by Bill Griese, LEED AP
Product standard and certification program Green Squared helps manufacturers, specifiers, and purchasers of ceramic tile and related installation materials navigate through the complexities of North American sustainability principles. It packages together a variety of criteria and establishes a clear and consistent “bar,” alleviating the hassle of cross evaluating single-attribute sustainability claims. Ecomedes, a sustainable products database representing more than 500,000 products, has partnered with Green Squared to establish a centralized online database of Green Squared-certified products, including those for which environmental product declarations (EPDs) are available. The goal is to establish ways for specifiers, designers, purchasers, and users of tile and related installation materials to easily obtain the product information needed to fulfill their environmental goals.
Renewed interest in environmental sustainability standards
The Green Squared certification program, along with EPDs for North American-made ceramic tile, mortar, and grout, are garnering more attention from architects, designers, specifiers, and purchasers. This growth is due in large part to two major milestones in green building:
- widespread implementation of U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC’s) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) v4; and
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) recommendation that federal purchasers consider a host of standards, certifications, and ecolabels to assist in the identification and procurement of environmentally sustainable products.
These milestones have renewed green building conversations and have increased focus on all environmental sustainability standards and metrics, including Green Squared and EPDs.
The LEED Pilot Credit, “Certified Multi-Attribute Products and Materials,” awards one point if a certain percentage of building products are certified to meet their relevant industry sustainability standards. With Green Squared listed in LEED as the appropriate standard/certification program for the tile industry, use of Green Squared-certified tiles and installation materials can contribute toward this point.
Further, since LEED Materials and Resource (MR) credits have, for several years, been heavily focused on product transparency and the availability of environmental data, a formal report of a material’s environmental footprint is significant. Industry-wide EPDs are available for North American-made tile, grout, and mortar to help projects seeking LEED points meet transparency requirements. The tile industry has three separate industry-wide EPDs certified by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) for North American-made ceramic tile, mortar, and grout. Representing roughly 0.31 billion m2 (3.35 billion sf) of tile and 2.25 billion kg (5 billion lb) of grout and mortar produced annually, these EPDs cover the vast majority of North American-made products. Each EPD reports the 60-year impact potential, per installed square meter, for each of the following major environmental categories:
- Global warming;
- Ozone depletion;
- Smog formation;
- Elemental; and
- Fossil abiotic resource depletion.
Product-specific EPDs are also available which report environmental data on a proprietary basis.
The Green Squared standard, American National Standards Institute (ANSI) A138.1, Green Squared American National Standard Specifications for Sustainable Ceramic Tiles, Glass Tiles, and Tile Installation Materials, was developed by ANSI Accredited Standards Committee (ASC) A108, which represents manufacturers,
distributors, installers, green building professionals, and relevant interests. As a stakeholder-developed standard, Green Squared is supported by a broad consensus across the tile industry for the benefit of consumers and the environment. It covers the full range of products used in a tile installation from product characteristics and manufacturing to end-of-product life management, progressive corporate governance, and the establishment of sustainability criteria for products throughout their life cycle. Some standard criteria are mandatory, and others are elective. To meet ANSI A138.1, a product must meet all mandatory requirements and obtain a minimum threshold of elective credits. Credit weighting of each elective is based on committee dialogue, which took into consideration both stringency and environmental relevance.
As the only multi-attribute sustainability standard developed for tiles and tile installation materials, Green Squared uses the transparency and consensus of the ANSI process, combined with third-party certification, to evaluate, validate, and communicate Green Squared-certified products that have a positive impact on the environment and society.
Certified product searchability
In light of growing demands for Green Squared-certified tiles and installation materials, a library and search engine are now incorporated into the Green Squared website. Searching for Green Squared-certified products previously involved contacting approved certification agencies or inquiring with manufacturers. The Green Squared-Ecomedes partnership provides a dynamic and up-to-date listing of certified products housed in one place and managed by Ecomedes, which automates product selection conforming to federal green procurement standards, LEED, the Living Building Challenge, the WELL rating system, and several other green building codes, standards, and rating systems.
Ecomedes interfaces directly with participating manufacturers and their Green Squared certification agencies to ensure up-to-date listings. Plus, each entry within the Green Squared-certified database contains green building product information of value to project leaders, architects, and designers. Examples include downloadable certificates, EPDs, and additional educational resources. Users of the library have the option to filter Green Squared-certified products by manufacturer, certification agency, or products with EPDs.
Green building database syndication
Green building specifiers and purchasers use a variety of product locator tools. Therefore, the Ecomedes-Green Squared partnership is significant as it facilitates representation of Green Squared certified tiles and installation materials as green building-eligible products in other outside databases. This is achieved through database syndication.
All information within the Green Squared-certified product database is syndicated with Ecomedes’s master database, Fulcrum, a green product library used by many of the largest architectural firms and purchasing organizations in the United States. Further, Ecomedes has partnered with some of the largest purchasing organizations in the country, including the General Services Administration (GSA) and the California Energy Commission, to develop libraries containing only products satisfying a particular purchaser’s needs. As an example, Ecomedes is the exclusive host of the online product library used by federal purchasing officials to find certified green products. Green Squared-certified products entered into Ecomedes’s database become a part of other libraries created by Ecomedes for purchasers.
The information partnership between Ecomedes and the tile industry delivers a flagship database that is a specification and acquisition advantage for green building professionals.
Key in the development of sustainable products and operations is progressive thinking, technical advancement, and outstanding achievement. Green Squared has committed to innovation as a main tenet of its multi-attribute structure. This responsibility to serve industry professionals with a standard of excellence drove the Ecomedes collaboration, which ultimately serves best the end user and our planet.
For more information about Green Squared and direct linkage to the Green Squared-certified product library, click here.
Bill Griese, LEED AP, is the Tile Council of North America’s (TCNA’s) director of standards development and sustainability initiatives. A Fellow of the ASTM Society, Griese serves on numerous standards committees including the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Accredited Standards Committee A108 where he spearheaded the development of Green Squared. Griese is also a U.S. delegate for the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Committee TC 189. Griese earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Ceramic and Materials Engineering from Clemson University in Clemson, South Carolina. He can be reached at bgriese@TCNAtile.com.