Do you have to pay employees like superstars to keep them?

Last year, five-time NBA All-Star Kevin Love signed a contract to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers. His new deal will pay him $120M over four years, approximately $30 million per year.

These days, it’s not uncommon to see professional athletes sign enormous contracts punctuated with a staggering number of zeros.

What is uncommon about this particular story is where Love signed his new deal.

The 29-year-old power forward signed his contract extension in front of nearly 100 construction workers who were completing the $140 million renovation of the Cavs’ home stadium: Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

Imagine for a moment that you are one of those construction workers making somewhere between $50-$80K per year.

You’re busy installing new seats in the upper deck of an arena when suddenly a voice comes over the intercom inviting you to take a short break and come down to the gymnasium floor for an exciting development.

Minutes later, the team’s general manager introduces a nicely dressed basketball player (currently relaxing during a four-month off-season) who, with the effortless flick of his pen, signs a contract that guarantees him 400 to 500 TIMES the amount that will appear on your year-end W-2.

But that’s not all…

In addition to those fat checks, the guy in front of you will be cheered and idolized by tens of thousands of adoring fans all while being treated like the King of Siam everywhere he goes. He’ll never wait in line for anything, nor will he have to hunt for a parking spot. And let’s not forget the beaucoup dollars that will pour in his coffers from corporate sponsorships and endorsements for playing a game you’d gladly play for free.

After a short speech, the star disappears into the locker room signaling that it’s time for you to climb back up to the nosebleed section and go back to installing another row of seats.

Let that scenario wash over you for a minute.

Now breathe as you chew on this:

Why did the construction workers cheer wildly for Love? Why didn’t they rise up, revolt, and shake their fists in outrage, demanding more money for the much harder work that they’re doing?

I think the answer lies in the employee’s perception of fair pay.

Construction workers don’t compare their paycheck to that of an NBA superstar; they compare what they’re making to other construction workers. They won’t revolt if a professional athlete – or a cardiologist – or a mortgage banker makes more than they do, even if it’s multiples of what they’re earning.

But if that guy next to him – or even the worker across town who’s doing the same job for a competitor – is getting noticeably more dollars more than they are, you can bet your hammer drill that there’s going to be some fireworks.

There is no single factor that’s more important to an employee than the compensation they receive for the work they do.

However, if an employee feels as if they are being paid fairly, which is to say equal to another similarly skilled and experienced individual doing the same work under the same conditions in the same vicinity, then they tend to base their level of engagement and their desire to remain with their employer on other cultural factors (i.e. atmosphere, growth opportunities, autonomy, recognition, etc.).

ON POINT – While it improves your attractiveness to job seekers, you don’t have to offer higher compensation than the other employers in your market to win the war for skilled workers. If you offer wages that are deemed competitive, you can dominate the labor market by focusing on continually improving the other six cultural pillars that make you a better place to work:

  • Alignment – meaningful work for an ethical company
  • Atmosphere – a safe, positive, enjoyable environment
  • Growth – an opportunity to learn and advance
  • Acknowledgement – feeling valued, appreciated and rewarded
  • Autonomy – encouraged to think and make decisions
  • Communication – kept informed and being listened to

 

Pressure-treated lumber to build a bench or curb

QUESTION

I’m looking for the spot in the TCNA Handbook that states that you are not allowed to use pressure-treated lumber to build a bench or curbs. Is there any way you can send that to me or tell me what page in the book it is?

ANSWER

In the TCNA Handbook’s shower methods section, under the requirements for wood studs, it states they must be dry and well braced. The general requirements for wall bracing are found in ANSI A108.11 in section 4.1 Wood Framing requirements. It states all framing lumber should have a moisture content not in excess of 19%. Most pressure-treated lumber has moisture content ranges of 30% to 70%. In a tile assembly, pressure-treated wood has a tendency to twist and contort as it starts to dry out. The rigidity of the tile assembly cannot generally handle that type of movement, and can fail from it. Also view page 30, Chapter 2 of the 2018/2019 NTCA Reference Manual for information about questionable and unsuitable substrates. 

Tiling over tile

QUESTION

Is there anywhere besides TR711, TR712, and TR713 that discusses tiling over tile? I’ve looked on the TCNA website, which states that procedures are described “in detail” in those standards. Other than stating the existing installation must be sound, well bonded, and without structural cracks, there aren’t any real details. Are there differences between a concrete substrate and a wood subfloor? Do I have to determine HOW the previous installation is adhered and how much it weighs? What other things may I need to take into consideration that I wouldn’t otherwise?

ANSWER

The “TR”/Renovation methods in the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation are the methods that discuss tiling over an existing tile installation.

In addition, the 2018/2019 edition of the NTCA Reference Manual section “Tile Over Other Surfaces” (page 257) includes more information, such as the need to prep the tile surface by scarification or application of specialized primers to promote bond to the existing tile surface.

As you have sensed, it is critical that you thoroughly analyze the components of the existing tile installation to determine whether it was properly installed and whether it will serve as a quality substrate for the new Employee-Handbook-v9 installation you are looking to bond to it. Since all components of the existing installation will become the new substrate, it must be carefully analyzed to determine if it will successfully support the new tile installation. The Substrate Requirements section of the TCNA Handbook (pages 30 – 33 of the 2019 edition) are worth reviewing.

It may be necessary to remove some tiles, bond coat, and any underlayment to ensure they were correctly installed. Sometimes, drilling a series of core samples is a good way to determine the adequacy of the existing installation and how well it will serve as a substrate for your new tile installation.

You (or a structural engineer or similar) must ensure that the structure will be able to support the added weight of the new tile and bond coat over the existing installation. Deflection, live loads, dead loads, etc., are part of the consideration. TCNA Handbook methods for floor installations list the Service Rating for the method. Also refer to the Performance Level Requirement Guide and Selection Table in the 2019 TCNA Handbook (page 43) for more information on Service Ratings.

If the tile over tile is to be done in a wet area, you must take into consideration such factors as the type and condition of the existing waterproofing membrane, whether 95% mortar coverage was achieved in the original installation, etc. You will likely need to apply a new membrane before installing your tile. Doing this will encapsulate the existing tile and bond coat between two layers of membrane. It is important to determine whether adequate bond coat existed in the first installation to ensure no pockets of water or other materials are being trapped between the membrane layers.

As with tiling over any substrate, it is necessary to ensure the substrate meets the flatness requirement for the size of tile you are installing. If the existing installation does not meet the flatness criteria, it must be flattened with the appropriate materials first. Your setting material manufacturer can assist you with the correct materials (possibly including primers) and techniques to correct unflat substrates.

In summary, everything about the existing substrate and substructure must be considered before tiling over an existing tile installation. 

Slopes and Soffits

The challenges and successes of the Marriott AC Residence Inn Midtown façades project

Exterior façade installations can be challenging and complex, and the product used in the process can make or break a project. 

For the AC Hotel and Residence Inn by Marriott in Dallas – a $4 billion mixed-use development in bustling Dallas Midtown – the façade installation appeared to be a daunting task at first, but proved to be a success largely due to the material specified.

To reflect the neighborhood’s resurgence, local award-winning architects 5G Studio Collaborative sought an outside-the-box, contemporary design to match the timelessness, comfort and authenticity of the Marriott brand. Particularly, they wanted a natural look; however, genuine rock materials can be susceptible to staining and breakage, requiring copious maintenance.

Distributors and fabricators Holland Marble in Carrollton, Texas, introduced the architects to Neolith®, a market-leading brand of Sintered Stone. They explained the range of possibilities that could be achieved, having used the product in a wide variety of other projects and hotels across the country, including La Quinta, Kriya, Aloft, and Marriott Courtyard. Neolith was the perfect choice as it mimics the appearance of natural stone, without the weight and upkeep.

Impressed by what they were shown, 5G selected Neolith Calacatta, a color that recreates the look of white Italian marble and is characterized by a uniform grey vein with hints of gold, bringing vitality to the exterior of the hotel. The hue was well-suited for the project, as a light-colored façade is essential in a state like Texas due to the fact that it reflects heat and keeps buildings cool. 

Challenges

Marriott AC Residence Inn Midtown façadesThe architects were unsure at first about how to proceed with the project, as the building has an unusual structure. They struggled with the rainscreen system and how to apply it to the exterior sloped soffits, which measured 10’ on one side and zero on the other. Currently, there is no rainscreen system in place that can attach pieces of material that slope down to zero.

The second concern was the shape of the panels. The trapezoidal pieces, up to 10’ long on one side and 44” down to 14” on the other, had to be fastened to the sloped exterior ceiling and intersect the panels on the sloped soffit at the exact correct point, ensuring that when finished the ceiling panels met the top of the glass store front on the hotel. Further, the installers, Tristone Innovation of Houston, whose work was overseen by Holland Marble’s President, Peter Holland, and Commercial Sales Manager, Zuzana Holland, had to rework the fastening system to allow for 8’ light fixtures that needed to be added to the sloped ceiling.

A third aspect was the east feature wall on the building that had to be framed out at a slight angle. This complicated the fabrication details for both the Neolith panel fabricators and the aluminum composite material panels (ACM) fabricators due to the difficulty of meeting and successfully connecting both products at the corner of the building. With several revisions the final install was realized.

The stronger the better

To overcome the project’s challenges, Neolith provided installation and technical support through implementation of its StrongFix system. 

The fastening solution is tailored specifically for individual installation projects offering a complete package: the slabs, anchoring system, cutting and assembling services, and consulting all stem from a single source. This avoids the complications that arise with rainscreen systems, the joints of which have to be attached at certain intervals.

Innovative infrastructure

In a bustling metropolis, the requirements for a hotel to be successful are abundant. It takes a combination of imagination and dedication to create a concept that will work, not only in terms of the hotel’s level of service, but its overall aesthetic.

Together with 5G, Tristone Innovation, and Holland Marble, Neolith has helped bring to life the vision of this hotel brand while setting the standard for future architecture of Dallas Midtown. 

Marriott AC Residence Inn Midtown façades

Scribing: demonstrating artistry and craftsmanship in creative tiling

Those familiar with tile recognize that stunning tile installations have stood the test of time and endured as practical works of art for generations and generations.

Today’s tile setters participate in that tradition of precision and artistry with every job. And there are some techniques that take tile craftsmanship to the next level. Scribing is one such technique.

“Scribing is an art form,” said NTCA member Joshua Nordstrom, of Tierra Tile in Homer, Alaska. “It highlights the level of skill, detail, and abilities that you’re capable of.”

Scribing “gives an install a more artistic feel – it’s more personal – which is great for our industry because as tile setters, we are artists, and it’s nice to be able to do something creative to showcase that fact,” agreed Jason McDaniel, NTCA member of Stoneman Construction, LLC, in Tualatin, Ore.

Scribing is done “when a factory tile meets an organic shape such as pebbles, natural stone, or around an irregular shape,” Nordstrom explained. “Pebble scribing is very common because cutting pebbles in a straight line doesn’t look or feel like a natural transition,” McDaniel added. “Over the past few years, it has become more common to see a pebble scribe.

“Personally, because I like to scribe, I decided to do a mosaic hex scribe and see how that would look,” McDaniel said. “It looked amazing and now we scribe everything.”

“Personally, because I like to scribe, I decided to do a mosaic hex scribe and see how that would look,” McDaniel continued. “It looked amazing and now we scribe everything.” 

While there are many ways to customize a project, scribing can make the job truly original. Nordstrom says in his Alaskan community, his clients like to incorporate nature endemic to the area into their tile designs, often in bathrooms and entryways. “I offer my clients a personal touch for their tile install, from an elaborate mural to a simple medallion, he said. “I find that I can sell a scribed mosaic in about six out of 10 jobs. Most people like to add just that little touch to set their home apart from the rest.”

Scribing takes a combination of skills, all of which begin with PATIENCE. “Scribing is a game of patience that requires time and experience to master,” Nordstrom pointed out. “It takes as long as it takes,” said Kyle Gaudet of Flawless Floorz, a NTCA member in Brentwood, N.H., “Take your time – even extra time – until you’re comfortable with what you’re doing.”

 

The essential skill of templating

Nordstrom's Kraken drawing and cut out

Nordstrom’s Kraken traced life size on a Tyvek ‘canvas.’

An essential skill to clean scribing is templating. “I template everything when it comes to scribing a mosaic,” Nordstrom said. “It all starts with a scaled drawing that gets blown up with a overhead projector and traced life size on a Tyvek ‘canvas.’ Once it’s all colored and labeled, I go over it with tracing paper creating each individual template. Once everything is cut and installed on a fiberglass mesh, I lay the mosaic over the field tile, trace it out and scribe it in.”

McDaniel’s first step is templating as well. “I precut all of my tiles for the floor or wall and then I overlay the pebbles or mosaic that I am going to scribe,” he explained. “I trace the outside of the tile with a sharpie and then use a grinder and remove the sharpie mark. Once the scribe is completed I take a diamond pad or sanding disc to ease over the cuts and make them look smooth and finished, taking all of the chips out of the scribed area. I have found that precutting the area and overlaying is by far the easiest method to use when scribing.”

“Pebble scribing is very common because cutting pebbles in a straight line doesn’t look or feel like a natural transition,” McDaniel said.

McDaniel’s pebble scribing

McDaniel didn’t always use this method. “The first scribe I ever did was a pebble scribe,” he said. “I made templates using wax paper, which was grueling and time consuming, and not as accurate as overlaying and tracing. Overlaying and tracing allows you to set the field tile first, letting that area dry. Coming back in the next day and setting your scribe mosaic allows you to make the transition between field tile and mosaic tile perfectly flush, as it should be.”

Gaudet uses a “traditional” 2” piece of the tile for a scribing piece, marking every piece contour by contour. “I also use a 5” and 4” angle grinder, nippers and dry polishing pads,” he said.

 

Scribing tools; dealing with varying thicknesses

In terms of tools, McDaniel scribes everything with a grinder with a 6” turbo mesh blade, which gives him the best accuracy given the amount of plunge cutting necessary in scribing. “The larger blade allows you to go deeper into the tile before you hit your grinder. Saw horses and clamps are a must have to hold the pieces in place. After I finish my scribe, I ease all of my edges with a 100 grit sanding disc, or a Dremel tool for tighter corners. I am aware that Joshua Nordstrom does all of his scribing with a tile saw and I find that to be absolutely amazing!”

Nordstrom's Kraken drawing and tile

After everything is cut and installed on a fiberglass mesh, Nordstrom lays the mosaic over the field tile, traces it out and scribes it in.

In fact, Nordstrom uses a 10” wet saw, resorting to a grinder only if it’s necessary to remove some material from the tile back to achieve the same thickness between different tiles. “I have learned over the years that installing a fiberglass mesh on the backs of my mosaics really simplifies the installation,” he said.

McDaniel said scribes can be mounted on membranes or thin backer board, though he prefers to “screed my scribed area with thinset so that I can adjust each piece meticulously, insuring that I have a consistent grout line that matches the rest of my install. It also depends on what you are scribing. Sometimes glass mosaics can be difficult to deal with, so pre-mounting them is a worthwhile step.”

Considering thickness is key when scribing, and matching the tiles or grinding the tile backs is sometimes necessary to achieve the proper thickness. “Sometimes when installing you may need to use different trowel sizes to accommodate the height difference in the tile,” Nordstrom said.

McDaniel said his greatest scribing challenge was installing pebble mosaics around a large piece of walnut in an entryway.

McDaniel said his greatest scribing challenge was installing pebble mosaics around a large piece of walnut in an entryway.

McDaniel tells about his most challenging scribing task – installing pebble mosaics around a large piece of walnut in an entryway. Engineering expansion and elevations among the four surfaces and four thicknesses was tricky, he said. “With anything tile, planning ahead and having a game plan going in is essential to being successful,” he said. “Having a start and stop point, keeping your area clean, making sure you have expansion, using anti-fracture membranes, uncoupling membranes, better setting materials, non-sag thinsets; all of these things make your job easier.”

Pricing the job is personal. Nordstrom figures out how many hours it will take him to cut and install, price it on an hourly or date rate, and figure in a little extra for margin of error. Gaudet, whose company is new to scribing, said his client was initially resistant to scribing and the associated upcharge. But “after showing him a few of the pieces, he was in total agreement with my opinion to scribe that wall,” and to agree to pay the upcharge due to the look.

McDaniel, though, doesn’t charge extra for scribing. “I have never made money on a scribe,” he said. “I do it because I want my work to stand out. I want to be known as an artist and a craftsman. Maybe someday I will make money from my scribing ability, but for now I am okay with being considered a ‘Tile Badass’.”

In addition to taking your time, starting small and having patience, McDaniel said the most important thing when scribing is to have confidence. “Know that you can do it; know that you are doing something different that is going to stand out when seen.” He also recommended following the work of several tile setters who have been successful with scribing – and reaching out to them for advice: Robert Davis, Mike Soho, Zack Bonfilio, Tom Habelt, Carl Leonard, and Hawthorne Tile. In addition, he recommended viewing the videos and pictures posted in several tile-centric Facebook groups: Global Tile Posse, Tile Geeks, Tile Love 2.0, The Misfit Tilers, and Tilers Talk to get more information and inspiration.

If you are looking to give it a try, here is the first video in a series Nordstrom created on scribing. The remaining videos are available on the NTCA YouTube channel.

Should I grout the old fashioned way with mud cement?

QUESTION

I am looking for an opinion. I have installed a 4˝x8˝ porcelain outdoors with thinset with 1/4˝ joint. I wanted to grout the old fashioned way with our mud cement – with extra Portland – cleaned with sawdust. I feel that the joints were full years ago. Thank you so much, I look forward to your opinion.

ANSWER

While the system of grout you described may work well, depending on your ratio of materials, many of the modern grouts available today have been engineered to stand up to harsh climates and use.

Reading and following manufacturers’ instructions carefully, along with a little practice, will produce full joints and great results with today’s materials. I suggest checking with the setting material company that makes the thinset you’ll be using for their suggestions of grout for your installation.

Regardless which grout system you use, an exterior installation has many critical elements that must be addressed. Please refer to the Tile Council of North America Handbook For Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation for the appropriate method, details and materials for this installation. 

OSHA silica standards for construction

Revising Table 1 – now is the time to act


By Tile Council of North America staff

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has announced plans to reopen the Occupational Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica ruling, primarily focused on possible changes to Table 1 of the silica standard. Table 1 is a listing of construction tasks with engineering controls, work practices, and possible respiratory protection that provides compliance certainty for those tasks. Currently it’s comprised of only 18 common construction operations, each with their own limitations. The list can be found at https://www.osha.gov/silica/Table1sect1926.1153.pdf or https://bit.ly/2ZaS0zg. 

The notice to reopen the rule is currently at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review before publication in the Federal Register. A 60- to 90-day comment period is expected once the notice is published. To take advantage of this unique opportunity, companies wanting changes to Table 1 must organize quickly and assemble data to support their requests.

Table 1

If a task is listed on Table 1, and the employer ensures that all requirements are followed, the employer does not have to conduct an exposure assessment for that operation. However, the list is far from exhaustive and includes limitations. For example:

  • Several tasks, including cutting fiber-cement backer boards, are limited to only being conducted outdoors. This excludes not only performing the task indoors, but also in “enclosed areas,” which would include garages and many other partially enclosed locations.
  • Many tasks include only one type of engineering control, often water-based. In some instances, vacuum-based controls are currently available but have not been included in Table 1.
  • Some tasks limit the size of the blades that can be used.

In addition, there are some common activities that are not included in Table 1, such as:

  • Mixing mortar, self-leveling underlayment (SLU), and other silica-containing materials using a variety of powered equipment.
  • Shot blasting for floor preparation.
Excerpt from Table 1 showing exposure control methods required for stationary masonry saws.

Excerpt from Table 1 showing exposure control methods required for stationary masonry saws.

Opportunity for changes to table 1

After the initial announcement to reopen the Occupational Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica ruling in late 2018, Tile Council of North America (TCNA) staff met with OSHA to discuss the details of this upcoming action. TCNA’s understanding is that OSHA will be looking for at least two types of changes to Table 1:

  • New additions. Submittals can include proposed categories, engineering controls, and PPE requirements (for example, if supported by data, mortar mixing with a 300-rpm drill equipped with a mixing blade, adding water before powder, and without PPE if under four hours per day).
  • Enhanced equipment requirements. Industry can propose new engineering control requirements for tasks already on Table 1, which could change the PPE requirements. For example:
    • With air filtration or water flow rates set above the current thresholds, perhaps PPE requirements could be less restrictive.
    • Some tasks are currently limited to outdoor use only. With data from indoor operations, it may be possible to show that operations conducted indoors, or in enclosed areas, are also below the action level of the rule for certain tasks.
Scoring and snapping is not currently listed in Table 1

Scoring and snapping is not currently listed in Table 1, however in their FAQs, OSHA lists the use of score and snap cutters (or tile splitters, as they refer to them) as one of the activities not expected to expose workers to silica levels of concern.

Beyond adding tasks to Table 1, companies can also use this opportunity to clarify issues they identified through efforts to implement the rule. For example, some companies have raised the question of how to differentiate between a grinder and a saw, especially when the same piece of equipment can be used in both capacities. Grinders and saws are currently treated differently on Table 1. While presumably the difference lies in whether a saw blade or grinding wheel is attached, with Table 1 being revised, that can be clarified by OSHA with no ambiguity for the OSHA inspector and installation company.

Mixing mortar is not one of the 18 construction tasks listed on Table 1.

Mixing mortar is not one of the 18 construction tasks listed on Table 1. Companies that desire changes to Table 1 should prepare now by formulating their request and evaluating their data.

Immediate benefits

The process to potentially change Table 1 will be lengthy, with revised standards likely not out for at least a year. However, data provided to OSHA for changes to Table 1 may be immediately useful as “credible data” when assessing exposure to employees, which is required by the standard for all tasks not following Table 1 requirements.

Prepare now

The window to revise Table 1 is relatively narrow. Given OSHA’s schedule, we expect the notice requesting data to be published this summer, with the 60- to 90-day comment period extending into early fall. Companies that desire changes to Table 1 should prepare now by formulating their request and evaluating their data. If additional data is needed to fully characterize exposure, the effect of controls, or required PPE, companies need to identify that right away to collect the required information.

More Information

For more information on the OSHA silica standard, a convenient list of frequently asked questions is available at: https://www.osha.gov/dsg/topics/silicacrystalline/SilicaConstructionFAQs.pdf or https://bit.ly/2XFAcfe. 

Important note 

This article is to help raise awareness of what TCNA staff believe are important issues for the reader. Please understand, however, that these issues often involve complex regulatory issues that are not easily summarized and that may vary in application based on specific facts and circumstances. Therefore, this article is offered as is, for informational purposes only, and readers should not rely on it for legal or other professional advice. Readers should conduct their own review and seek appropriate professional advice for their specific
circumstances. 

Should this be a demo or can I replace the shower pan?

QUESTION

I have a customer that has a shower stall they would like updated…a little. New custom glass enclosure, new fixtures, and…a new pan? The two walls of the shower are white quartzite. She is in love with it and does NOT want to remove it. However, the pan is fiberglass. She does not like it and it has stains that won’t go away. She would like to have some kind of stone or tile to replace the pan.

My questions: 

  1. Will I be able to make a pan that won’t fail in years to come?  
  2. I would expect that the fiberglass pan has a flange that wraps up behind the slabs of quartzite. If so, how do I address that
    problem?

ANSWER

Thanks for getting in touch with us about this problem. Let me address your questions first:

1. Many shower pans have been made from tile and related components that, when properly constructed, last for a very long time. There are many methods to construct such a pan. Have you built a shower pan before? Which method or system do you use or are you familiar with?

2. You are correct that the existing pan likely has a lip that extends behind the first course of tile and possibly behind the substrate. As your question suggests, it would likely not be an easy or simple task to remove the band of the quartzite, patch or install the waterproofing membrane that may or may not be behind it, and replace the membrane and the quartzite and the pan with a new tile system that you will be comfortable with installing and selling to the owner as a functional system that will stand the test of time.

I suggest you determine the best method and system approach that you are comfortable with, and then discuss with the owner the reasons why it makes much more sense to demo, replace and upgrade the entire shower.

I look forward to hearing back from you so I can help guide you on the best way to continue. 

Important updates to LEED® EPD provisions and relevance to tile

In February 2019, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) released the newest edition of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), Version 4.1. From review of the updated criteria, a prioritized focus on reduced carbon pollution can quickly be observed. This has resulted in objectives that are more achievable than before, which emanate from expanded product life cycle considerations and that are generally favorable for tile. 

Updates to the Credit, Building Disclosure and Optimization – Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs), are substantive. Similar to v4.0, the use of products with EPDs can earn up to two points on a LEED v4.1 project. One point can be earned if enough products transparently report life cycle environmental impacts. A second point can be attained if enough products are selected on the basis of optimized life cycle environmental impact reduction. Where v4.1 differs is in its expanded recognition of industry-average environmental impact reporting and its focus on carbon footprint comparison.

Benefits for tile in v4.1

For tile, the LEED v4.1 EPD updates mean the following: any tile, mortar or grout represented by one of the several tile industry-wide EPDs can contribute one full product toward a 20-product threshold required to obtain a point on a LEED v4.1 project. That’s compared to the former 0.5 product contribution in LEED v4. This means that specifying a single tile system – tile, mortar, and grout – which is represented by an industry-wide EPD, could satisfy three of the 20 products required for an entire building.

Furthermore, opportunities to obtain a second EPD point through the use of tile on a LEED v4.1 project are more attainable than they were with v4. Previously for v4, 50% by cost of all products used on a project had to have an environmental footprint lower than the industry average across three different environmental impact categories. With v4.1, only a minimum of 10 “optimized” products is required. What’s more is that a building material counts as 0.5 product if the manufacturer simply has a life cycle impact reduction plan for that product, regardless of whether it’s better or worse than industry average. Additionally, a building material can contribute one full product if its carbon footprint is lower than comparable building material(s) considered for the same function, 1.5 products if it has a 10% lower carbon footprint, and two products if it has a 20% lower carbon footprint. 

Industry-wide EPDs facilitate optimization strategies 

For tile and EPDs, the big picture LEED v4.1 takeaway is simple. Industry-wide EPDs are helpful now, more so than ever before. USGBC has clearly emphasized the importance of industry-averaged life cycle data, which is inherent to EPDs, as such data is critical toward optimized environmental life cycle performance. Not only do products included in industry averages now contribute a full product toward the environmental life cycle transparency threshold, such data can be used as an important reference point for a manufacturer to strive for optimization through continuous improvement. Averaged data can also be used to compare carbon footprints of two separate types of products within the same product category for optimized specification. Industry-wide EPDs facilitate both optimization strategies. 

With industry-wide EPDs and the direction in which USGBC continues to evolve with LEED, the tile industry remains poised for “sustained” contribution to LEED building projects for years to come. 

TileLetter Green issue discusses eco-centric issues in the tile industry

Welcome to the Green Issue of TileLetter! Each year, we take a look at some eco-centric issues that impact the tile industry in our August issue. In this issue, TCNA staff examines the revision process of OSHA’s Table 1, as it relates to the Respirable Silica Rule. We also feature a Letter to the Editor from James Woelfel that takes a different perspective on the feasibility of OSHA regulations in protecting worker health. 

Terri Hogan Dreyer, managing partner/principal, NANO Architecture|Interiors, discusses how natural materials like tile and stone are foundations for her firm’s quality control process. TCNA’s Bill Griese tours us through the latest version of LEED – LEED v 4.1 – that generates more achievable objectives that build on expanded product life cycle considerations and are favorable for tile. 

Our Training and Education feature explores the recently DOL-approved NTCA National Apprenticeship Guidelines for members, which provides a career road map in the tile trade, explaining the process of developing this program and how this will benefit members and the entire trade. NTCA’s Becky Serbin takes it a step further in the NTCA University Update, describing how the establishment of the apprenticeship program will mandate more course development to support the finisher and setter tracks. 

We meet Jake Swoboda in our Member Spotlight, one of the younger members of the industry, and learn how he is carving a path to tile setting success, based on familial training from his uncle, and augmented by his CTI credentials and membership in NTCA. 

In this issue, we also bid a sad farewell to a beloved member of the tile industry and all-around nice guy, Steve Rausch. Though he will be deeply missed, all of us who knew and worked with him are richer for having known him. His sudden passing reminds me to let people who are important to me know I appreciate them – personally or professionally. Maybe there’s an opportunity for you to do the same in the coming month. 

God bless,
Lesley

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