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Green Building & Natural Stone
Sustainability Through Natural Stone
A conversation with the Natural Stone Council’s John Mattke
Three years ago, the Natural Stone Council (NSC) took enormous steps to establish natural stone as a preferred, sustainable building material. After the most comprehensive survey to date of the natural stone industry’s practices, the NSC, in partnership with the University of Tennessee’s Center for Clean Products (CCP), has produced a library of information regarding Genuine Stone® and the environment (www.genuinestone.com). Their progressive research has substantiated that natural stone possesses many benefits and is a smart green building material.
John Mattke: The NSC was committed to substantiating the industry’s environmental footprint through scientific means using a credible and neutral third party that we found in CCP. We were sensitive to “greenwashing” and did not want to be associated with it in any way. (Greenwash is a term used to describe the practice of companies disingenuously spinning their products and policies as environmentally friendly.)
Mattke: I think all of the resources we’ve produced will be of interest to masons. If forced to pick one, I’d recommend reviewing our transportation best practice, www.genuinestone.com/content/file/Best Practices/Transportation Best Practice 071409.pdf. We found that implementing transportation management promotes shipment efficiency, ultimately minimizing negative impacts to the environment and reducing costs. A comprehensive and proactive transport strategy can also improve carrier-shipper relations and enhance the quarry’s, processing facility’s or mason’s reputation for social responsibility. Masons would also benefit from our case studies (www.genuinestone.com/env_researchandresults.php), which will help them better understand, maintain and execute the designers’/architects’ green design and specification of intent.
Mattke: In a word, “Yes!” Genuine Stone is a natural product that is durable and easy to maintain, and that lasts for more than 100 years. As stated earlier, the NSC has worked hard to ensure that we credibly characterize natural stone ourselves before it was defined by others for us. We have been extremely proactive and engaged a third party to help us, so that we can safely and accurately say that natural stone is green. Now that we have a better understanding of our environmental footprint, we can effectively compare natural stone to other building products and look at where we need to improve.
Mattke: Our overall Life Cycle Assessment will answer this question. In it, researchers evaluate different “Environmental Impact Categories” such as global warming, acidification, eutrophication, habitat alteration, natural-resource depletion, solid-waste generation, ozone depletion and indoor air quality, among other factors. This is the most quantitative and holistic approach to compare the numbers of one product relative to another.
Mattke: There are a variety of ways that stone can currently contribute to LEED points:
Beyond LEED, the green building movement has inspired numerous other green building certifications and programs in the United States and abroad. Some of these programs, such as The Living Building Challenge, seek to inspire builders, owners, architects, engineers and design professionals to build environmentally sound and self-sustaining buildings – buildings that actually “give back” to the ecosystem in which they are built. Developed in 2005 by the Cascadia Region Green Building Council, the Living Building Challenge promotes “no credits, only prerequisites,” meaning buildings must meet requirements such as generating all of its own energy with renewable resources, capturing and treating all of its water on site, and using resources efficiently and for maximum beauty. The program is comprised of six performance areas, or “petals,” including site, energy, water, materials, indoor quality, and beauty and inspiration. Each petal includes prerequisites that must be met in order to achieve that specific performance area designation.
Finally, the NSC is coordinating international discourse around the development of a green certification program for natural stone products. The certification is projected to address environmental topics, in addition to social and economic aspects of industry operations. We have been referencing the Forest Stewardship Council’s work on a “Chain of Custody” certification program to inform our thinking. We anticipate sharing more information on this effort in 2010.
Mattke: We hope that they understand and appreciate the stone industry’s overarching goal of positioning stone as not only a green building material, but also the preferable green building material. The NSC would also encourage masons to implement some of the best practices we’ve identified and use green materials.
Mattke: You are already a part of the stone industry community, given the nature of your business. By joining the NSC, you would be on the front lines of the industry’s sustainability effort and be able to leverage an established network of like-minded people. The natural stone industry is building for the future, and we would certainly welcome your involvement.
|Last Updated on Sunday, 01 November 2009 00:43|