GREEN Explained

A supporter of the U.S. Green Building Council, Mosaic Tile Company is committed to protecting our environment. By offering a variety of products produced by eco-friendly manufacturers, Mosaic Tile Company brings "green" tile to the forefront of design. By promoting setting systems that offer low volatile organic compound options and providing care & maintenance products that are less harmful to indoor air quality, we are creating one complete installation practice to potentially contribute to LEED™ (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) points. USGBC LEED™ standards, as administered by the United States Green Building Council ( dictate that in order for a tile to be considered "green" it must meet one or more of the following requirements:
  • Produced from recycled material: Recycled content may be either pre-consumer waste, post-consumer waste or post-industrial waste
  • Eco-friendly company-production/distribution process: Manufacturer follows environmentally sound practices
  • Made within 500 miles of the jobsite: Saves natural resources to transport the material and therefore reduces the carbon footprint
Environmentally friendly tiles are generally man-made tiles that recycle or reuse materials from other tiles or industrial products with a nod to an environmentally-conscious manufacturing process. Natural Stone can also be considered as a material friendly to our environment since it is being quarried with the help of new technology that limits impact on the atmosphere.

Recognizing that sound environmental policies are internal as well, Mosaic Tile Company is proud to practice recycling methods in its locations. In keeping with that practice, we refurbish our electronic and computer equipment. We believe that reducing our carbon footprint, reusing what we can and recycling whenever possible, we will make a difference that will impact our future.

The concept of sustainability and "green" building practices has caused significant changes within the commercial and residential construction industry over the past decade. Building green is more than just an environmental buzzword though. In the end, the consumer also benefits from sustainability through less frequent maintenance needs and greater energy efficiency, resulting in lower costs over the life of a building, as well as a healthier indoor environment. When it comes to energy efficiency, durability and other green qualities, ceramic tile is unrivaled as an environmentally-friendly flooring material.
Using Tile in LEED™ Design:

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED™) for New Construction and Major Renovations (NC) is a system that provides guidelines for sustainable design and building. LEED™/NC certified projects lessen impact to land, water and atmosphere, conserve energy, materials and resources, improve indoor air quality and encourage innovative design. Specifying brick in a building’s design can contribute toward an overall LEED™ strategy. Listed below are the specific LEED™ qualification opportunities with ceramic tile:

Indoor Environmental Quality
Ceramic tile can be an integral component toward a design strategy that establishes minimum indoor air quality performance because it does not contain VOCs, lead or other allergens. Furthermore, it resists mold growth and does not require sealants, wax or coatings that may emit indoor air contaminants. Adhesives for ceramic tile with low VOC emissions are available for installing tile.

Substituting ceramic tile for carpet systems can further contribute to a low VOC emissions strategy.
  • EQ Prerequisite 1: Minimum Indoor Air Quality Performance (required)
  • EQ Credit 4.1: Low-Emitting Materials: Adhesives & Sealants (1 point)
  • EQ Credit 4.2: Low-Emitting Materials: Paints & Coatings (1 point)
  • EQ Credit 4.3: Low-Emitting Materials: Carpet Systems (1 point)

Innovation in Design
Certain building-wide design strategies that do not fit under other LEED™ criteria are addressed in the "Innovation in Design" category. Because of its numerous environmental qualities, ceramic tile can be used in innovative design approaches that seek to improve the building life cycle or optimize indoor air quality.
  • Credit 1: Innovation in Design (1 – 4 points)

Materials and Resources
Since it is a recyclable product, less landfill space is used with tile than with other building materials. Damaged tile is reused as raw material and salvaged tile from a project site can also be used as raw material for new tile.
  • MR Credit 2: Construction Waste Management (1 – 2 points)
  • MR Credit 4: Recycled Content (1 – 2 points)
  • MR Credit 5: Regional Materials (1 – 2 points)

Sustainable Sites
Use of light-colored ceramic tile in landscaping design can help reduce the "heat island effect," which is caused by dark surfaces that absorb more heat or by lack of vegetation for shade and air cooling.
  • SS Credit 7: Heat Island Effect, Non-Roof (1 – 2 points)
Tile and Indoor Air Quality:

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) has become a critical concern to design professionals. Environmental contaminants and microbial growth within buildings, on finishes, and in furniture may account for the rise in Sick Building Syndrome, Building Related Illness and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. Knowledgeable selection of building materials, finishes, furnishings and installation methods can dramatically improve the indoor environment.

One of the easiest and most effective ways a design professional can reduce indoor pollution is to research and specify finished products and installation materials that are neither "original sources" of contaminants nor "sinks" or secondary sources of contaminants. An "original source" contains contaminants as manufactured, and may discharge the contaminants into the environment during installation, during the product’s lifetime in the building, during use or cleaning, or during removal. A "sink" may not contain any contaminants as manufactured, but will absorb contaminants from other sources and may discharge the contaminants later.

Some products are both original sources and sinks. Materials such as carpet, fabrics, upholstery foam, pressed board products, glues and adhesives, plastics and other porous or soft products may act as sinks. These materials may absorb contaminants, such as cigarette smoke or maintenance products, under typical indoor environment conditions. Absorption of contaminants may occur only under certain conditions, such as on weekends when the ventilation system allows the temperature to rise and air circulation to slow. Many experts believe after-hours changes in the temperature and air flow exacerbate the problem. For instance, temperatures above 78 degrees cause measurable increases in VOC outgassing.

Damp or humid areas create greater concerns. Studies show that relative humidity above 50 percent contributes significantly to microorganism growth. These heat or humidity conditions may enhance the ability of a sink to absorb contaminants in the building air. Later, when conditions become favorable, a sink then may release these contaminants into the surrounding environment, creating potentially large concentration levels in the area immediately around the sink.

Choose Materials Wisely
IAQ concerns are but one factor design professionals must consider. Codes and regulations may limit use of original sources and sinks, but complete avoidance probably is not possible, nor desirable.

Choose materials that will create a space that is warm, attractive and well designed, in addition to being healthy and wise. When good alternatives exist, choose one that fosters IAQ. Because flooring materials form one of the largest surface areas in any space or building, choosing an appropriate flooring material creates enormous potential for improving the indoor environment. Careful selection of building products is one way to address IAQ concerns. However, proper maintenance and housekeeping are necessary to maintain a clean indoor environment and to prevent the build up of particulate and microbial contaminants.

Reduce Contaminants from Cleaning and Maintenance Products and Procedures
Cleaning or maintenance materials may contribute to the IAQ problem. Cleaning products may emit VOCs or other chemical contaminants. Some cleaning materials leave behind residues that trap other contaminants or break into the air as particulates. Sealers or other finishes for resilient flooring or other materials also may contribute to contamination, and also may create harmful waste materials when stripped and reapplied.

Simplicity is the key. Specify materials that are easy to clean with simple, basic products. Materials which require very low maintenance automatically contribute a lower volume of contaminants than those requiring high maintenance and frequent cleaning. Select materials that are durable, easy to clean, and that do not require any sealers, waxes, or other protective coatings. Materials that do not trap or absorb dirt or contaminants generally are the simplest and lowest to maintain.

Choose a holistic approach. Products may require significant maintenance at the initial installation and periodically throughout the anticipated lifespan using certain materials and procedures. Daily or normal maintenance may call for other materials and procedures. Frequency of cleaning is as important as the type of cleaning required. Maintenance affects not only IAQ, but our planet’s environment as well. Balance each of these factors to arrive at an appropriate solution for your individual project.

The Advantages of Tile
  • Tile is not an original source of contaminants.
  • Tile does not compromise IAQ during initial installation.
  • Tile will not act as a "sink" to absorb VOCs or other chemicals from surrounding materials. After tile is installed, it forms a completely inert flooring system.
  • Tile will not support bacterial or fungal growth, nor will it absorb or release other contaminants.
  • Tile offers ease of maintenance with simple, water-based cleaning materials.
  • Tile does not require solvent-based cleaners or sealers. Simple, water-based products keep tile well maintained and also protects our environment. Thus, tile offers significant advantages for indoor air quality during installation and for the lifetime of the tile’s use in the building.
Research Current Regulations
Standards and recommendations for IAQ are changing rapidly. The design professional must always research the current regulations and develop requirements appropriate for each installation.

This information summarizes general product knowledge and is provided as a service to the design professional. However, this information does not substitute each professional’s own research and verification concerning specific product uses and project requirements.

Doesn’t Indoor Air Quality depend primarily on adequate ventilation?
Much IAQ research focuses on HVAC systems and ventilation sources. Design and engineering professionals are addressing these ventilation issues. Particularly in buildings twenty years old or older, improvements in ventilation can bring significant changes in air quality.

Isn’t Indoor Air Quality less of a problem in newer buildings?
Recent studies indicate that IAQ may be a bigger problem in newer buildings, but may be caused by other factors. These studies imply that ventilation plays far less of a role in indoor air contamination for buildings less than 20 years old. Newer buildings contain more formaldehyde, glues, resins, plastics and other chemicals. Experts now hypothesize that these contaminants, as well as microbial growth on finishes and in furniture, may account for the rise in Sick Building Syndrome, Building Related Illness and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. Thus, newer buildings may pose a far greater hazard to our health.

What sources of indoor environmental contamination should the Design Professional consider?
For buildings constructed since the mid-1970s, the Design Professional should examine three primary sources of indoor environmental contamination:
  • Building Systems: Including HVAC/ventilation standards and plenum design and environmental tobacco smoke.
  • Products and Installation Materials: Such as finish materials (including paints, carpeting, glues, adhesives and sealants, architectural coatings), furnishings and fireproofing systems.
  • Housekeeping and Maintenance Products and Procedures.
How do Products and Installation Materials affect Indoor Air Quality?
Finish products and installation materials may be sources of indoor air pollutants such as bioaerosols, including bacterial, viral or fungal growth; particulates, including dust, paint chips, and fibers; volatile organic compounds (VOCs); and other contaminants and chemicals. These materials may become "sources" in two different ways: the material may be an "original source" or it may be a "sink."

An original source contains these pollutants as manufactured and may discharge the pollutants into the environment during installation, during the product’s lifetime in the building, during use or cleaning or during removal. A sink may not contain any pollutants as manufactured, but will absorb pollutants from other sources and may discharge the pollutants later.

What can the Design Professional do to reduce these hazards?
One of the easiest and most effective ways a Design Professional can reduce indoor pollution significantly is to research and specify finish products and installation materials that are neither original sources nor sinks, and that are easy to clean with simple, basic products. One great way to start is with flooring materials. Flooring materials form one of the largest surface areas in any space or building. Flooring materials, therefore, have enormous potential for aiding in good indoor air quality or for contributing to poor indoor air quality.

How do carpet and other soft materials affect Indoor Air Quality?
Many "soft" forms of flooring raise three concerns: 1) Soft flooring may be an original source. For instance, carpet may contain formaldehyde, fiber contaminants or particulates, or dye chemicals which may contribute to indoor air pollution. 2) Resilient flooring may be made with plasticizers. Carpet and resilient flooring also may permit bioaerosol growth, such as mold, bacteria or viruses. Adhesives used to install soft flooring materials also may contain VOCs or other chemicals. 3) Many soft flooring materials also are "sinks" and may require maintenance products and procedures that result in further indoor air pollution.

What Indoor Air Quality advantages does tile offer?
Tile offers several advantages over both "soft" flooring materials, such as carpet or resilient flooring, and over other "hard" flooring materials, such as stone or agglomerate tile. Tile is not an original source of contaminants. Specified manufacturers use environmentally sensitive processes to make high-quality tile from simple, non-toxic minerals and clays. Common cement-based setting and grouting materials for installing tile generally do not contain VOCs or other suspect chemicals. After tile is installed, it forms a completely inert flooring system. Tile will not support bacterial or fungal growth. Tile will not act as a sink to absorb VOCs or other chemicals from surrounding materials. In fact, a properly designed ceramic tile system can be used to "contain" other hazardous materials, such as vinyl asbestos flooring, further protecting the building occupants from environmental hazards.

Tile also offers ease of maintenance with simple, water-based cleaning materials. They do not require solvent based cleaners or sealers. Thus, tile offers significant advantages for indoor air quality during installation, and for the lifetime of its use in the building.
Environmental Benefits of Tile:

Durable: Ceramic tile has the lowest life cycle cost among flooring materials. It has an extremely low probability of chipping or breakage because it is resistant to impact and abrasion. If any damage occurs, individual tiles can be replaced easily. With proper installation, tile should last the lifetime of the structure.

Recyclable: Because ceramic tile is made of natural materials, it is easily recyclable. All of the unfired materials that are scrapped during the manufacturing process are reused to produce new tile.

Indoor Air Quality: Unlike other flooring products, ceramic tile does not contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), lead, or allergens that could negatively affect air quality. When VOCs are concentrated indoors, the risk of poor air quality and health problems becomes many times greater. The vast majority of tiles do not require sealants, waxes or other finishing chemicals.

Resistance to Mold: Because ceramic tile is manufactured at extremely high temperatures, it absorbs very little water. As a result, ceramic tile is a sanitary material on which mold cannot form.

Manufacturing Process: Advances in technology have eliminated or greatly reduced emissions or byproducts from the tile-making process. In addition, many manufacturers have begun to recycle waste water and sludge, as well as capturing and reusing excess heat energy.