Ask anyone to characterize a green, sustainable tile or installation material and the response is rather predictable—durable, long-lasting, non-emitting, natural ingredients, recycled content. But is any one of these attributes more relevant than another? Are there other important attributes? How many green attributes must a product possess before it can truly be considered sustainable?

While a spectrum of environmental concepts need to be considered when evaluating product sustainability, in the absence of a standard it is not always clear which concepts to emphasize and to what extent. Seemingly every product touts one environmental benefit or another, and it can be difficult to obtain reliable, transparent and easy-to-understand information when navigating through a marketplace filled with varying perceptions, requirements and associated claims.

Enter Green Squared, the world’s only multi-attribute product sustainability standard and certification program developed exclusively for the tile industry.


The Green Squared Certified Mark

Green Squared certification provides an authentic, industry-recognized mechanism for acknowledging products that are genuinely sustainable, and such products are authorized to carry the Green Squared certification mark.

This single, easily recognizable mark means an independent third-party evaluation covering a spectrum of sustainability criteria has been made and the marked product meets all required criteria. It should be noted, the three certification agencies approved to verify conformance to the Green Squared standard are recognized leaders in the field—NSF International, SCS Global Services and UL Environment.

In a marketplace awash in green product claims, the Green Squared Certified mark provides authenticity and consumer confidence. Thus Green Squared certification is the tile industry’s go-to strategy for evaluating product sustainability relevant to the North American marketplace.


The Green Squared Standard

The Green Squared standard, ANSI A138.1, is the basis for Green Squared certification, providing a means of defining and measuring the sustainable attributes of tiles and related installation materials.

ANSI A138.1 is five standards in one, covering tiles (ceramic and glass), powder goods (grouts, mortars, etc.), liquid/paste installation products (trowelable membranes, liquid polymer additives, etc.), panel installation products (backer boards, underlayments, etc.) and sheet installation products (crack isolation membranes, waterproof membranes, etc.).

The inclusion of multiple products allows the tile industry to offer installed “systems” of Green Squared Certified products—the first such offering by any building material industry.

ANSI A138.1 is divided into five sections, addressing product characteristics; manufacturing and raw material extraction; end of life; corporate governance, and innovation. A wide range of environmental and social issues throughout a product’s life cycle is addressed. Rather than ranking or emphasizing single-attribute requirements such as recycled content or volatile organic compound (VOC) emission criteria, ANSI A138.1 standardizes both, plus a host of additional criteria to ensure balanced, thorough product assessments.

ANSI A138.1’s multi-attribute approach toward standardization runs the gamut of criteria that are important and unique to tiles and related installation materials. For example, certain aspects of closed-loop manufacturing, including water efficiency, are addressed.

The standard also establishes objective requirements for the types of energy used to manufacture a product, sustainable product packaging criteria, as well as criteria for worker health and safety and corporate community involvement, ensuring that production is both ecologically and socially sustainable.

There are far too many criteria to list, but chances are if a concept has been discussed among green building community members, then it’s addressed by ANSI A138.1.

Manufacturers may take various paths toward demonstrating their product’s conformance to ANSI A138.1. While some criteria are mandatory and others are elective, the standard identifies relevant requirements and to which products they apply. To the end user it’s simple: A product either meets the Green Squared standard or it doesn’t.


Impact on Green Building Specification

The Green Squared Certified mark and Green Squared standard are especially relevant to the A&D community. Together they form a valuable specification tool for some of today’s most important green building standards and rating systems, including the following:

•LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is one of the most well-known and widely used green building certification programs worldwide. LEED v4 awards points based on a consideration in aggregate of several product characteristics and the materials from which products are made—a multi-attribute approach toward sustainability.

This means the Green Squared standard has in common most, if not all, of the provisions set forth by LEED v4, and the use of products certified as Green Squared can inherently contribute toward points in LEED v4. Additionally, the developer of LEED, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), is considering further point contribution through use of products with the Green Squared Certified mark via a multi-attribute Pilot Credit.

•Green Globes, a building environmental design and management tool offering an online assessment protocol, rating system and third-party verification of buildings, awards up to 10 points if a defined amount of interior fit-out products are third-party certified to meet multi-attribute, consensus-based standards.

Not only does the use of Green Squared Certified tiles directly contribute toward points in Green Globes, but with the availability of Green Squared Certified installation materials, complete tiling systems can play a major role in earning points and achieving Green Globes certification.

•The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) National Green Building Standard, or ICC 700, is a green rating system for residential construction in the U.S. It is the only residential green rating system to have earned the approval of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

ICC 700 awards three points if 50% or more of the tile installed, by square feet, is Green Squared Certified.

•The International Green Construction Code (IgCC) provides model code language for states and municipalities to establish baseline sustainable design requirements for new and existing buildings. Because the provisions of the Green Squared standard are similar to those of the materials section of IgCC, the use of Green Squared Certified products can contribute toward code-compliant construction.

Furthermore, when the updated version of IgCC is released in 2015, it is likely the use of Green Squared Certified products will be directly specified.

•ASHRAE Standard 189.1 for the Design of High-Performance Green Buildings establishes pass/fail criteria for commercial green buildings, addressing site sustainability, water use efficiency, energy efficiency, indoor environmental quality, atmosphere, and materials and resources.

In Standard 189.1, a minimum of 10 different products installed in a building project are required to comply with at least one of a subset of specifications that includes Green Squared certification.

•The Facilities Standards for the Public Buildings Service, P100, establishes design standards and criteria for the Public Building Service of the General Services Administration (GSA).

The latest version, released this year, introduces an expanded focus on sustainability. The tiling provisions of P100-2014 reference the use of Green Squared Certified products, meaning the use of sustainable tiles and installation materials on federal building projects will be more clearly specified in the years ahead.


Industry and Marketplace Relevance

With thousands of products either Green Squared Certified or in the process of obtaining certification, sustainable tile and installation product selection is easier than ever. Increasing visibility of the Green Squared Certified logo on packaging, website product pages, printed materials, sample boards and other marketing materials, evidences the tile industry’s heavy presence in the green building community and its commitment to sustainability.

The National Institute of Building Sciences lists Green Squared in its Whole Building Design Guide, and architects, specifiers and consumers are learning and embracing the value inherent in the Green Squared standard and Green Squared Certified products.

Green Squared is so much more than a label: It represents North America’s consensus on what is required for a tile, mortar, grout, membrane or underlayment to be truly sustainable across a range of social and ecological attributes most important to the North American green building community.

According to several manufacturers of certified products, Green Squared has unified the tile industry’s sustainability vision in a way that was previously impossible. Since the launch of the Green Squared standard, the industry has shifted from focusing on single-attributes to a broader conception of sustainability and increasingly robust sustainability goals.

To learn more about Green Squared, and to find green Squared Certified Products, visit


Bill Griese is the standards development and green initiative manager for Tile Council of North America (TCNA), and develops ASTM, ANSI, ISO, and other industry standards. He also leads TCNA’s sustainability work, working closely with the TCNA Lab in performing these functions. Griese served two terms as chairman of ASTM committee C21 on Ceramic Whitewares and Related Products and is chairman of ASTM subcommittee C21.06 on Ceramic Tile. He is also active in ASTM committee E60 on Sustainability and is chairman of the ASTM committee on Technical Committee Operations’ Subcommittee on Regulations. Griese participates in the World Ceramic Tiles Forum and is the U.S. delegate for several global standardization initiatives. He is a LEED Accredited Professional (LEED AP) and a regular speaker at national and international events and regularly authors for trade publications. For more, call (864) 646-8453, or visit