Specifying Certified Stone: Reaching sustainability goals with environmentally responsible materials

American National Standards Institute (ANSI)/National Stone Council (NSC) 373, Sustainable Production of Natural Dimension Stone, encourages quarriers and processors to utilize as much of the stone as they can to eliminate excess.

Merits of stone certification
Stone companies seeking certification should approach the process in terms of demonstrating leadership in the industry, rather than achieving certification as a marketing tactic. Now that stone has a sustainability standard, architects and owners can know with certainty it was produced in an environmentally sustainable manner whether in another country or in their own backyard. This also helps project teams and consumers clearly distinguish which natural stone lines up with their project’s goals.

Recently, the standard has become even more relevant in meeting project goals. In October 2016, NSC announced ANSI/NSC 373 is recognized in the latest versions of both the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program and the International Living Future Initiative’s (ILFI’s) Living Building Challenge (LBC). Recognition in LEED v4 falls under the Building Product Disclosure and Optimization–Sourcing of Raw Materials. Within LBC version 3.1, the Material Petal advocates for ANSI/NSC 373 under Responsible Industry.

Design teams desiring to source sustainable stone in their projects can write the standard into the project’s specifications. Architects are urged to update their documentation to include language indicating a preference for stone from ANSI/NSC 373-certified companies, as well as the NSC COC designation.

Architects also benefit from the standard’s clarification of certain misconceptions in the industry. In general, many in the building industry do not understand the difference between mining and quarrying, especially when it comes to current quarry operations and best practices. Most natural stone quarries have a small footprint as compared to possibly a large building excavation in the city. In frequent cases, quarries have operated in one location for many decades, creating material for thousands of residential and nonresidential construction projects in a small footprint.

Beyond its ability to bring clarity to some misconceptions, the standard’s biggest benefit for architects is perhaps third-party verification. For years, the stone industry has either not reported or self-reported its practices relating to sustainability, but the new standard requires third-party verification. For quarriers and fabricators, this third-party verification is a key component of the process because it confirms authenticity.

As more projects and design teams specify certified stone, the entire building industry will reap the benefits. Awareness of this important product designation will be generated, and the bar will be raised for stone production and fabrication across the globe.

Kathy Spanier is the marketing director at Coldspring and the National Stone Council’s (NSC’s) Sustainability Committee Chair. She has actively been involved in the Marble Institute of America (MIA) and on the Women in Stone Steering Committee, serving as the chair of its mentoring program. Spanier is a member of the MIA + Building Stone Institute’s board of directors and Building Stone Magazine editorial committee. Spanier can be reached via e-mail at kspanier@coldspringusa.com.

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