for the substrates and specialty products division, USG, and a member of the CTDA Green Building Committee. “Ideal materials are those that reduce, recycle and renew— which are the three R’s of sustainability.”

For purposes of tile installation materials, the issues, as noted by LEED, include reducing the amount of raw materials and energy needed for manufacture (with lighter products generally requiring less energy to transport); recycling discarded material into new products, reducing raw material consumption and energy use as well as minimizing landfill deposits; and renewing the environment by using materials that can be regenerated easily or offer other environmentally friendly benefits.

While tile installation materials may be only a small part of an overall large building project, in a mall or other large square footage job, they could be a more significant component.
“Showing that specific installation materials can contribute to sought-after LEED points can give a flooring contractor an edge when bidding a job,” says Dr. Emphraim Senbetta, LEED AP, of the Quality Management Systems and Environmental Health & Safety Department at MAPEI (www.mapei.us). MAPEI, a manufacturer of installation systems for tile and stone, carpet, vinyl, wood and decorative concrete flooring, uses local materials and recycled materials in its manufacturing processes wherever possible.

Green floor installation materials and their packaging may contribute to LEED credit in, for example, the following categories.

  • MR (Materials and Resources) 2.1 and MR 2.2: Construction Waste Management
  • MR 4.1: 10% recycled content of total building materials (post consumer + ½ pre-consumer)
  • MR 4.2: 20% recycled content (post consumer + ½ pre-consumer)
  • MR credit 5.1 and 5.2: 10% and 20% regional materials respectively (if the materials are manufactured within 500 miles of the project jobsite, reducing the environmental impacts from transportation)
  • MR 6: Specifying rapidly renewable building materials for 5% of total building materials (e.g., for purposes of this article, cork underlayment)
  • MR 7: Certified wood (e.g. use of a minimum of 50% of wood-based materials certified in accordance with Forest Stewardship Council guidelines)
  • EQ (Indoor Environmental Quality) 4.1: Low Emitting Materials, Adhesives & Sealants
  • EQ 4.4: Low Emitting Materials: composite wood and agri-fiber products (e.g. containing no added urea-formaldehyde resins)

Though the tile industry doesn’t typically pursue third-party certification, evaluating flooring installation materials against a standard, where possible, can be helpful in differentiating among options to meet specific goals.

“The criteria used to label as green should be based on a standard. The best standards are typically those that have been developed by a voluntary consensus organization that has industry support,” suggests Kirby Davis, Senior Architectural Specialist at LATICRETE®. “Non-biased third-party certification of a product against an established and stated standard avoids conflicts of interest.”

Some tile installation products carry third-party certifications from two well respected independent organizations, Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) and GREENGUARD.

Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) is an internationally recognized certifier of environmental, sustainability, and food quality and purity claims, in Emeryville, California. In the green building arena, SCS (www.scscertified.com) is known for its Indoor Advantage Gold certification of products conforming with requirements specified under California 01350, the Collaborative for High Performing Schools (a non-profit organization focused on improving the design of schools to make them healthier facilities), and LEED rating systems. Other programs include recycled and material content certifications.

GREENGUARD Environmental Institute (GEI) (www.greenguard.org) is a non-profit organization that oversees a testing laboratory which offers certification to building materials and other products that meet the GREENGUARD established acceptable indoor air standards for indoor products, environments and buildings. One certification is GREENGUARD IAQ Certified for low-emitting indoor building materials, furnishings, and finish systems. The more stringent GREENGUARD Children & Schools certifies building products tested for chemical emissions performance according to California’s stringent Section 01350 IAQ standard.

Products & manufacturers

The list of green products and manufacturers who pay attention to green concerns grows daily. Many offer materials that carry certification and/or can contribute to LEED points.

MAPEI’s (www.mapei.us) Ultraflex 2 polymer-modified thin-set mortar for walls and floors features dust-free technology that produces up to 90 percent less dust during pouring, mixing, and use of the product and enables easier jobsite cleanup. This technology helps contribute to LEED EQ 3.2 “Construction IAQ Management Plan: Before Occupancy.”

MAPEI’s Ultralite Mortar for large format tiles contains more than 20% post-consumer recycled content and can contribute up to two points in MR 4.1 and 4.2.

Because MAPEI has eight manufacturing plants in the U.S. and four in Canada located within 500 miles of many North American population centers and jobsites, often its products can contribute credits under MR 5.1 and MR 5.2.

LATICRETE® (www.laticrete.com) manufactures a wide range of LEED compliant products, including thinset, medium bed, and thick bed mortars, various types of grout and grout enhancer, and epoxy adhesive. Approximately 24 products are GREENGUARD Certified. For example, LATICRETE 125 Sound & Crack Adhesive is a flexible lightweight Kevlar reinforced sound deadening and anti-fracture mortar made of 30% recycled content and is GREENGUARD Certified. LATICRETE 170 Sound and Crack Isolation Mat is a high performing acoustical underlayment system that muffles impact noises through ceramic tiles, stone and other hard surfacing material and minimizes transmission of cracks from the substrate to the tile installation up to 1/8″ non-movement cracks. The 3 mm thick rubberized membrane is comprised of 89% post consumer recycled content. Both products can contribute to MR 4.1 and MR 4.2 for recycled content.

TEC, a manufacturer of tile installation systems (www.tecspecialty.com), offers a family of eco-friendly lightweight mortars that also delivers installer benefits. “Not only do we offer green alternatives that contribute to LEED points, we create high performance products with advantages for our customers and their clients,” says Kristin Cattaneo, Senior Brand Manager for TEC.

For example, she points out, the one-step 1/8″ IsoLight Crack Isolation Mortar is manufactured with a minimum 10% recycled materials and no VOCs. That the lighter weight product provides significant handling and application benefits compared to regular mortars and can contribute to LEED certification under MR 4.1, 4.2; MR 5.1, 5.2 (there are three US manufacturing locations), and EQ 4.1.

FiberBacker, by MP Global Products (www.mpglobalproducts.com), is an environmentally sustainable eco-friendly acoustical and insulating flooring underlayment engineered for use under ceramic tile, porcelain and natural stone flooring. Odorless, hypoallergenic, and containing no VOCs or liquid adhesives, the product carries the SCS Indoor Advantage Gold seal, SCS’s highest level of indoor environmental quality certification and the most stringent indoor air quality certification in the country, and SCS’s Recycled Content seal certifying minimum 95% pre-consumer recycled textiles.

Adding an insulating R-value of .50 to the floor system that acts like a thermal “break” to the flooring assembly, FiberBacker helps keep floors warm in the winter and cool in the summer, minimizing energy consumption.

Under ceramic tile, the elasticity of Fiberbacker suppresses lateral cracks from the concrete subfloor to the tile above. The product also insulates the transfer of noise to lower level rooms and deadens sound. The randomly air laid filaments create a three dimensional matrix that helps to absorb impact sound, explains Bob Pratt, technical director at MP Global, and the 3/16″ thickness helps smooth out little subfloor imperfections while adding only minimal thickness to the total flooring installation.

USG Fiberock Tile Backerboard and Underlayment (www.usg.com) is manufactured from a combination of synthetic gypsum and cellulose fibers and has a SCS Green Cross certified recycled content of 95% pre-consumer material, contributing to LEED MR 4.1 and MR 4.2 for recycled content. The panels are manufactured in Gypsum, OH, possibly contributing to LEED MR 5.1 and 5.2, depending upon project location.

Intended for use in both dry and wet areas, including tub and shower surrounds, the panels are engineered for durability, strength and resistance to moisture and mold.

Other green attributes accrue in the manufacturing process, with attention paid to water efficiency, energy consumption and the effect on the atmosphere, points out Steven Rausch, field marketing and technical manager for the Substrates and Specialty Products Division, USG and a member of the CTDA Green Building Committee. “USG also aims to qualify for LEED points in the category of innovation and design.”

AcoustiCORK sound control underlayments (Amorim Cork Composites, www.acousticorkusa.com) for tile and other hard surface flooring, made from rapidly renewable cork bark, are approximately 85% post industrial recycled content by weight, use only low emitting materials and contain no added urea-formaldehyde. The product line includes five different sound control underlayment products, to fit nearly any application requirement. The AcoustiCORK line includes the new CRC 950 High Performance Composite Sheet Sound Control Underlayment and the RC Series Roll products which contain both cork and post consumer recycled rubber; as well as perimeter isolation barrier; and a crack suppression membrane. Used in a green project, AcoustiCORK products help qualify for LEED points under MR 4.1; MR 6; MR 7; EQ 4.1; and/or EQ 4.4.

The Noble Company’s Sheet Membranes (www.noblecompany.com) contain an average of 11% post-industrial scrap, which could contribute to points in MR 4.1. The membranes are made from a core layer of chlorinated polyethylene (CPE), an inherently flexible elastomer sheet with fiber laminated to both sides. Noble sheet membranes are guaranteed not to rot, crack or deteriorate due to microorganisms for the life of the original tile installation. The products do not use urea-formaldehyde binders in the manufacturing process or contain any other VOC off-gassing materials, potentially earning credit in EQ 4.1. Water used in the manufacturing process is recycled and biodegradable inks are used in the stamping process whenever possible.

Noble Company’s ready-to-tile waterproof shower niches are made from extruded polystyrene (XPS) and are not considered VOC emitters in the LEED certification process (EQ 4.1). The XPS in the niches contains up to 40% post-industrial recycled content.

Raw materials for both sheet membranes and shower accessories are purchased locally, reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions necessary during transport.

PermaFlex Lite 525, from Bonsal American’s line of ProSpec (www.prospec.com) products, is a lightweight thin set mortar for tile and natural stone installations that offers the coverage of a typical 50 lb. bag of thin set in a 25 lb. bag. The product incorporates post-consumer recycled glass microspheres, rather than sand, making the product much lighter than typical thin set mortars. The reduced weight per bag facilitates easier lifting for the installer. These design features contribute to LEED project points in EQ and MR.

Flex-Guard and Speed-Flex, “peel and stick” crack isolation membranes, also from ProSpec, are manufactured using non-hazardous materials per EPA 8260 and EP A5030B. Since they require no priming, they can be installed quicker and are more cost effectively than typical crack isolation membranes. These products contain no asphalt, PVC, CPE or other harmful, toxic outgassing materials.

Grout Boost liquid grout additive (www.groutboost.com) mixes with any standard Portland cement grout to make it stain resistant, eliminating the need to ever seal the grout. When grout is enhanced with the product, liquids bead up, oils do not penetrate, and ground-in dirt leaves no trace. Because the stain resistance is integrated throughout the grout, Grout Boost provides permanent stain protection that will never wear away, as sealers do. The water-based product has low VOCs and no solvents and is California VOC compliant.

EasyMat Tile & Stone Underlayment from Custom Building Products (www.custombuildingproducts.com) has no VOCs, contributing to LEED credit EQ 4.1. The product, which features impact and sound reduction capabilities, is 97% lighter than traditional floor backerboard. The company’s MegaLite®Crack Prevention Mortar, which is 40% lighter than other mortars, also has no VOCs (EQ 4.1). Made with at least 20% recycled material, it contributes to EQ 4.1 and 4.2. On many projects, because there are 10 manufacturing plants around the country, potentially minimizing transportation emissions, the products can contribute to MR 5.1 and 5.2.


Alliance for Healthy Homes

American Chemistry Council

American Concrete Institute

American Indoor Air Quality Council

Build It Green

Ceramic Tile Distributors Association



Department of Energy

Ecology Action

Ecological Design Institute

Energy Efficient Building Association


Green Building

Green Building Pages

Green Format

GREENGUARD Environmental Institute

Green Seal

Marble Institute of America

National Tile Contractors Association

Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance

Scientific Certification Systems

Solutions for Remodeling


Tile Council of North America

U.S. Green Building Council

Showroom Seminar: Green Certification Options
April 1st, 2009

Certification is one way to compare the characteristics of different building types on the same green playing field

Green Building, 2009

By Kirby Davis

Going Green is definitely the hottest trend in America right now. At the heart of all green movements is the mantra “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” If these 3 choices are applied to the selections made then theoretically, the green wheel keeps turning. The challenge is determining the immediate and future impact of all the decisions—both individual and global.

With every buying decision there is usually the option to “go green.” Sometimes this choice is seemingly easy—paper, plastic or your own reusable shopping bag? Using the same shopping bag over and over again, versus a bag that will end up as trash in a landfill, is an easily defined metric. Even this choice has a cost factor—bags from the store are FREE, versus having to buy your own reusable shopping bag at roughly 99 cents each.

Building green is based on the same basic framework as all buying choices, but with a much more complex set of metrics. Comparing the environmental impacts of one type of building against another type of building is a very complicated process. The rise in importance of green building certification programs is largely due to the need to normalize all the characteristics of different building types to the same playing field. The various certification programs provide choices that give value and measure green building practices.

One of the most well known green building certification programs is the USGBC Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System™. Over the past 10 years, LEED has become the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings. The parameters within LEED are derived from the basic green building construction elements – conserve land, water, air, energy and natural resources. The resulting measurement systems provide a whole-building check list approach to sustainability.

With the rise in popularity of green building, lots of other certification and measurement systems have developed. The most recent trend for these programs is the development of focused programs on certain building segments such as schools, hospitals and homes. These newer programs may be more or less detailed than LEED, but one thing is clear: these programs will continue to diversify in the market place.

A strong new player in the green home building certification arena is the ANSI approved ICC-700 National Green Building Standard (ICC-700 NGBS).

In 2007, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) partnered with the International Code Council (ICC) to fast track a nationally recognizable standard definition of residential green building through the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) consensus committee process.

Using the 2005 NAHB Guidelines as a starting point, the NAHB and ICC gathered together a broad assortment of builders, architects, manufacturer’s representatives, and code officials to gather public views and hold forums for comment. In January of 2009, the two year efforts of this committee were released as the first of its kind, ANSI approved ICC-700 2008 National Green Building Standard.

Similar to the NAHB Green Home Building Guidelines, this new ANSI standard guides home builders, developers and remodelers in minimum requirements to green their projects, while still allowing for regional best practices. The scope of the standard was broadened from the single family home, to cover site design, multi-family and residential remodeling. The point categories are divided between Lot Design and Development, Resource Efficiency, Energy Efficiency, Water Conservation, Indoor Air Quality and Homeowner Operation and Maintenance.

Similar to LEED for Homes, the ICC-700 has four compliance levels termed Bronze, Silver, Gold and Emerald. Within each point section, there are a set of mandatory measures for each project that are tied to minimum code requirements. Additional points can be accrued in the sections to reach the next tier of certification. Homes over 4000sf will need to accrue more points in each point section.

The ICC-700 point structure is largely applicable across the US, although it does suggest some regional differences. Energy use by climate zone is one of the biggest variations. There are also some points that are only applicable based on the termite zone map, radon map and rainfall map. The new standard is also coupled with an online scoring tool, which allows a user to determine the applicability of the point requirements to their project prior to committing to the certification.

NAHB Green Scoring Tool

The free online Green Scoring Tool http://www.nahbgreen.org/ScoringTool.aspx is a key element for builders to determine if they want to pursue certification. It allows a builder to enter their project online, based on their best building practices, to determine if they have enough points to pursue certification. The initial walk-through of the scoring tool uses easy checkbox items to give a broad overview of the compliance with different sections. A builder can then analyze their point selections and perform a few calculations to determine if certification is feasible for their project.

If the builder determines they would like to go forward, then they submit an application online which goes to a third party NAHB accredited verifier. The verifier makes sure that the information is consistent, and then will check the work in progress on the jobsite at rough-in and then at a final inspection.

The verifier is trained and certified by the NAHB Research Center to perform the certification of projects to the standard. The verifier function is somewhat unique to the ICC-700 standard. Most other rating systems certify more on the “honor system” and submittal of documents versus actual onsite inspections. Even when an onsite function is required, such as the commissioning of systems, it is fairly broad as to who can perform the onsite evaluations. Just like the home building inspection process, the verifier will perform a final inspection and then submit a final report to the NAHB Research Center. After approval, and before closing, the builder will receive a Green Certificate on the home.

Costs to certify LEED-H versus the ICC-700 NGBS

In a 2008 NAHB Research Center report on the differences in costs between the ICC-700 and LEED-H it was calculated that registration, verification, and certification of projects for a small builder would be about $900 per home for ICC-700 and around $3700 per home for LEED-H. The costs for a large builder were dramatically reduced for LEED-H to around $1400 per home.

An NAHB Builder will pay a certification fee of $200 ($500 non NAHB) and then several hundred dollars for third party verification. A USGBC member will pay a registration fee of $150 and $225 for certification, and then fees for a LEED-H AP and onsite inspections.

Comparison of Rating Systems

So is the ICC-700 in direct competition with LEED for Homes? It is too early to discern at this point, but there are some differences between the programs that it would be good for you to be aware of:

Point Spread—In the LEED suite of certification programs minimum certification level to maximum point attainment is 45 to 136 points. In the ICC-700 those levels spread out from a minimum threshold of 222 to well over 900 point options that vary based on locale and new construction versus renovation.

Resource Efficiency—ICC-700 has a point option for using products with a Life Cycle Analysis. Points are also awarded for using product manufacturers that are compliant with ISO 14001.

Energy Efficiency—Both systems place a major emphasis on this category. LEED-H has 2 Prerequisites for EA and 0 point requirements versus ICC-700 that has a long list of code associated mandatory requirements and 30 minimum points. To achieve the basic bronze certification, a home must achieve 15% better performance than the Energy Star Equivalent.

Verification—LEED-H requires that a LEED Accredited Professional be involved with the project from early design phase for each house type. A separate independent certifier would verify implementation in the field for each house. ICC-700 requires the verifier in the field for each house built.

Origin—LEED-H evolved from the original LEED for new construction. ICC-700 was created specifically for homes. This difference in development creates unique knowledge requirements for the builder to master.

By now, you probably are considering a question that I am often asked—Are all these certification programs just a big scam to make money?

Most knowledgeable people in the green building industry would agree that we need a baseline for the goal of achieving sustainable growth. In the past, our construction industry has always dug up, cut down, mined, refined and gobbled land to acquire the resources needed to create our structures. As construction methods have evolved and intertwined with technology, a new door has opened that allows the reuse of existing resources. Couple this with an owner’s financial desire to have more energy efficient structures, and a natural new course appears—we can’t build buildings like we have in the past.

To a large degree, rating systems and certification programs are creating a framework for innovation in building design. As technology develops, processes and measurements will need to grow and change. Standards tend to get people motivated to figure out a way to get something done, but they are only one element. We have to fundamentally change the way that we do business and manufacture products. The growth of standardized certification programs will only help guide us down the path of change.

So there remains one daunting question—will certification programs, stricter codes, and environmentally preferred products help us to achieve a natural balance between the things that we want and the balance the earth needs to evolve? Only time, trial and error will tell, but one thing is for certain—green growth has been woven into the fabric of our lives and it is here to stay.

Kirby Davis LEED AP, CSI, CCTS, CDT is a Senior Architectural Specialist for LATICRETE International in the South Central USA

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 www.usgbc.org. 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


The Gray in Green Product Labeling: A look at Standards and Certifications
January 2nd, 2009

First Quarter, 2009

Humans feel an innate sense to connect. Where do we fit into life and with whom? What is your identity? Corporations spend an enormous amount of capital on helping us through this dilemma with their own choice question—What products do you associate with and consume? Marketing gurus are masters of this identity artform and skillfully craft the image and characteristics of a product into a single icon that conveys all that perception — the label.

As environmental consumers, the ability to show our green side has become as important as showing our financial success. We use labels to tell us the greenness of a product, and then trust that the product is good for the earth. Very few consumers are educated enough to truly understand the total environmental impact of a product. The ultimate problem with green is that there is a subjective set of qualitative factors that can be used in whole or in part to substantiate a claim.

If you look at the exhaustive list of attributes that fall into the green realm, you’ll quickly discover that it is nearly impossible, without a lot of knowledge, to determine which attributes are really important. Take a look at the following short excerpt and determine which of these is the most important to the overall health of planet earth.

Environmental contamination from the manufacturer

Waste in the product packaging

Off gassing from the product or installation materials

Manufacturer’s carbon footprint

Compliance with industry building codes, product standards and environmental regulations

Use for product after its initial life

Ease of recycling product and diverting from landfills

It is a difficult and scientific dilemma overshadowed by a healthy dose of judgment. When faced with this type of choice, our human inclination is to get buy-in from others and collectively we define a standard answer to our particular question, which in this case is—What is green about this product?

So what happens when a standard is missing to validate the greenness of a product? Initially a manufacturer is left with little other choice than to define their product’s green attributes, and then market based on these criteria. The biggest problem with this method is that the data used to define that particular product’s green features, may or may not be applicable to others of its kind. If each manufacturer is out there creating their own set of green criteria, it causes confusion in the consumer’s mind. This confusion has been labeled as “greenwashing.”

Is there a label out there that can be relied upon to not have false claims? Within the green world of labeling, that’s a path full of pitfalls. One issue is that there is a whole array of Single Attribute Green product labels that certify one particular characteristic of a product as being green. The other attributes of the product could be very ungreen or downright detrimental to the environment. For example, bio-based fuels were long thought to be earth friendly. Then it was discovered that rainforests were being clear-cut, to create more farming land, to produce more crops to be turned into bio-fuels. Net result—bad for the environment. Usually a label based on verified Multiple Attribute criteria is considered to be more reliable because it takes into consideration broader environmental factors.

Another option is to turn to a cumulative decision making body for definitions. The International Standards Organization (ISO) is a non-governmental standard setting body founded in the early 1940s. This group includes representatives from standard setting organizations such as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Within the ISO 14000 standard there are requirements and guidelines for environmental product labeling.

Type I labels define compliance with a multiple attribute set of requirements and offer a stamp based on a pass/ fail rating. The difficulty is that they aren’t designed to provide a consumer with detailed comparative information on performance between products.

Type II labels are self-declared environmental claims based on a single attribute of the product such as energy consumption, recycled content, or emissions.

Type III labels are comprehensive third party certified statements about a product’s environmental performance. They will often include an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) that evaluates the environmental impacts of a product such as raw material usage, air emissions, waste generation and / or the product’s overall Life Cycle Assessment (LCA).

Currently within the Green Labeling world, most are either Type I or Type II labels. This leaves a gray area—how to make sure that the product complies with the claim to green? Non biased certification of a product is a good avenue to follow.

A characteristic of a product needs to be certified, if it isn’t obvious in the product’s makeup. For example, an untrained consumer can look at a tile, and determine if the tile has a textured surface. It takes a person with experience to look at a tile and determine if it is porcelain or stone. Only a lab can determine the amount of recycled material in the body of the tile.

The criteria used to label the product as green, should be based on a standard. Standards can be developed by a manufacturer, an industry organization, government entities or a standard setting body such as ANSI or ISO. The best standards are typically those that have been developed by a voluntary consensus organization such as ANSI or ISO because they have industry support. The consensus process is slow, but ultimately removes conflicts of interest, due to the multiple sources of input into the standard.

Lastly, the product needs to be certified against the standard. This is where labeling and certification go gray together, because the testing can be performed by the manufacturer, an industry association or an independent lab. In the certification of products, the levels between the manufacturer and the standard or certifying entity are there to eliminate conflicts of interest. Let’s look at a scenario using the manufacture of widgets (not a real product, in case you are wondering).

At the first party level of certification, a “widget” manufacturer creates a list of attributes that describe the greenness of their “widgets.” This list may or may not be based on industry defined environmental aspects.

At the second party level of certification, an industry organization, such as the “Widget Distributors of America” create a standard for the greenness of all widget products. They will select green attributes that are beneficial to the sale of most widgets. This consensus standard, however, is still tilted toward the sale of widgets.

At the third party level of certification, an independent lab will be commissioned to certify the widgets against an environmental standard. The lab is in the business of testing products and would lose credibility as a testing facility if they reported a false claim of green attributes.

At the end of the day, this is where the battle rages among flooring products—who has the best standard and most valid claim of a product’s greenness?

The first environmental wave in green flooring labeling was focused on the Single Attribute measurement of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) as a contributor to bad indoor air quality. What is a VOC? It’s that new car smell, or the smell of fresh paint. You might enjoy these scents, but it has been determined that VOCs contribute to poor indoor air quality and sick building syndrome. The California Department of Health Services has been at the forefront of developing air quality standards for the entire nation. Entities such as Green Guard will third party certify a product as complying with the California emission standards.

In early 2000, the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) created the Green Label Plus as a second party industry label. This label was based on a modified version of California’s emissions criteria. Shortly after, the Resilient Floor Covering Institute (RFCI) adopted an emissions certification developed by the Scientific Certification Systems (SCS). The resulting third party label, Floor Score, is a measurement for all hard surface flooring and flooring adhesives / mortars. The carpet industry followed up, and was the first to create a standard for green carpet. The NSF 140- 2007 for carpet, is the first ANSI approved multiple attribute certifications in the flooring industry. It evaluates a carpet product on the multi-attribute areas of manufacturing process, recycled content and end of life reuse.

So how does tile measure up in the green arena? For thousands of years, tile has been an environmentally friendly product. It has one of the best life cycles of any product in the flooring industry; it is made of locally sourced materials, and is great for indoor air quality. To give tile an even bigger boost, most tile manufacturers have practiced Economic Environmentalism for decades. To define my own phrase—

Economic Environmentalism means doing good things for the environment that also make good economic sense for the business. A lot of the waste tile created during the manufacturing process is added back into the production line resulting in the diversion of hundreds of millions of pounds of landfill waste. A lot of the US manufacturing plants also use clean burning fuel resulting in negligible CO2 emissions, and some are even taking major steps to reduce their carbon footprint. Millions of gallons of water are reclaimed and reused in tile plants across the US, and some manufacturers are working towards net zero discharge of process water into the public sewer. Sounds like tile is at the top of the green flooring food chain right?

Wrong! If you’ve read this article thus far, you have hopefully picked up on the fact that certification against a standard is important.

Tile has always had a favorable green weight, so there hasn’t been any urgency to create green tile industry standards. This lack of tile industry certification and labeling is putting the industry at a major disadvantage on both the consumer and construction green front. There is a lot of liability for an architect in selecting green products that will comply with the parameters for a LEED certified project. It is much easier for them to select from the vast array of third party certified products based on reputable standards, than to verify a first party claim to being green. Along those same lines, the carpet industry is doing a FANTASTIC job of marketing to consumers about the various green attributes of their products.

So what is the tile industry to do?

The most important challenge will be for the tile industry to band together and approach the mountain of green with a deliberate collaborative plan rather than disjointedly as we have in the past. The good news is that some of our industry groups such as the TCNA and the CTDA have already made a move in this direction. A committee has been formed with joint representatives that will focus on bringing the tile industry further into the green light. Will it be enough or too little to late? The Green Industry is a complex and rapidly changing movement where many core components are still being developed. Leaders in our industry believe that tile can still achieve the recognition it deserves as a truly green product—but it needs to have buy-in at all levels. Are you ready to drink the punch?

Green Building with Tile
January 1st, 2009

The Tile Industry’s First Guide to Green Products

Green Building, 2009

By Zoe Voigt

The Green movement seems to be everywhere these days. At Coverings 2009 in Chicago, there were a dozen conferences offered specifically about environmental issues. Naturally, lots of new green products and technologies were launched. Also at the show, many manufacturers were touting sustainable products, handing out environmental mission statements and in case anyone missed the point, there were even a number of booths that were literally the color green.

The media and manufacturers are not the only source of this shift toward sustainability. Dealers report that their customers are coming into showrooms asking for environmentally friendly products.

Alan Court, of East Hampton, NY, says he’s seeing real demand for green products in his showroom, “There are two ways it happens. The first is that this interest in green products is architect-driven rather than client-driven. Architects are interested in LEED points and that seems to be important in projects,” says Court. “The other way we are seeing this desire for green products is with contractors and spec builders. They see the green improvements as something they can advertise to sell the house. Buyers would prefer to get green products, if they can, so that makes those spec houses more appealing.”

“Being environmentally conscious is interesting to professionals, because there are a number of people who really care. Therefore, we’ve tried to have any number of materials that qualify.”

With all the attention environmental issues have been getting in the news, green seems to be the new neutral. This is great news for the tile industry, as industry leaders begin to get the news out that tiles are green. Ceramic tiles contain no VOCs, require little maintenance, have a long life cycle, and many contain recycled materials. These attributes all contribute to the eco-friendly nature of tile.

Bill Griese, LEED AP, Standards Development and Green Initiative Manager for the Tile Council of North America (TCNA), points out, “Tile is a natural choice when building green. It is ecologically advantageous, and the use of tile is consistent with green building practices.” In fact, he adds, “Tile is inherently green. It was green before green was cool.”

Executive director of TCNA, Eric Astrachan, says that TCNA put together 60 technical experts to work on green initiatives. Some of the information can be found in the TCNA 2009 handbook, where there is an eight-page insert called “Tile is the Natural Choice,” which details the reasons why tile is green.

Dark green vs. light green

In many ways, tile manufacturers have always used sustainable practices, because they were cost efficient and just made sense. These practices include closed loop water processing and recycling pre- and post-production waste and dust within the factory. Still, if tile is intrinsically green, how does one distinguish those manufacturers who take extra steps to stand out in the crowd and make their products even more sustainable?

According to Griese, “One should look beyond inherent green properties of tile to identify the companies that are using innovative technologies to add to the green quotient.”

Now manufacturers are taking sustainability even further by coming up with novel ways to recycle post-consumer waste, reduce transportation burdens, and even use innovative technologies to convert smog to breathable air.

With everyone claiming that their products are environmentally friendly, it can be hard to distinguish between green and what is referred to as “greenwashing.” In a recent focus group by Market Resource Associates, the builders surveyed had little idea of what was available, beyond energy efficiency. Dealers were seen as merely setting price and were judged on location, not on ability to provide reliable info for their clients.

Griese says, “Green building is not static, it is dynamic. Definitions vary, depending on objectives, current events and point-of-view. One way of looking at it is to consider natural resource conservation, to reduce the environmental burden. Environmental and human health, sustainability and affordability must also be considered.”

“The tile industry should also be talking about life cycle, recycled materials, transportation, air quality, and maintenance issues,” says Griese.


TCNA had an independent consultant analyze flooring life cycle cost, which includes installation, materials, maintenance and removal. The results show that all kinds of tile, “Cost less per year than all other floor finishes over the life of a building.”

Because replacing flooring uses resources, it is much better for the environment that tiles do not need to be replaced nearly as often as other products. This cuts down on manufacturing, transportation, installation and waste materials. While the study suggests that tiles last fifty years, obviously tiles can last significantly longer.

Regarding air quality, Griese says, “Unlike other flooring industries, like carpet and resilient flooring manufacturers, the tile industry is late to promote itself in this way. While carpet manufacturers tout their ‘reduced VOCs,’ (volatile organic compounds) we have not gotten the point across that tile has no VOCs whatsoever.”

Griese explains, “Tile is inhospitable to dust mites and mold. The tile itself has no VOCs and the adhesives have little or none. Tile has no VOCs because they are fired at high temperature, and at 2000 degrees not too many organics can survive.” As for setting materials, he says, “There are no VOCs in sand adhesive cement, and if there are no VOCs at the beginning, you won’t end with any. Mastic and resins may contain a few VOCs, but nearly all manufacturers are in compliance.”

Cleaning a product with harsh chemicals detracts from its indoor health factor. “Tile requires low cleaning and maintenance, which negates the need for chemicals,” says Griese.

Ceramic Tiles of Italy’s Green card emphasizes this point, “Maintenance is simple: warm water and neutral cleaners are the only cleaning products required. Additionally, tiles are inert and do not release any substance; therefore they do not increase the level of toxicity of cleaning products that, after use, are flushed into the ecosystem, such as chemicals and solvents. This easy maintenance contributes to consumer cost savings over the life of the installation.”

According to Court, “One of the criteria people are looking at is the distance [between manufacture and installations]. Some are interested in local products, and apart from that, shipping costs matter. We scout out materials not only for how they are made, but where they are made.”

“There is a perception that green products cost more,” says Court. “I tell my clients that they can think of this comparison: ‘Why do organic groceries cost more?’

“While cost is an issue for some, it just depends, and green isn’t always that much more money. Many times, the tiles are comparably priced to another high end, handmade ceramic tile. Green tile does not cost more than art studio produced handmade tile. Stone, if it comes from closer, can cost less money because of the shipping. Cork isn’t expensive to begin with. Cement tiles aren’t expensive. Recycled glass is comparable to other glass products. So it isn’t really accurate to say that green products cost more, at least not in all our materials. That isn’t why they are expensive,” says Court.

Anti-pollution tile

Several years ago, Italian tile manufacturer, Gruppo Ceramiche Gambarelli promoted a new technology that enabled them to incorporate titanium dioxide into the surface of the tile. Those tiles are now in production and have been used in multiple installations in Italy.

Oxygena works by converting pollutant gases into nitrate ions, which combines with water to become inert. According to the company, sunlight hits the titanium oxide in the tiles, and the photocatalytic properties produce oxygen. The tiles come in five lines and multiple colors and sizes for interior and exterior applications.

BionicTile by Ceracasa is an innovative new product that uses nanotechnology to filter nitrous oxide from the air. The company says that BionicTile improves the environment by continuously decontaminating the air, filtering harmful nitrous oxide, the air contaminant responsible for acid rain and a leading cause of climate change and pulmonary diseases.

The company claims that one square meter of BionicTile is able to decompose 31.2 mg of nitrous oxide an hour. At this rate, an urban core of 200 buildings covered in Bionic Tile would remove 82 tons of nitrous oxide a year.

The tile won the 2009 Alfa De Oro award for most innovative product. According to Spanish tile manufacturer Ceracasa, this new tile will be available to come to market by the end of this year.

StonePeak Ceramics announced new titanium dioxide photocatalytic tiles that will reduce organic and inorganic pollutants. According to Dr. Jennifer Ariss, research scientist at TCNA, “Photocatalysis is a simple chemical reaction, requiring only light and water to be activated.”

Noah Chitty, Director of Technical Services and Quality Assurance at StonePeak Ceramics, adds, “The main difference between the two technologies [StonePeak and Ceracasa] is that we are not using nanotechnology in the manufacturing process (micrometric is the terminology we have used). We have also found higher reactivity in the technology that we have developed than some of the other similar products we have studied. The reduction in NOx gases is for exterior use and the interior would be the anti-microbial benefits.”

“The main market for this type of tile is definitely vertical and exterior application,” says Elena Limon, StonePeak’s Southwest Regional Account and Architectural Manager.

This photocatalytic tile will be launched in the fall of 2009 with one or two collections in 12″ x 24″ and 24″ x 24″ formats.

Ultra thin, technical porcelain

This year, several manufacturers have introduced ultra thin, high performance, large format porcelain tile. These tiles are very light, minimizing transportation burdens on the environment and reducing installation costs.

SlimmKer by Inalco is 4 mm thick porcelain, available in 18″ x 35″. It is easy to cut or perforate, and is lightweight. A new anchorage system allows for easy replacement, reducing landfill waste and demolition mess.

Ceramiche Ceasar offers large format porcelain, 3m x 1m and only 4.6 mm thick, mounted on fiberglass, with 40% recycled content.

Provenza’s EcoMood is a very thin tile for walls and floors with texture available in large format. It consists of 40% certified recycled content.

Kerlite by Cotto D’Este offers a range of colors and sizes in 3mm thick porcelain tile for interior and exterior cladding. Optional fiberglass backing adds one half millimeter to the thickness. The tiles are available up to 3m x 1m.

Products with recycled content

Crossville Tile has been committed to sustainability issues for years and their website is a good source of information on the subject. “We’re a member of the Green Building Council,” says marketing manager Laurie Lyza.

“This is a great illustration of how Crossville works,” says Lyza. “We’re going to be able to recycle fired tile. This is a huge investment, but it will solve the problem of how to make new tile from old tile.

Eventually we’ll implement a tile take back program for previously installed tiles, resolving the issue: ‘What do you do with a product that was designed to last forever?’ Well, we’re working out the details and we will start productions with our fired tile this summer.”

Depending on the color, the Echo Glass line contains 10% to 100% recycled content. “We’ve worked on formulations and we’re in the process of getting this line certified by Scientific Certification Systems,” says Lyza.

The first certified recycled tile, EcoCycle is Crossville’s certified recycled porcelain stone. It is available in 24″ x 24″ and 12″ x 24″ with a minimum 20% pre-consumer waste.

For introduction this summer, Urban Renewal is a line of metal accent and trim pieces made with 60% post consumer recycled material. Because of a dimensional composite body, the pieces are very light.

Plan is a stone look, technical porcelain for commercial and residential exteriors. The minimalist, textured surface provides a high coefficient of friction and metallic micro-crystals create a subtle shimmer. Plan is the first tile to receive the Porcelain Tile Certification Agency’s new “Certified Porcelain Tile” designation.

Canadian company Interstyle primarily manufactures glass tiles, but has ceramics, terracotta and glass countertops as well. The terracotta tiles have 50% recycled glass content, which gives them low water absorption, according to senior vice president Mike Hauner. Icestix is a 100% post and pre-industrial recycled glass tile line. Countertops are made of leftovers from glass tile production. They are available up to 4′ x 8′ and are made to order from over 300 colors.

Roca Ceramica’s Green Earth and Green Urban series use 80% recycled pre-consumer waste. Green Earth is a porcelain tile for rustic interiors, while Green Urban is a minimalist stone look suitable for floors and walls, interiors and exteriors.

Artisan tile and countertop slab factory, Trinity and Squak offer a natural stone alternative made with low-carbon cement, waste paper and recycled glass. Squak slabs are ¾” thick and are available from 12″ x 12″ up to 56″ x 96″. Handfinishing with natural variation gives it a rustic character and an aged look.

According to owner Ameé Quiriconi, “Trinitry is a more refined look and is as close to natural stone as you can get. It has the same characteristics with reduced quarried materials.” Slabs are made with 70% recycled content.

In its plant located in Tennessee, Italian tile manufacturer Graniti Fiandre uses a 100% closed loop process to recoup raw material and water. Eighty products from 15 collections have been certified as having over 40% recycled content.

Demand for Green Tile

“Here on Long Island, interest in green materials has grown, so we have found lots of tile to satisfy that need. The other reason we sell green products is that we like to do it. I would add that the products are also beautiful—they aren’t second rate at all,” says Court.

“Ultimately, it may not be the final choice that they make, but green products are requested and considered by my clients. It seems like something they are looking to do whenever possible.”


Tile Council North America


Gruppo Ceramiche Gambarelli




Cotto D’Este






Graniti Fiandre


Trinity and Squak





A dramatic video on YouTube that describes how BionicTile works,


Alan Court


Green Building: Fad or Fact of Life for the Tile Business?
November 2nd, 2008

November – December 2008

W hen you hear “Green” what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? If you’re like most Americans, you think of the environment and you have definitely been influenced one way or the other. You may have been green-washed into the hype, or you might actually be a seeker of a greener world, but one way or another you have been touched by “Green.”

So, how does this affect us in the tile and stone industry? Do we really have to get prepared for a change in the way we DO things?

Let’s look at an example. There is a respected specification writer at one of America’s Top 5 Green Design Architectural Firms, who has ultimate responsibility for all of the firm’s specifications. Every time he hears green-anything, let alone the “L word” (LEED), he groans, and rolls his eyes! It has been said “he hasn’t acquired a taste for the green Kool-Aid yet.”

In actuality, he is very knowledgeable about green building practice; he is just tired of trying to sort through all the green hype for the facts. Where do you go for the facts, and who verifies something’s greenness? You can’t even trust a good Wiki, let alone a piece of literature from a manufacturer. The fact is there aren’t many good green barometers in this fast paced, “get it now” world, and as a result the consumer choices to be green are limitless and very difficult to verify.

So do you understand all the issues surrounding the green movement? Are you a supporter or a foe? It is becoming increasingly difficult to stay neutral.

The greening of America has introduced itself into every aspect of life. It’s in the products we buy, the education of our children, our buildings, our news, our politics, the cars we drive, and even our homes. How do you wade through all of the issues to know if you are even on the proverbial bandwagon or not?

Long gone are the extremes of left-wing, tree-hugger environmentalist and right-wing, air-polluting, land- gobbling, big-money business. Today we have a media-certified version of a conservationist that allows us to label ourselves as “green” without sacrificing any creature comforts. To top it all off, we are even willing to spend MORE money to be able to label ourselves “concerned about the environment.”

Extremes of Green

So what are the modern day two extremes of green? They come down to our choices and whether they are based on moral or economic factors.

If you are on the moral side of the green fence, you probably recycle, turn off unnecessary lights in your home, and maybe even take shorter showers. We do these things because we have been influenced that wasting natural resources is bad. This moral seed of green was planted in our psyche with the oil embargo crisis of the early 1970’s. The concept of modern recycling efforts was launched at the very first Earth Day April 22, 1970, Greenpeace followed in 1971, and the very first environmental legislation was enacted for clean water, pure air and energy conservation. While there are definitely economics to this personal choice approach to green, for the most part we have always made these green decisions because we want to practice conservation of our natural resources—energy, fuel, air, water and land.

If you’re in ANY sector of the construction industry, you’ll also associate “Green” with the built environment and the economics of building. Consume Less energy = Lower Operating Costs, Less Emissions = Better Air Quality, Water Efficient Faucets and Toilets = Less water wasted, and Less Construction / Remodel Waste = Fewer acres converted to landfills.

Documented efforts to “Green” our buildings started in the late 1980’s with organizations such as the AIA Committee on the Environment 1989 and were furthered by the EPA Energy Star Program 1992 and the USGBC founded in 1993. While these efforts have their roots in the moral decisions of conservation, their growth has definitely been fueled by the continually rising costs of all the natural resources required to construct and operate our buildings. Many a foe of “Green” has “drunk the Kool-Aid” in the belief that their choice will gift them with future economic reprieve.

Throughout history, we have learned that today’s great invention could become the environmental catastrophe of tomorrow. Think of lead paint, asbestos, burning coal, nuclear energy and waste, plastic, clear-cutting forests and so on. There has always been a division between the most cost effective way to manufacture the products we need, and the balance of the earth’s chemistry.

Environmental Choices

Recently, environmental choices have become a daily part of our social structure. This main stream approach has nurtured a new focus on the need to be able to systematically measure different products and process for their greenness. A whole new industry has emerged that is focused on removing the green hype and offering apples to apples third party certification of products.

In the construction industry, the most well known tool for measuring green is the USGBC measurement system called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). As a not for profit group, the USGBC is made up of people from all different views of the green issues. Collectively, as a voice they want to influence the greenness of our built environment.

At first, the focus of the group was on new construction, and it has now grown into specialized programs for schools, hospitals and even homes. Through volunteer lobbying efforts, the group has been able to gain the support of government jurisdictions to adapt the LEED parameters into legislation as either guidelines or in some cases certification. There are many other regional and global types of these organizations all focused on one common goal—making the world greener.

History proves that as public awareness and concern for the environment grows, so does the pressure to create legislation. Our first major federal environmental legislation as a country came in the form of protecting our land with the Forest Reserve Act of 1891. This act allowed the president to set aside land in the public domain. Then with state legislative pressure, congress passed the Air Pollution Control Act in 1955. In the 1960’s, Americans went through a whole new outrage with oil spills and abuse of the earth and its inhabitants.

As a result, the 1970’s saw aggressive legislation from Congress on all sorts of environmental factors including, land, air, water, endangered species and energy. This is also when the Department of Energy was created in 1977. This creation consolidated energy related functions from several federal agencies into a single cabinet-level organization.

For the next two decades, environmental legislation was enhanced and amended. In the 1990’s there was renewed focus on better air quality, more fuel efficient, lower emission vehicles and development of alternative energy. Then came the Energy Policy Act of 1992, which required the Secretary of Energy to set efficiency standards for all new federal buildings and outlined plans to decrease America’s dependency on petroleum. This act was furthered with EPACT of 2005, which tied in significant tax credits for conservation and energy efficiency programs.

Economic Necessity

So what binds together the moral, economic and legislative choices, and keeps today’s “green” from just being the next fad? Many believe that a marriage has been born out of economic necessity, much like the panic of the 1970’s. As a result, we are at the precipice of the true “greening” of our legislation. The environmentalists may have started the race, but manufacturers and retailers have picked up the baton. Corporations and homeowners are concerned and are pushing our government at all levels to become “green”.

Also take a look at the organizations that are relied upon when setting our standards. The American Institute of Architects, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA), the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and the U.S. Conference of Mayors have agreed to jointly promote the goal of net zero energy building by 2030. To put that into plain English, the groups that help set our federal standards, design our buildings and pen our guidelines for the amount of electricity we use are pushing for buildings that don’t use ANY energy off of the public grid. Think wind mills and solar panels on every hospital and two story office building.

You think that’s scary? Google the newest federal legislation—the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) signed by President Bush December 21, 2007. This bill was designed to build off of the EPACT of 2005 and further define our environmental goals for the 21st century.

Are you concerned that in your wired-in 24/7 world that you’ve never even heard of this act? Don’t be. Like most of our legislation, the impacts are not felt until long after their implementation. If you actually caught the blip on CNN, you probably remember something about improved vehicle fuel economy and the phase out of the incandescent light bulb. But read deeper—section 422 establishes a net zero-energy goal for all high-performance commercial buildings built after 2025. Currently our commercial buildings use 70% of all the energy consumed in America. We were going to take that to zero in 17 years? With what renewable energy source? Our technologies for harvesting and storing solar and wind energies are in their infancy.

Why Care?

So at this point, you are thinking, “Well that’s a great history lesson, but I’m in the tile business, so why do I care about all the energy stuff?” Let me bring it closer to home. That ASHRAE group and the IESNA and USGBC have joined together to create Standard 189 which, if adopted, will be the first green building standard in the United States. It outlines minimum guidelines for all commercial buildings and major renovations by addressing water efficiency, use of land, air quality, energy and materials and resources. Guess where tile and stone falls? You got it: Materials and Resources with a nod to air quality.

Are you reminiscing on a recent experience or story you’ve heard about a LEED project? Well get ready, this standard is not a rating system like LEED, or even an industry design guide. This is a Government Standard that will be a Certificate-of-Occupancy checklist item for local building code inspectors. That means if Standard 189 is adopted, the GC will have to meet certain minimum “green” standards in order to get a CO on the project. And the building inspectors are there to ensure compliance! How’s that for a light year leap into your projects?

So whether you’re the person that conserves everything, and uses alternative measures to get to work or the person that started out this article wondering why you’re reading about the history of the color green—beware. Green Fad is about to collide with Green Fact, and we’ve got Government Legislation to red tape it together. Has all this reading gotten you thirsty? How about some of that “green Kool-Aid”?

Kirby Davis, CSI, CCTS, CDT, LEED AP, is Senior Architectural Specialist, Dallas and South Central USA, for LATICRETE International, Inc.

Seeing Green
July 2nd, 2008

By Janet Arden, Editor

July-August 2008

If there was one clear message at Coverings 2008, it’s that greenbuilding is not just here to stay, it’s one of the keys to today’s marketplace. The green-ness of any product is a plus. Qualifying for LEED points is even better. Should we be surprised? I don’t think so.

In fact, I think the green marketplace has been a long time coming. For a long time it seemed as if no one was listening. Oh, we recycled our newspapers and glass. A good friend gave up holiday wrapping paper in favor of homemade re-useable fabric gift bags.

But I think we also all found ways to get around it. Despite my enthusiasm for the compost pile at the back of the garden, I parked an SUV in my driveway.

Unlike some trends that have driven the marketplace, green seems to be driven by the consumer. Builders, remodelers, manufacturers and everyone in between recognizes that today’s consumer values the qualities represented by green building.

First, greenbuilding saves money in the long run. We’ve been at it long enough now to see real savings from energy efficient systems. This has been particularly telling as energy costs continue to skyrocket.

Early in the movement, government entities, education and institutional building began to require a minimal level of LEED certification. This lead to the development and use of increasingly green alternatives that translate easily into other structures. Today there are more green options and they are better.

A recent report published by NAHB pointed to results of a McGraw Hill Construction Survey indicating that the consumer values the higher quality associated with green building. Now that housing values are not rising as they once did and home sales are stagnant, the green features of one home can give it a real advantage over less-green homes in the same marketplace.

If you are not developing at least a working familiarity with green products, you owe it to your business and your customers to do so. Start with our feature on “Getting LEED Credit for Flooring Materials.” Next, talk to your suppliers about how their products fit into the greenbuilding landscape. You may have more green products than you realize.

Share your knowledge. Host a “green seminar” with an appropriate speaker from one of your suppliers and invite your best customers and prospects to learn more. Highlight those products in your showroom that are green, so customers can spot them. And when customers do show interest in green products, be prepared to discuss the pros and cons with them.

Elsewhere in this issue, Patti Fasan wastes no time making her point about the value of quality in our current One-on-One interview. We suggest you read it, re-read it and then share it with your employees.

If you have attended one of Patti’s high-energy technical and/or design presentations at Coverings or Surfaces, you know that she is passionate about the ceramic tile industry. In this interview she talks about how you can respond to the current economy.

Last, but certainly not least, take a look at our Showroom Seminar for some ideas on new products that could just help deliver a few new customers.

Best wishes for a green season!

Foster and Clark Real Estate
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