Set in stone
New sustainability standards
By Bill Levy
With sustainability standards for the quarrying, production and distribution of natural stone now a reality the major question facing industry businesses now is when or whether to begin the certification process for the standards.
The tough new standards developed by the Natural Stone Council over a five-year period were released in late June and promise to level the playing field between man’s oldest building material and other building components. “ANSI/NSC 373 Sustainable Production of Natural Dimension Stone” will allow quarries, processors and fabricators of natural stone who consistently meet or exceed the standards to label and promote their stone products as “Certified Genuine Stone.” The associated Chain of Custody standard is a companion document that tracks the material as it moves from the quarry and through the supply chain to the ultimate destination, including the job site or end users. Distributors can obtain certification under the Chain of Custody protocols.
ANSI/NSC373 was unveiled at the 2014 American Institute of Architects Expo & Convention in Chicago. “Since the architectural/design community has been leading the way in the move to more green building and has been eagerly awaiting this development by our industry, it was only natural to announce our new standards in that venue,” says Moe Bohrer, chairman of the Natural Stone Council, which is made up of a dozen stone industry trade associations, including MIA.
It is assumed that the first companies to achieve certification under the new standards will be those with strong ties to architects, designers and owners who are in the forefront of the green movement. In fact, Polycor and Coldspring say they will initiate certification plans immediately. The first company expected to be certified is TexaStone Quarries, which ran a pilot certification program as the standards were being completed. TexaStone of Garden City, Texas, is a quarrier and fabricator.
Lyons Sandstone of Lyons, Colo., also ran a pilot program. “Natural stone was used as a key building material long before architects were employed to design them,” says NSC’s Bohrer. “If you travel the world and see some of the magnificent structures made of stone still standing after hundreds of years, it is quite obvious there is nothing more durable and versatile than stone. But, today, sustainability means more than just having a long and useful lifespan, though that is still important.”
Bohrer says that accounting for the sustainability of natural stone not only encompasses how the stone is quarried, processed and transported, but also how its use impacts the facilities, environments and people who work with it. “The entire process of determining a product’s sustainability is part of the growing and global green building movement,” he says.
According to Duke Pointer, Executive Director of NSC, the new standard establishes well defined metrics for environmental, economic and social responsibilities. He says it was designed to be recognized by green building market drivers as indicators of leadership of sustainability performance.
“In the end, the standard was built to assure architects, designers, building owners and the consuming public that the stone that’s brought from next door around the country or across the world is coming in a manner that minimizes how it affects the environment,” Pointer says. Pointer explains that the standard covers nine facets of a quarrier and fabricator’s operation with an optional element called innovation.
The nine required facets include:
- Water usage and recycling
- Custody and transportation
- Site and plant management
- Land reclamation and adaptive use
- Corporate governance
- Energy usage and conservation
- Management and excess process materials and waste
- Safer chemical and materials management
- Human and health considerations.
There are 18 different requirements under the NSC373 standard with a total of 41 possible points. There are four levels of certification – bronze, silver, gold or platinum and companies will be able to use that certification to differentiate themselves from the competition.
In the nine sections there are prerequisite criteria for which there are no points. The way the standard is structured, a quarrier or fabricator can get certified for NSC373 by achieving the basic standards, which would be bronze certification. Starting with the baseline, additional points can be accumulated by demonstrating compliance to the different criteria, which is audited by a third-party verifier, such as NSF International. The more points the company earns the higher the designation. The bronze level comes from meeting all the prerequisite criteria.
For silver level, you need the bronze prerequisite criteria and eight additional points. Gold requires 15 additional points, and platinum takes a minimum of 22 additional points. The optional innovation segment can provide additional points.
If NSF International certifies the company, an appropriate Genuine Stone seal can be applied to individual blocks, slabs, finished pieces, etc. or used in promotional activities. For the quarrier or fabricator seeking certification, the process includes two major steps: a review of company documents that relate to the mandatory steps and an on-site audit. Certification is valid for three years. In the fourth year, the process repeats itself – an initial review and an onsite audit.
“A typical certification will take three to four months to complete from the time NSF International receives information for documentation review,” says Amber Dzikowicz of NSF International, headquartered in Ann Arbor, Mich. “Once NSF has completed the document review, the onsite audit will be scheduled. Any additional information needed to complete the certification will be requested following the onsite visit. Once the company has achieved the minimum number of points for the levels of certification they are seeking, certification will be granted.”
Dzikowicz says the cost of the certification will depend on the company’s the process, the third-party verifier will provide specific quotes. There is also certification for the Chain of Custody Standard, which covers the stone as it moves from quarry through manufacturing through the supply chain to the ultimate destination.
In order for that stone to continue to be certified it must be processed by a certified fabricator. Down the line, every step of the way, whoever handles the product, must conform to the standard until it reaches the final destination. NSF International will also provide audits and certification to the NSC Chain of Custody program.
The first step toward certification for NSC373 or the Chain of Custody standards involves purchasing the standards documents from NSC, priced at $250 each. A Guidance Document is also available as an add-on to the NSC373 standard. Discounts are available when the Guidance and standards documents are bundled. Discounts are also available for members of the 12 NSC affiliate organizations.
About the Author
Bill Levy is with the Levy Media Group and Marble Institute of America.