When it comes to design, "LEED-certified" and "sustainability" are two familiar terms these days. Architects and designers are working to build structures that are not only aesthetically pleasing, but also conserve energy and utilize green building materials.
Sectors such as the tile industry have more green products on the market than in years past. Whether these products are made of recycled material or are being processed using environmentally friendly methods, many tile manufacturers are going to great lengths to be more environmentally conscious.
Recently, I attended Cevisama in Valencia, Spain, which is an annual tile and bath furnishings exhibition. The show floor was filled with numerous innovative tile collections -- including some that were considered "green." Among these, one company that stood out to me was Onix, a Spanish manufacturer of glass mosaics. A total of 98% of the company's products are comprised of recycled material such as glass from car windshields. This is a prime example of a creative way manufacturers can assist in the green-building movement.
Meanwhile, in the stone sector, the Natural Stone Council (NSC) has formed a Sustainability Committee that is working diligently to define the natural stone industry's place in green building as defined by the American Institute of Architects (AIA): "Reducing building impacts on human health and environment through better siting, design, construction, operation, maintenance and removal -- the complete building life cycle."
An article outlining some of the objectives of the NSC's Committee on Sustainability, which was written by the committee's Chairman, is featured on page XX of this issue of Contemporary Stone & Tile Design. "Currently, the only Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) points that stone will generate is for local sourcing," states the article. "The opportunity exists for stone to garner LEED credits in material reuse, building reuse, low VOC and innovation credit as well, which is why more needs to be done to promote natural stone as a sustainable building material."
This issue also showcases the Twin Creeks Science and Education Center located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park of Tennessee, which was built to serve as a model for future National Park Service sites, and is on target to become one of the National Park Service's first LEED buildings in the Southeastern U.S. To adhere to the sustainable objective, regional river stone was applied as a battered wainscot around the exterior of the structure to help it harmonize with its mountainous surroundings, which also aided in taking advantage of the natural resources around the site.
While the green building movement has certainly come a long way in the last several years, there is still a need for awareness. It is important that associations and manufacturers in various sectors collaborate with the architecture and design community to build more sustainable buildings and, in general, preserve our environment.