Mother Nature's Green Building Material

The new sustainable stone standard (ANSI/NSC 373) will transform the material selection of natural stone
 
Sponsored by Natural Stone Institute
By Celeste Allen Novak FAIA, LEED AP BD+C
 
1 AIA LU/HSW; 1 GBCI CE Hour; 1 PDH, LA CES/HSW; 1 IDCEC CEU/HSW; 1 LFA CEU; 0.1 IACET CEU*

Learning Objectives:

  1. List the components of a new sustainable certification standard ANSI/NSC 373, which provides a life-cycle analysis (LCA) for dimensional stone products.
  2. Define the various components of an LCA.
  3. Discuss how compliance to ANSI/NSC 373’s national and international requirements for environmental, ecological, human health, and social responsibility in stone quarrying and production satisfies the growing demand for sustainable product declarations.
  4. Describe how the components of ANSI/NSC 373 are aligned with green building rating systems, such as LEED and the Living Building Challenge.
  5. Explain how the Chain of Custody Standard (NSC COC) for natural stone products ensures the traceability of certified stone throughout the supply chain, from quarry to gate.

This course is part of the Natural Stone Academy

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This course is part of the Natural Stone Academy

In the 1990s, “design thinking,” a method of using synthesis to analyze complex problems, was used to generate solutions to the growing problems from climate change. Architects like William McDonough began to rephrase the questions surrounding the degradation of natural resources and pollution as a design problem. In his seminal book From Cradle to Cradle, he introduces what has now become a tidal wave of life-cycle analysis (LCA) environmental initiatives that document where and how materials are sourced, produced, transported, and reused. Today, architects, engineers, contractors, building owners, managers, and the public are driving a building revolution that encourages the design and construction of healthy buildings. These buildings give to rather than take from the environment from design through construction practices, including the choice of sustainable building materials.

Inside of a building. This charcoal and white quartzite stack stone from Northern Stone Supply was supplied by Arizona Stone

Photo courtesy of Northern Stone Supply

Natural stone is beautiful, durable, sustainable, and easy to maintain. Stone can be used in a wide variety of exterior and interior applications, as seen in this Las Vegas residence. This charcoal and white quartzite stack stone from Northern Stone Supply was supplied by Arizona Stone.

As the green movement grows, construction and manufacturing industries have begun to meet the demand for rigorous environmental documentation of many common building materials. Among these, the latest green initiatives are coming from the natural stone industry. Natural stone rates high on an environmental scale. It is recyclable, low maintenance, emits no VOCs, and is one of the most durable and most beautiful materials on the planet. In the past decade, this industry has increased its commitment to sustainability through the development of a new life-cycle assessment combined with a chain-of-custody material certification approved by the American National Standard Institutes (ANSI) and the National Stone Council (NSC). ANSI/NSC 373: Sustainable Production of Natural Dimension Stone will transform the material selections of natural stone and the stone industry.

In response to a growing demand for life-cycle information and documentation of building materials, natural stone quarries and production companies have initiated the development of a new LCA cradle-to-gate certification program and standard. The companion NSC Chain of Custody Standard (NSC COC) provides documentation from cradle to gate, referring to the documentation of a material from quarries to the project site.

According to Jessica Slomka, manager, National Center for Sustainability Standards, NSF International, LEED AP BD C, the ANSI/NSC 373: Sustainable Production of Natural Dimension Stone “establishes criteria to measure the extent to which natural stone is extracted and processed sustainably. The standard employs a comprehensive life-cycle approach to ensure that the most relevant aspects of quarry operations and stone fabrication are considered in the criteria for certification. Compliance to ANSI/NSC 373’s national and international requirements for environmental, ecological, human health, and social responsibility in stone quarrying and processing will satisfy the growing demand for sustainable product declarations.”

Natural stone is beautiful, durable, and sustainable. Stone used as a landscape material can withstand the harshest climates, as demonstrated in this granite community fountain installed at the Denver Union Station.

Denver Union Station. Photography credit: Steve Maylone Photographer and Ryan Dravitz

Natural stone is beautiful, durable, and sustainable. Stone used as a landscape material can withstand the harshest climates, as demonstrated in this granite community fountain installed at the Denver Union Station.

Jason F. McLennan, founder and chair of the International Living Future Institute and its influential Living Building Challenge, Declare product database, and Living Future unConference, was one of the many architects consulted to review early versions of this standard. He recommended that the industry pursue a third-party chain-of-custody declaration as part of the final versions of ANSI/NSC 373. This declaration is similar to that provided by the Forest Stewardship Council for wood products. According to the Natural Stone Council, “The Chain of Custody Standard has been developed as part of the ongoing efforts of a number of interested parties to document and improve the sustainability profile of natural dimension stone production. This standard complements the ANSI/NSC 373: Sustainability Assessment for Natural Dimension Stone by driving sustainability throughout the supply chain. It ensures that natural stone products that are sustainably produced are also handled throughout the supply chain in a manner that ensures their sustainability. These requirements are intended to form the basis of conformity assessment programs, such as third-party certification or registration.”1

You see a natural stone Building: Natural stone is beautiful, durable, sustainable, and easy to maintain.

Photo courtesy of TexaStone Quarries

Green Market Drivers 101

The natural stone industry began this initiative to increase their market share of natural dimensional stone as a sustainable product. Since the 1990s, the growth of programs like the US Green Building Council LEED rating system, the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology (BREEAM) and the International Living Future Institute’s Living Building Challenge (LBC) are just a few of the tens of thousands of individuals promoting environmental design. They are choosing materials that reduce, recycle, and reuse scarce natural resources in the creation of resilient, healthy buildings because of increased environmental concerns. Their choices are backed by research and increasing statistics that prove the social, economic, and environmental benefits of building green.

LEED

The benefits to owners and users include energy savings from decreased operational costs, increased health benefits to occupants, increased property values, and decreased vacancy rates for LEED buildings. For example, the LEED Gold buildings in the General Services Administration’s portfolio generally:

• consume 25 percent less energy and 11 percent less water;
• have 19 percent lower maintenance costs;
• have 27 percent higher occupant satisfaction;
• and have 34 percent lower greenhouse gas emissions.2

In 2015, 40 to 48 percent of new nonresidential buildings were green projects, resulting in a $120-billion to $145-billion market opportunity, and 40 percent of all nonresidential building starts in 2012 were green, as compared to 2 percent of all nonresidential building starts in 2005. Trending upward, the market for green buildings and green materials is growing globally. The most widely used green rating system in the United States is the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system, and its global reach is growing. Architectural firms in Brazil, Singapore, the United Emirates, and the United Kingdom report that between 65 and 85 percent of their commercial and renovation projects will be green. Architects report that LEED is referenced in project specifications for 71 percent of their projects, valued at $50 million and over.3

LEED v4, the latest version of the credential system, has published new, stringent standards for construction materials and methods. LEED v4 will take a more holistic approach to defining a green building material with a particular focus on life-cycle impacts in addition to supply chain management. Accounting for the life-cycle impact of materials, from raw materials through processing and installation, is beginning to drive material choices for buildings. Requirements for third-party certifications of how building products reach a building site, from the raw material through processing, installation, and deconstruction, are growing.

BREEAM

Globally, other leaders in the green movement require product life-cycle analysis and certifications. The Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology (BREEAM) was established in 1990 and is considered the world’s longest-operating method of rating green buildings. To date, BREEAM has 2.2 milion registered buildings in more than 73 countries.4 The BREEAM guide, “The Approach to the Selection and Procurement of Construction Materials and Products,” is a tool for architects who want to choose materials that reduce the life-cycle impact of a building’s footprint across environmental, social, and economic aspects of sustainability. BREEAM requires the investigation of international supply chains, and the review of the holistic aspects of how materials are made, processed, and delivered to a site.5

Living Building Challenge

The International Living Future Institute’s Living Building Challenge requires rigorous methodologies to be applied to green building projects. Its mission is “to lead and support the transformation toward communities that are socially just, culturally rich, and ecologically restorative.” As of September 2015, there are nearly 300 registered Living Building Challenge projects measuring over 10 million square feet in 13 countries around the world. Resiliency, regeneration, equity, community, and materials transparency are among the criteria used to measure buildings that are net-zero and beyond. As architects grow in their abilities to design buildings that benefit the environment, the market for new ways of building that include new means of production and considerations of social impacts are the forefront of the green building movement. The Living Building Challenge begins to expand on the notion of net-zero impacts on the environment when building green.

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Originally published in Architectural Record

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