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Tile companies emphasize green initiatives

Sept. 16/23 2013; Volume 27/number 11

By Louis Iannaco

Screen Shot 2013-09-25 at 2.13.52 PMAs consumers learn more about the benefits of product sustainability, tile associations and producers are increasingly embracing the concept of answering the green call through the creation of initiatives, programs and product offerings leading to a market that has now become permeated with environmentally friendly products.

With ceramic and porcelain tile already considered an ecofriendly product, the segment has raised the bar with what can still be achieved regarding sustainability. According to Bill Griese, standards development and green initiative manager for the Tile Council of North America (TCNA), with the recent approval of LEED Version 4, much attention is now given to new and significantly revised standards for products. “These requirements encompass several new concepts, which have been maturing over the past few years and, in fact, have already taken effect within several other green building standards and rating systems.

“TCNA has focused much of its efforts on participating in standardization discussions to keep manufacturers abreast of trending practices and form initiatives which keep the industry well-suited for conformance to new green building requirements,” he explained.

Today’s requirements for building product focus on multi-attribute sustainability performance, lifecycle impacts and transparency. To capture these new ways of thinking in product selection processes, Griese explained that architects and specifiers are using two different tools: industry standards and environmental data sheets.  For the tile segment, Green Squared Certification addresses industry standards, while the latter is being addressed by a new initiative of TCNA and its members to conduct product life cycle assessments (LCAs) and environmental product declarations (EPDs).

An EPD is a report of quantified environmental impacts of a product based on its LCA, he explained. “Similar in concept to a nutrition label, an EPD tells a product’s full environmental story in a familiar reporting format so an end user can make an informed decision [on a product]. EPDs have been common worldwide for quite some time, but they have only recently been gaining popularity in the North American green building marketplace. It can be expected EPDs will be in high demand in the years ahead, as they are an important component to the overall lifecycle evaluation of a building.”

With the new initiative to establish an industry-wide EPD, i.e., a generic EPD for tile, noted Griese, “We will be well positioned with baseline data and a common foundation upon which future EPD and LCA initiatives can grow in a consistent and organized fashion.”

Manufacturers, both domestic and abroad, continue to participate in TCNA’s Green Squared program and Griese projects an increased number of tile products conforming to the multi-attribute sustainability requirements of today. “While EPDs provide architects and specifiers with lifecycle data and transparent facts, they don’t state or interpret whether a product satisfies performance thresholds. That’s where Green Squared certification comes into play, as it’s a valuable tool for determining which products are in conformance with multi-attribute thresholds established by major green building standards and rating systems.”

In recent years, a growing number of tile producers have had their products Green Squared certified, including Dal-Tile, Crossville, StonePeak, Florida Tile, Interceramic, Vitromex and Mapei. “This standard is very important in helping us better assist our customers in the specification of tile products that meet both the sustainability and usability needs of the spaces they create,” said Robert Hurt, director of environmental, health & safety for Dal-Tile.

“The certification offers a clear definition of what the industry defines as a ‘green’ product,” he explained, “thereby, making it easier for our customers to identify environmentally friendly products for their flooring needs. It means when our customers choose a Dal-Tile product for their sustainable projects, it isn’t just an easy decision; it’s one they can make with total confidence.

Initially, not all Dal-Tile products achieved Green Squared certification. However, over the course of the last 12 months, the company’s Lewisport, Ky., quarry tile plant made changes in formulations to include additional recycled materials, which now means 100% of Dal-Tile’s manufactured products meet the requirements for Green Squared certification to the ANSI Standard—A138.1 Sustainable Tile & Installation Materials.

Sustainability is a continued focus for the Daltile and American Olean brands. “As a company, we intend to push faster into more sustainable products and promote our extended lifecycle story,” said Hurt, “which is both environmentally friendly and a real value to the end user.” Some specific examples include:

•The implementation of an energy conservation measure to reduce the amount of natural gas needed to produce Dal-Tile products.

•The creation of a unique transportation project to load the company’s tile with lightweight, hi-volume materials. A truck fully loaded with tile takes up less than 25% of the volume of a trailer truck. This allows the truck to fully utilize available space and significantly reduce the transportation miles and costs for both Dal-Tile and its partners.

Dal-Tile is also pursuing efforts to help its parent company, Mohawk Industries, achieve its corporate goal of a 20% reduction in energy, water and waste intensity by 2020.

At Crossville, there has been emphasis on the effects regarding its new Hydrotect coating product. “It’s in line with our commitment to environmental innovation,” said Noah Chitty, director of technical services. “Hydrotect contributes to cleaner indoor and outdoor environments. It gives antimicrobial, easy- or self-cleaning and air-purifying properties to the tile to which it is fired. It kills odor-causing bacteria, reduces dirt and oil accumulation and rids the air of odors and mono-nitrogen oxides—which contribute to smog. Applications for tile with Hydrotect coating include building exteriors, commercial kitchens, public restrooms and residential use.”

According to Lindsey Waldrep, vice president of marketing, Crossville aims to grow its Tile Take-Back recycling program even more during the next year. “The program has a strong root system and a history of measurable impact, especially when coupled with our TOTO recycling partnership. As we involve more of our distributor network, we’ll all see more positive results that are good for our businesses, industry and environment.

“Green Squared is very important,” she explained. “We value the program as the best way to identify green products for the marketplace. It’s a young program and has a ways to go to become widely recognized by product specifiers, but it’s up to manufacturers like Crossville to carry the message, promote the certification and teach the market. We’re doing this through use of Green Squared icons on product literature—in print and online, as well as in other marketing materials, our blog and social media.”

Mapei initially sought certification for Quality Management (ISO 9001) for its operations facilities and headquarters in the Americas, and has recently begun the process of certifying its plants andScreen Shot 2013-09-25 at 2.14.13 PM headquarters for Environmental Management (ISO 14001) as well. Four of the company’s facilities have already completed the ISO 14001 requirements for certification, and three more have passed Stage 1 and are preparing for the final stage.

“Mapei’s commitment to the environment involves our products, our people, our plants and our processes,” said Neil McMurdie, research/development director, Mapei Americas. “Mapei has received TCNA’s Green Squared certification for its first tile and stone installation product—Ultralite Mortar.” As a TCNA member, Mapei committed itself to this sustainability program from its inception. “We’re pleased to be the first installation products maker to have a product certified under this rigorous standard.”

Each of the six production facilities where Mapei manufactures Ultralite Mortar had to pass more than 35 tests for sustainability before the certification was awarded by SCS Environmental Certification Services, one of TCNA’s approved third-party certifiers.

“We have for many years practiced sustainability on a global scale, and the standard practices and processes we have in place at all Mapei facilities have helped us achieve the Green Squared certification,” McMurdie explained. “We strongly support TCNA’s efforts to demonstrate through the Green Squared program that tile and stone are a vital part of a sustainable built environment.”

Marazzi is not presently Green Squared certified, but will be soon. Marianne Cox, director of marketing, told FCNews, “We strive every day to ensure that in our day-to-day operations we consider our impact not only on our environment, but also our community. We’re in the final stages of obtaining Green Squared Certification, and we believe this program will have a major impact on our business as it gains awareness. Our plans are to announce our certification by the end of the year.”

Bob Baldocchi, director of marketing at Emser Tile, spoke about the company’s environmental initiatives, many of which pertain to the company’s distribution facilities, “which are helping maintain a lower usage of energy. In moving to propane, to better efficiency within our lighting structure, to more efficiency with our heating and cooling elements—we’ve really made strides in the last year in terms of getting our distribution centers to act in a more efficient manner and to drive a lot less energy usage.”

Regarding today’s ceramic tile manufacturing techniques, Baldocchi noted, companies have become a lot more efficient in their processes so as to lessen their carbon footprint. “It’s critical that people keep their eyes on that. We’re very interested in Green Squared and have been working with our factories to start complying and improving their efficiency.”