You know that the green movement has truly taken hold when the word itself is as likely to conjure thoughts of sustainable practices as it is hues of emerald, forest and kelly. In the flooring industry and beyond, “green” is a description of what and how we manufacture, all color trends aside.


As sustainability transcends from being the exception to becoming the expectation, how do we take measures to meet new and growing standards? It’s one thing to be green in the things we control, such as product development and internal processes. But what if a sustainably manufactured product is used in a less-than-green project? What can we do to integrate “green” at the root system of broader endeavors?

Like most manufacturers, Crossville is constantly being challenged to contribute further to the sustainability of the projects its products are a part of. Even as a green company, the demands for sustainable solutions and transparency are ever-growing.

That’s where collaboration comes in.

The manufacturer has strategically focused its relationships with architectural and design teams at firms nationwide to ensure projects attain new heights of sustainability. Two recent, large-scale commercial projects—San Francisco International Airport Terminal 2 (SFO T2) and the John C. Kluczynski Federal Building in Chicago—are prime examples. Crossville partnered with Gensler and Cannon Design respectively to aid in achieving superior green standards.



Gensler renovated San Francisco International Airport’s original 1950s-designed, 1981-remodeled Terminal 2, including 16 restroom facilities, with focus on aesthetics, energy efficiency and minimized environmental impact. The Gensler team worked closely with Crossville to specify products to support LEED requirements and overall sustainability and style for the project. The results were quite notable. Sir Richard Branson, Chairman of Virgin Group, states the terminal is “ of the few terminals in America where you arrive and think it’s going to be a great day,” and the project became the first LEED Gold-registered airport terminal in the U.S.


John C. Kluczynski (JCK) Federal Building

Cannon Design transformed the 78 restrooms of the 43-story, 1.2 million-square-foot JCK Building originally designed by Mies van der Rohe in the late 1960s. The project required that the installed porcelain tile and all of the existing porcelain fixtures (toilets, sinks and urinals) were to be recycled and reused to create new porcelain tile for the project. Over 57,000 square feet of new tile produced from the harvested porcelain was installed on all the restroom floors and floor to ceiling along the room’s wet wall. An estimated 102,000 pounds of porcelain material was diverted from this building for recycling/reuse to create new post-consumer recycled content tile for this project.

These unique projects share commonalities that can serve as a guide for any flooring manufacturer looking to heighten its role in sustainable installations. Here are the top three takeaways, applicable industry-wide, to propel sustainability to the next level.

Build and maintain strong relationships between manufacturers and A&D teams.According to Crossville A&D representative Martha Vega, there must be established relationships with architects and designers to take projects to the next level of sustainability. Vega, a LEED AP ID+C based in California, was instrumental in the SFO-T2 project with Gensler.

“It’s essential that flooring manufacturers are consistently in touch with A&D contacts, bringing them the latest products and keeping them up to date on innovations and vice versa,” Vega said. “When we stay apprised of each other’s latest achievements, we’re all better prepared to advance sustainability for whatever projects come up.”

Traditional sales appointments are the best approach for ongoing communication in Vega’s estimation, as they allow for “A&D teams to experience samples firsthand and ask questions right away.” Plus, there’s the chance for reciprocal information sharing so manufacturers stay apprised of A&D developments as well.

Additionally, manufacturers and firms can keep watch on each other’s newsletters, blogs and social media feeds to catch the latest news and perspectives. The constant information sharing available today empowers all constituencies to stay up-to-date regarding new options and solutions being introduced.

Be active in meeting technical specifications throughout your organization.Organizations need to be nimble and responsive to answer unique opportunities. It’s no longer enough to simply keep a list of products that contribute to LEED points; manufacturers have to be integrated participants in the process to advance sustainability.

According to Melissa Mizell, senior designer with Gensler on the SFO T2 project, manufacturers must go beyond providing product listings based on project requirements.

“We expect more and more transparency in how product manufacturers communicate sustainability to us – beyond looking only at LEED points and towards an overall lighter environmental footprint; carbon neutrality, human and environmental health, and social responsibility,” she said.

Heidi Vassalotti, LEED AP ID+C and Crossville’s A&D representative for Chicago, concurs. As the liaison between architectural firm and manufacturer, Vassalotti kept the product development process transparent, even during very early discussions with the Cannon Design team. That enabled everyone to innovate product solutions specifically for the goals at hand.

“Cannon pushed the boundaries about the possibilities for harvesting and recycling existing porcelain tile and fixtures from the building. And Crossville management and lab staff were ready  to dot the i’s and cross the t’s. It took true collaboration and transparency on all fronts to make (the JCK project) happen,” Vassalotti said.

Gensler’s Mizell knows just how vital it is that manufacturers take the lead regarding their own product offerings. “We look to our manufacturers to know their product line well, offer up suggestions that fit with our design goals, and provide technical knowledge that helps in the successful execution of products we use,” she said.

Be actively educated in sustainability and engaged in the A&D community.Learning and leading are essential in driving green innovations. That’s why Vega and Vassalotti are LEED Accredited Professionals ID+C.

“I have to know the requirements inside and out to understand my clients’ needs and help my company develop solutions to meet those needs,” Vassalotti said.

Crossville is actively involved in professional associations, including student chapters, as well as green initiatives relevant not just for the tile industry but the A&D community as a whole.

“We can be prepared to provide solutions for green standards and requirements in large part because we participate in the discussions and decision making,” Vega said. “We are focused on being at the forefront of technical requirements, not just design trends.”

Active participation keeps organizations in the know regarding new and changing sustainability requirements, and collaboration helps all constituencies mutually strive for excellence and advancements.

As the green movement continues to grow, these tactics are essential for establishing product development and procedures that are deeply rooted in sustainability.