Set in Stone: New Sustainability Standards

Words: Dan KamysJanuary 2015

Education and Certifications

By Bill Levy

Natural Stone Council

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.

Fabricator Seals
Quarrier Seals

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.

alt TexaStone recently completed obtaining NSC 373 certification. Obtaining the certification involved extensive documentation and tweaks to how TexaStone operates. TexaStone Quarries has deep roots in the Lone Star State, having spent 20 years digging limestone out of the West Texas ground and supplying it to customers globally.

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:

  1. Water usage and recycling
  2. Custody and transportation
  3. Site and plant management
  4. Land reclamation and adaptive use
  5. Corporate governance
  6. Energy usage and conservation
  7. Management and excess process materials and waste
  8. Safer chemical and materials management
  9. Human and health considerations.

“Each company’s facility is certified on a site-specific basis,” Pointer says. “For instance, if a company has a dozen quarries, it can obtain certification on a site specific basis, one or all 12. The same goes for fabrication plants.”

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.


Bill Levy is with the Levy Media Group & Marble Institute of America. For more information, visit www.naturalstonecouncil.org, or contact Duke Pointer, executive director of NSC, dukepointer@naturalstonecouncil.org.

 

Q: What does the ANSI/NSC-373 standard cover? A: The basis for the standard was created from the industry’s Best Practices documents, as well as previous sustainable product assessment standards based on life-cycle thinking developed by NSF International, which helped create the document. The standard is applicable to quarries and processors of natural dimension stone and is divided into several areas, including energy, water, transportation, site management, land reclamation and adaptive use, management of excess process materials and waste, corporate governance, safer chemical and materials management and human health and safety. The standard also allows for innovation, which supports continuous improvement of quarries and processors who are in pursuit of sustainability certification. Q: How is certification achieved? A: There are 18 different requirements under the ANSI/NSC-373 standard and they have a total of 41 points, encompassing a total of four levels of certification – bronze, silver, gold or platinum. When achieving any of the certification levels, a company can use that certification to differentiate itself from its competition. The more points a company earns on an ongoing basis, on the way to the maximum of 41, the higher the level designation. For instance, managing water recycling and energy usage better will earn more points. Certification is on a facility site-specific basis. That means each operating quarry or fabrication plant must have its own certification. There is an annual review for compliance, but the certification itself lasts three years, and then the facility must be recertified in the fourth year. Because ANSI/NSC-373 was developed as an ANSI Standard, so it can be applied internationally with a third-party certifier like NSF International, which works around the world. Q: What is the ANSI/NSC-373 certification process? A: It’s a two-step process for quarries and fabricators. First, there is an offsite documentation review of information supporting the prerequisites and selected optional credits in the standards. Second, an onsite audit of the quarry, processing or fabrication facilities. Certification is granted once these steps are completed and the location meets the requirements of the standard. Q: What are the approximate costs to complete certification? A: NSF says the costs will be determined by a number of factors, including scope of operations. That would include the number of quarries or fabrications facilities that are to be certified and the level of certification that the company is pursuing. NSF can provide a quote based on this information and help determine how to proceed. ÂÂÂ Q: Will certification provide a competitive edge in the marketplace? A: Across the building products spectrum, many architectural and design firms, owners and contractors, understand the importance of sustainability standards and specify products that are certified. In the broader sense, certification will definitely provide a competitive edge when competing for green building projects.

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