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Eco-Friendly Tile Made Simple

Green Square Certified Logo

The new certification program simplifies specifying sustainable tile.

When specifying sustainable tile, there are more factors to consider than just a product’s recycled content. Factors such as responsible sourcing and manufacturing, as well as a tile producer’s community engagement, should all inform selection. However, trying to weigh these considerations and more can be difficult and confusing. Thus, in 2012, Green Squared was born.

One convenient standard

Launched by the Tile Council of North America, Green Squared is a multi-attribute certification program that unifies the specification of sustainable tile and tile installation materials, according to Bill Griese, LEED AP, BC+C, standards development and green initiative manager for the Tile Council of North America. To receive certification, products are tested against ANSI A138.1, a voluntary standard that covers not only ceramic and glass tiles, but also dry powder, panel, sheet, and liquid and paste installation materials. Qualifying all the components of a tile assembly under one standard helps eliminate ambiguity and provides convenience. "So if you’re building a system, all the products can be packaged together to meet criteria developed under the same umbrella program by the same people," Griese says.


Green Squared certified products can earn points in the NAHB National Green Building Standard.


Certified products are easily identifiable by the Green Squared mark. Its presence indicates a product has been evaluated by one of three authorized third-party organizations — Underwriters Laboratories (UL) Environment, NSF International and Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) — and found to be compliant with a variety of criteria. The criteria are categorized into five sections: General Environmental Characteristics, Environmental Product Manufacturing, End-of-Product-Life Management, Progressive Corporate Governance, and Innovation.

Not all of the criteria are mandatory, but those that are ensure a more comprehensive definition of sustainability. For example, manufacturers must practice environmentally friendly production, including minimizing on-site pollution and consuming only certain types of fuel. They are also required to document their use of raw materials and delineate a plan for managing waste, energy and water. Products must meet certain performance standards (ANSI A137.1 for tile), have low or no VOC emissions, and be packaged in one of five ways. Also addressed are issues pertaining to a product’s disposal at the end of its life, labor laws, social responsibility and fair marketing. In addition, the program recognizes operations or products that exceed the standard.

Hailed by the building industry

Though just a few years in existence, the program has already gained acceptance with various green building standards. The use of Green Squared certified products can earn points in the latest edition of the NAHB National Green Building Standard, or ICC-700, and is referenced by ASHRAE 189.1, a standard for designing high-performance buildings. The program is also acknowledged in Green Globes' green building reference manual and the National Institute of Buildings Sciences' (NIBS) Whole Building Design Guide.

The reception from the tile industry has been encouraging. Thousands of products bearing the Green Squared logo are already on the market, and all of North America’s major tile producers are participants. Green Squared has also piqued interest overseas. Although it targets the needs of the North American market, foreign-made products are eligible, too. In fact, the program has already awarded certification to one tile line from Italy, Griese notes.

By contrast, involvement has been slower among producers of installation materials, but Griese is patient. "It takes a good five years before you gain traction and people understand the program," he says.

Learn more about the benefits of working with sustainable tile at the Green Squared website.