Q&A regarding stone and sustainability
by John Mattke, Chairman,
Natural Stone Council (NSC) Sustainability Committee
What are some questions I might expect from architects and designers about natural stone’s sustainability?
This is an important question and underscores the importance of substantiated sustainability. The design community is highly informed and can discern fact from fiction. Some of the questions you might expect include:
- Where is the source of the material?
- Where is the stone processed or fabricated?
- What is the Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA) of the product (in comparison with other competing products like concrete, brick, etc.) based on application/usage e.g., cladding, flooring?
- What is the life-cycle cost?
- Are there any chemicals or components on the final product?
- What is the VOC content?
- What process does the manufacturer have in place for waste reduction and recycling?
- How is the waste that is not re-used handled?
- What is the post-consumer recycled content? Post-industrial recycled content?
- What is the total energy consumed from cradle-to-gate (from extraction through processing)?
- What company programs are in place to reduce energy consumption and/or greenhouse gas emissions?
- Does any program exist to reuse or reclaim stone at the end of its lifetime?
- Are there any other initiatives to minimize the environmental impacts associated with natural stone from its extraction to its disposal?
- What steps has your company taken towards becoming socially (planned leadership, employee, community programs) and environmentally sustainable?
A good reference for where we believe the green movement is headed is Cascadia’s Living Building Challenge — www.cascadiagbc.org/lbc/resources1/materialsqnaire/building%20materials%20questionnaire. This not only asks questions about the material, but it also gets into your company’s social and environmental initiatives. Ultimately, that is how we believe companies will be evaluated in the future — the triple bottom line.
What are some ways you’ve implemented sustainable practices at Cold Spring Granite Co.?
We have done our best to be ahead of the curve. We began implementing lean practices in the late 1990s. Recently, we completed consolidation of several of our operations, which has reduced transportation costs, eliminated waste, updated/modernized stone processing, optimized energy efficiency and reduced water usage. We’ve seen an increase in energy efficiency by modernizing our equipment, and we’re proud that our water reclamation facility processes and re-uses over 95% of industrial water. Even our new headquarters building is LEED registered, pending certification. And it has all paid dividends. When visiting our facilities, architects and designers have frequently made comments about the approach we are taking. The truth of the matter is that we have been environmentally focused for a long time. My involvement in the NSC, and specifically as the chair of the sustainability committee, inspired me to form a sustainability committee within Cold Spring Granite Co. and take that commitment to another level.
What are the NSC’s plans for 2009?
We will continue to build our library of research-based documents and share them with the industry, including a comparative evaluation (Life-Cycle Assessment) of stone products versus other products in selected product classes to substantiate the benefits of stone in the marketplace. The NSC will be working to educate the industry and design community about the sustainability of Genuine Stone. The University of Tennessee will be presenting at the National AIA Convention in San Francisco this spring — using our industry as their case study for sustainability. We will also begin a road mapping process to chart key opportunities and challenges facing the natural stone industry in the immediate future with respect to sustainability. We want to stress that the success of the road map process relies on the active involvement of professionals and companies throughout our industry. If you would like to participate, or would simply like more details about the process as they become available, please contact us by phone, through the Genuine Stone Web site at www.GenuineStone.com, or notify Amanda McKenna at the University of Tennessee via e-mail at AMcKenna@utk.edu.
I’m on board in theory, but what can I personally do to help move the sustainability agenda forward?
Get in the game. Get involved. Take advantage of educational opportunities. Visit the Genuine Stone Web site and read the research documents housed there. Share them with your colleagues and customers. Join us in the road mapping process. Take a hard look at your company’s sustainability practices, and make improvements wherever you can. Engage in conversation with others in the industry — at industry meetings or conferences, by phone or even E-mail. We are all in this together. Keep in mind the environmental slogan, “Think globally. Act locally.” It certainly fits.
If you’d like to learn more about the NSC and their sustainability efforts, please visit www.GenuineStone.com, or contact John Mattke at 320-685-3621 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: Stone World Fabricator E News by Stone World Magazine