Stone is a natural material that is durable, recyclable, and reusable. As such, stone is a natural choice for delivering a green project and is ideal for numerous interior and exterior applications. However, understanding how to integrate natural stone into your green project must include an assessment of the building material in terms of its complete environmental impact, from quarrying and fabrication to transporting and installation. When considering natural stone for a project, contractors and other members of the project team are now finding a need to evaluate the material in terms of its complete lifecycle.
Natural stone’s green benefits are oftentimes a key factor in its selection in today’s increasingly sustainability-conscious building industry. Formed by nature itself, natural stone provides a perfect choice to promote sustainability, because it is naturally sustainable, has an enduring lifecycle, and can provide a local building material, thereby reducing transportation costs.
Stone is inherently sustainable, and the stone industry has taken great strides in recent years to identify its environmental footprint and set up best practices. The Natural Stone Council (NSC) is a collaboration of natural stone trade associations and businesses, including Coldspring and other leaders in the stone industry. The NSC, in collaboration with Ecoform and NSF International (NSF), has developed an American National Standard for the sustainable development aspects of dimensional stone production. Known as NSC 373, the standard is currently in review, with finalization planned for March 2014.
NSC 373 will help project teams and consumers determine whether a dimensional stone product has been extracted and manufactured in an environmentally preferable manner. The standard defines Environmentally Preferable Manufacturing Practices (EPMPs) for the quarrying and manufacturing of dimensional stone. Criteria that consider the social, environmental, and human health impacts associated with the dimensional, natural stone product lifecycle are outlined by the standard.
In advance of the NSC standard, leading natural stone quarriers and manufacturers have already set internal standards and best practices to help reduce their environmental footprints. For example, in the absence of a standard, Coldspring conducted an audit of their business with Ecoform and Jason F. McLennan. As a result, Coldspring has worked to make its practices more sustainable by recycling its industrial water, quarrying stone on demand, minimizing the use of explosives by using diamond wire saws to increase yields, and optimizing energy-efficient strategies throughout its operations (equipment, transportation, plants, etc.). Following a third-party audit of its chemical use, Coldspring has an inventory of all chemicals that is cross-referenced with Red List chemicals of concern and looks to minimize or eliminate Red List chemicals in its operations.
With numerous stone quarries and processing facilities across the United States and Canada, Coldspring works to ensure it supplies natural dimension stone materials in an environmentally conscious manner. What’s more, Coldspring has disclosed all components of its own quarried dimensional stone (granite and limestone) on the Declare™ product database and that these products have been designated “Red List Free” on the Declare ingredients label. The Declare product database is developed by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI) to make it easier for project teams to identify products compliant with the Living Building Challenge™, the built environment’s most rigorous performance standard. The Red List identifies the “worst-in-class” materials, chemicals, and elements known to pose serious risks to human health and the greater ecosystem.
Any project seeking certification under the Living Building Challenge must be free of Red List chemicals and materials. Declare supports the Living Building Challenge by providing a transparent materials database that project teams can select from to meet this requirement. As part of the declaration, the team at Coldspring has added the Declare label to their product offering to assist project teams in determining how best to source local products that support regional economies.
For more detailed information about the environmental profiles of natural stone products and their impacts over the entire lifecycle, the NSC offers Life Cycle Inventory datasets and fact sheets on natural stones. Visit the NSC website at www.genuinestone.com, in the Stone & Sustainability section, for access to these findings.
Natural stone can help construction projects meet sustainability goals. But maintaining sustainable standards for the project isn’t just about selecting durable, low-maintenance materials. Achieving sustainable goals must include an assessment of the product’s entire lifecycle. Choosing products that are produced and manufactured with sustainable methods helps a project reach its peak environmental performance. ■
About the Author:
Kathy Spanier is director of marketing with Coldspring, which has been serving the architectural, memorial, residential, and industrial markets for more than 115 years. Headquartered in Cold Spring, Minnesota, the company owns and operates multiple facilities across the country, including 30 quarries, five fabrication locations, and a bronze foundry. For more information, visit www.coldspringusa.com.
Modern Contractor Solutions, January 2014
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