In recent years, the green building movement has picked up speed. What many might have thought was just a trend at the time, has proven that it is now a way of thinking -- and designing. I have spoken with architects lately about current projects they are working on, and more often than not, the words "LEED certified" are brought up in the conversation. Building with the environment in mind is the norm now, and the architectural and design community are turning to materials that offer sustainability and contribute to LEED points.

While it can be argued that natural stone is the ultimate in sustainable material because it comes from the earth and provides a sense of permanence, there are questions about the energy it takes to produce the material and to transport it to a jobsite. LEED points are given if a stone is quarried within 500 miles of a project's location, but those in the stone industry believe there are more benefits to building with natural stone that need to be recognized.

The Natural Stone Council (NSC) has been working tirelessly for almost five years to put a standard in place that states it will "level the playing field between man's oldest building material and other building components."  "ANSI/NSC-373, Sustainable Production of Natural Dimension Stone" will permit quarriers, processors and fabricators of natural stone who consistently meet or exceed the standards to label and promote their stone products as "certified Genuine Stone®."

The NSC explains that the associated Chain of Custody standard is a companion document that tracks the material as it moves from the quarry through manufacturing and through the supply chain to the ultimate destination, including the jobsite or the end user. Distributors can obtain certification under the Chain of Custody protocols.

"Accounting for the sustainability of natural stone now encompasses how the stone is quarried, processed and transported, and how its use impacts the facilities, environments and people who work with it," said Moe Bohrer, Chairman of the NSC. "The entire process of determining a product's sustainability is part of the growing and global green building movement."

This is a huge breakthrough for the natural stone industry, and the NSC should be commended for its efforts. While I'm sure architects and designers have known that natural stone is the right choice when they are looking for a durable material, they now have more incentive to use it. If the material is a "certified Genuine Stone®" product, they can be confident that it contributes to their sustainable designs.

 Read more about the new NSC standard in the Industry Happenings section of this edition of the Stone Fabricator eNews