Architectural Record BE - Building Enclosure

Ceramic Tile: Solutions for Holistic Sustainability

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Sponsored by Tile of Spain
C.C. Sullivan
 
Continuing Education
 

Learning Objectives - After this course, you should be able to:

  1. Describe how human health, cultural benefits and psychological well-being are considered part of sustainability.
  2. List the general environmental and technical benefits of ceramic tile to be considered in a multi-attribute or holistic performance evaluation.
  3. Review the requirements in various green building standards – including “blue design” -- and describe how ceramic tile contributes to those needs.
  4. Discuss ways to reduce resource consumption, chemical emissions including VOCs, and cleaning and maintenance needs based on the properties of ceramic tile.

Credits:

1 AIA LU/HSW
This test is no longer available for credit

The word green has many definitions, but the term as applied to buildings that are beneficial to the environment has its roots in the chlorophyll hues that mark our natural world. Plants give green building its name, and their function in natural ecosystems is seen as emblematic of the most appropriate and holistic approach to sustainable design today. “Rather than seeing each building material or subsystem as a single-benefit addition to a project, leading architects value their contribution as a synergistic component of the total building system,” says Ryan Fasan, a consultant to the Coral Gables, Flordia-based trade group, Tile of Spain. “The days of speaking about building products based on individual, single-attribute merits are long gone.”

In addition to their multi-attribute environmental benefits, green building products and systems are increasingly identified based on the comfort and succor they give to humans. This builds on the notion that humans are naturally attracted to living things, including plants—the term biophilia describes this effect—not only for shade, nutrition, and other ameliorative properties but also for pure sensory and visual appeal. In this way, green design has grown to encompass such values as occupant health and safety as well as cultural enrichment and individual happiness. Clearly, the plant kingdom does more than fix nutrients and resources (like oxygen) within their ecosystems. “Natural environments are not amenities, and they are not mere ‘resources’ or quaint luxuries,” according to Dr. Richard Jackson, a pediatrician and chair of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles. “They are essential to human mental, physical, and social wellbeing, most urgently for our children.”

Clearly, the plant kingdom does more than fix nutrients and resources (like oxygen) within their ecosystems. “Natural environments are not amenities, and they are not mere ‘resources’ or quaint luxuries,” according to Dr. Richard Jackson, a pediatrician and chair of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles. “They are essential to human mental, physical, and social wellbeing, most urgently for our children.”

Custom Home

Photo courtesy of Tile of Spain

Ceramic tile—used on this house with a simulated steel finish—has been analyzed by Tile of Spain with an industry-wide, generic LCA to show its low long-term environmental impact.

From this idea has sprung an expanded definition of sustainability with a view to the best effects of any architecture: positive impacts on individual and societal wellbeing. The original focus of the green building movement remains; the core of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certifications and other standards, such as the Passive House standard, have always been energy and water conservation along with safer maintenance practices. The more recent and valuable discovery is that provably green buildings boost occupant health and productivity, leading to improved metrics of human function, such as better student test scores documented in cities from Seattle to Bloomington, Indiana.

Contributing to these benefits have been a number of factors, such as increased daylighting, ventilation, healthy materials, and reduced levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs)—known neurotoxins capable of causing brain and nerve damage, according to Joachim D. Pleil, research physical scientist with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Unexpected variables, such as the increased use of hard, resilient surfaces like ceramic tile, have been shown to reduce cleaning needs, eliminate sources of mold and allergens, and provide a lasting and durable surface with good life-cycle properties.

These are among the lasting legacies of today’s sustainability standards. The recent evolution to LEED v4 from LEED 2009, for example, introduces a number of changes in how Materials & Resources are given credit. Perhaps the most critical is a trio of new credits for Building Product Disclosure & Optimization. One addresses the use of environmental product declarations (EPDs), which are third-party verified, internationally recognized disclosures of a product’s impact based on a life-cycle assessment (LCA). A second addresses the sourcing of raw materials, rewarding transparency in disclosure of land-use practices, extraction locations, labor practices, and the like. The third offers the same reward for material ingredient reporting, including the use of programs such as a Health Product Declaration.

“LEED v4 wasn’t designed to be easy. It is the next generation of green building,” says Rick Fedrizzi, CEO and founding chair of USGBC. “With LEED, we have a responsibility to set a high bar and we know that many leaders are capable of reaching it, presently or in the very near future.” LEED users may register projects under the LEED 2009 rating system until October 31, 2016, according to USGBC.

Ceramic tile—used on this house with a simulated steel finish—has been analyzed by Tile of Spain with an industry-wide, generic LCA to show its low long-term environmental impact.

Photo courtesy Tile of Spain

Ceramic tile—used on this house with a simulated steel finish—has been analyzed by Tile of Spain with an industry-wide, generic LCA to show its low long-term environmental impact.

 

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Originally published in Architectural Record

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