Case Study – Hand made tile

1handmadetileHandmade tile mural invigorates library patio

By Lesley Goddin

The Fallbrook Public Library is part of the San Diego Public Library System – indeed, it was the very first branch in the system, originally established in 1913 by the Saturday Afternoon Club (which later became the Fallbrook Woman’s Club) in Hardy’s Drug Store.

The library has evolved and changed locations over the years, eventually taking up residence as a 4,300-square-foot building at its current location in 1969. In 1987, it rose out of the ashes of a destructive fire as an 8,100-square-foot structure. Now it is among the top 8 of the 32 county libraries in terms of usage.

This library is more than a repository for books – it has grown into a central gathering place for the community – with a meeting room that seats up to 200 – home to the arts, in a building crafted and created by local artists and artisans. It circulates nearly a quarter of a million items per year, serving as a backbone of education, entertainment, information and inspiration for the community.

2handmadeSo when it came time to install a durable floor in the well-trafficked Poet’s Patio at the library, organizers turned to Robin Vojak of CRStudio4 in Temecula, Calif. CRStudio4 creates handcrafted ceramic stoneware and poured bronze medallions that are works of art in themselves.

The objective of The Art of Knowledge mural, according to Vojak, was to create “an environment that is welcoming and relaxing, working to offset the sterile concrete walls and floors.” Rusty brown and golden yellow hues mixed with deep aqua greens and blues along with cast bronze inserts added warmth and drew from the colors of nature, complementing the building and permanent artwork.

A number of challenges had to be addressed in the project, Vojak said. These included:

  • Mural materials had to be durable to withstand high foot traffic and environmental conditions
  • The surface had to withstand harsh cleaners needed to remove gum, graffiti and food spills
  • The design needed to “read” from all angles – and not have a top or bottom
  • The design needed to incorporate colors in nature and have a whimsical, organic shape
  • Handmade tiles had to be completely flat with no raised edges or domed or warped areas
  • The mural had to conform to county building codes

Vojak’s husband, Cyril, did the extensive prep work for the mural. This included removing concrete in the mural area with a jackhammer, cutting the existing concrete on a curve as dictated by the design, and installing rebar for proper support. The thickness of the mural was measured and concrete was poured into the form, leaving just enough height for the Custom ProLite® medium-bed mortar and the tile.

A template was created of the mosaic area and calculations for shrinkage and firing of the durable, dense stoneware pieces was done, so they would fit snugly and perfectly into the cut-out area, like a puzzle. The tile pieces were made in a painstaking process to ensure the accurate ratio of water and clay to minimize shrinkage, and custom-formulated matte and gloss glazes created interest and depth in the design.

Once the tile was set, the bronze inserts were poured, polished, patinated and placed into the mural by Robin, Cy and several of her kids, all of whom are employed in the business. The mural was grouted with Custom grout and a stone enhancer was applied to the entire surface.

The resulting mural is an arresting centerpiece for the Poet’s Patio, that will – like the fine literature it celebrates – endure the test of time.


Rainfall in my house: the shower environment

TEC-sponsorTech Talk – September 2013

The most “rainfall” a home sees each year is NOT on the roof — it’s in the shower– so plan waterproofing for your projects accordingly

halvorsonBy Don Halvorson, CTA, CTC, CMRS, Forensic Tile Consultants

Forensic Tile Consultants has performed thousands of site inspections and intrusive tests over the past several years as an expert witness for construction-defect investigations. After many years of bathroom inspections, it has become vividly clear that residential showers are a major source of water entry into the structure, due to type of wall construction, improper construction practices and availability of proper construction details.

While the typical homeowner complaint that drives a construction-defect lawsuit tends to be roof and window leaks, a major source of water entry into the structure is located in the bathroom or bathrooms of the home. This specific area of water intrusion leads to structural damage, mold growth and health issues. While architects and contractors are aware of the weather issues associated with roof and window installations, very little emphasis is placed on properly constructing a shower to eliminate water leaks into the building envelope.

Two feet of rain falls for every shower

In 1997, Cecil Hunt, owner of Hunt For Tile, a tile contractor in Chula Vista, Calif., performed a basic test to determine how much moisture was occurring inside the shower during a typical personal shower. He simply placed a glass inside the shower, on the receptor in the water spray pattern, and tracked the amount of time required to fill the glass with 6” of water. This occurred in three minutes. Using 12 minutes as a typical shower time, Mr. Hunt calculated that 24” of rain fell during that shower, which amounted to 8,760” of “rain” in a one-year time frame. This figure has been used for several years in the industry by tile experts.

In an effort to justify this figure, or provide a more realistic figure, a review of the shower environment with respect to water or moisture is required. Currently, much emphasis has been placed on water conservation with reduced water-flow showerheads. This is due to The Energy Policy Act of 1992, a Federal law that placed requirements on the manufacturers of showerheads after January 1, 1994. This law established the National Water Efficiency Standard at 2.5-gallons per minute, at a water flowing pressure of 80 PSI, plus meeting the requirements of ANSI A112.18, 1M-1989, 7.4.3a for all showerheads except a safety shower showerhead.

Obviously, the water flow is going to vary with showerhead design and water pressure, plus the fact that there are probably more residential houses with water pressures around 60 PSI, than 80 PSI. That reduction in pressure would reduce the showerhead water flow to about two gallons per minute.

Expert opinions vary on how long a “normal” shower lasts and how much water is actually used. In August 2000, the GAO (United States General Accounting Office) published a report to Congressional Requesters on “Water-Efficient Plumbing Fixtures Reduce Water Consumption and Wastewater Flows.” In this report, reference is made to a comprehensive study conducted by the American Water Works Association’s Research Foundation where 1,200 homes were studied to determine the end use of water in residential homes. That study reports the Mean Daily Residential Water Use for a shower is 11.6 gallons per person.

A showerhead sprays water in a constant pattern; in other words, it does not fall in a random pattern like natural rain. This fact does not lend itself to using a rain gauge to measure the water amount. The actual shower size also varies, along with the spray zone and splash effect of a moving body.

Therefore, a base line flow rate would simplify any analysis undertaken and give a standard by which to judge the results. For this analysis, the showerhead flow rate used in the calculations will be 2.5-gallons per minute as depicted by the National Water Efficiency Standards.

The only other item that is constant and can be utilized in this analysis is the size, or footprint, of the shower unit. The analysis will compare the typical shower sizes found in residential houses. The water flow rate, calculated for a 12-minute shower, will be figured as covering the floor surface without draining away. This amount will then be added up for a one-year time frame.

The following standardized units will be used:



Assuming the annual rainfall in Southern California in 2001 was 6” and other areas of the world receive over 200” of rain per year; we can compare the highest and lowest figures from the above chart (1,098/2,482) with those rainfalls (6/200) and quickly realize that the moisture inside a shower can be from 5.5 to 414 times more “rain” than on the roof.

If we use the 2-gallon per minute flow rate, the moisture inside the shower changes to 4.4 to 329 times more than on the roof.

If we use the Mean Daily Residential Use Per Capita” figure of 11.6 gallons, the moisture inside the shower changes to 2.2 to 156 times more than on the roof.

From all the studies and variables reviewed, the range of moisture in the shower environment varies from 2.2 to 414 times the annual rainfall experienced on the structure’s roof.

The calculations and conclusions shown here are strictly meant to point out the fact that we have more moisture occurring inside a shower during normal use than on the roof during rainstorms. It is, therefore, necessary to design and construct a shower with equal or better care than the roof of a house.

Common sense tells us that any water occurring inside the shower area must go to the drain, not into the structure.


This article was printed with permission from Don Halvorson, CTC, CTA, CMRS, CRMI, Forensic Tile Consultant; email: [email protected]; cell 818-606-8431, office 805-492-5552.

Case Study – September 2013

1tec-casestudyComplete TEC® system transforms school into a work of art

TEC products provide solutions for both interior and exterior challenges

A fine arts building addition at Pathfinder and Navigator Schools in Pinckney, Mich., contains more than 16,000 square feet of tile, all installed with TEC® products.

The building addition houses fine and performing arts space, including a new band and orchestra suite, choir and music rooms, art rooms, a fine arts integration studio and conference room.

More than 15,000 square feet of terrazzo, ceramic and porcelain tile are featured inside the facility. Terrazzo tile outfits the floor, ceramic adorns interior columns and porcelain creates unique interior benches.

Outside, the Fine Arts Connector makes an especially creative statement. An additional 1,000 square feet of tile are featured on seven piers that are curved, designed to resemble the profile of a cello. Installing glass tile on the undulating piers created many challenges for the project team, so they turned to TEC brand products.

2tec-casestudy“We were presented with several unique challenges on this project,” said Jennifer Panning, president of Artisan Tile, Inc., who served as tile subcontractor. “The combination of a 30-feet-high exterior application, using glass tile, various radiuses and a vertical substrate meant we needed products that could stand up to these challenges. We chose the TEC brand for this very reason – quality products and technical support.”

Artisan Tile’s firsthand experience and past successes with TEC products and technical support made their choice easy. The construction manager, architect and H.B. Fuller Construction Products representatives were involved early on to consult and help navigate the complexities of the job. Everyone worked together to determine the solution. According to Panning, the team agreed that the most important part of the tile installation was beneath the surface. As a result, Artisan Tile spent 80% of its time focusing on substrate preparation.

Artisan Tile utilized several TEC products that all meet or exceed ANSI specifications: Xtra Flex™ Acrylic Latex Additive, HydraFlex™ Waterproofing Crack Isolation Membrane, Super Flex™ Mortar, AccuColor® Premium Unsanded Grout and TEC® Acrylic Grout Additive.

On the scratch coat and mud set, XtraFlex Acrylic Latex Additive was used at a 1:1 ratio, providing additional bond strength. For waterproofing, HydraFlex™ Waterproofing Crack Isolation Membrane was used. It is flexible, mold and mildew resistant and has crack isolation properties.

3tec-casestudySuper Flex™ Mortar was used to set the tile and has the highest bond strength of any TEC mortar. AccuColor® Premium Unsanded Grout was mixed with TEC® Acrylic Grout Additive in place of water. Together they form joints that are less susceptible to water penetration, which is necessary for exterior use in Michigan’s freeze/thaw climate.

Combined, the TEC products worked to overcome the unique set of installation challenges the project team encountered. The result is a striking external aesthetic that sustains the seasonal elements of Michigan’s weather, and a beautiful interior that endures high traffic and heavy use by students.

“We are happy with the results TEC products brought to the Fine Arts Connector,” said Panning. “H.B. Fuller Construction Products provided the technical support and products we needed to provide a smooth installation that meets the unique challenges of the project.”

4tec-casestudyThe Fine Arts Connector was completed in August 2012. The Michigan-based project team included Artisan Tile, Inc., Wold Architects and Engineers, and construction manager, George W. Auch Company.

For more information on the TEC brand offered by H.B. Fuller Construction Products Inc., visit


XtraFlex™, HydraFlex™ and Super Flex™ are trademarks of H.B. Fuller Construction Products Inc.
TEC® and AccuColor® are registered trademarks of H.B. Fuller Construction Products Inc. in the U.S.A.

Need business support and advice? Join NTCA – it’s what wise contractors do 


One of the great values of being a member in NTCA is the trusted camaraderie that exists between members. Need some help? Your fellow members – located throughout the country – are willing to lend a hand and answer a question.

Last month, one of our State Directors, Isaac Homza (Hawaii) reached out via email to his fellow directors for some guidance and advice in finding quality help. His question — and answers from other members, directors and NTCA staff — gave Homza some direction and may be helpful to you, dear reader, as well.

Subject: Re: Tips on finding Quality Help?

Aloha Regional and State Directors,

Hope everyone is doing well.

Looking for advice on the best way to find quality help.

We are a small company: myself, another setter and a helper/apprentice.

Both my guys are great but my helper just had an opportunity come up in another line of work.

I prefer a young person that has the potential to learn the trade. We are based on Maui, where there are plenty of distractions and at times a relaxed attitude towards work.

What sources have you used to find quality applicants and how do you handle the interview/application process to find the best?

Isaac Homza, Higher Standard Tile, Maui, Hawaii

Within hours, Homza had responses from several fellow directors:


We are a smaller company and don’t play in the big arena. I have had my key employees for over 10 years and one from almost the start. I pay them well, give them vacations, and make sure they are trained well and attend seminars on my dime.

I believe their confidence to do challenging installations has improved ten-fold since being CTEF Certified Installers. They are the backbone of my business. We have hired their family members and friends; some have worked out and some have not. We weed them out quickly.

We don’t want every job – just the rewarding ones, both financially and aesthetically. I would encourage you to pick out your key guy – paid accordingly – who is involved with choosing his workforce and fellow laborers. This will leave you more freedom to focus on your business.

I worked in Maui many years ago, so I fully understand the challenges you face with a transient workforce – and when surf’s up, no one shows.

Good luck, and make sure they attend the NTCA Workshops.

Martin Brookes, Heritage Marble & Tile Inc., Mill Valley, Calif. 

I will sometimes stop at construction sites when it is evident that tile work is going on. I have found several good tile setters that just do not like running a business.

This keeps my training investment down and lessens the risk of training my competition.

Scott Heron, Precision Tile, West Columbia, S.C.

I actually had some luck by paying attention at fast food restaurants that I frequented. I watched to see who was a hard worker and had a good attitude (this sometimes took a little time) and would ask if they might be interested in a different line of work with a future, and gave them a card to call me. This also worked in a grocery store for me once, though that is a better job than restaurant work.

Michael Whistler, NTCA trainer/presenter

Ask the Experts – September 2013




I have been in a newly-built home for the last year. Upon possession of the home, air bubbles were noted in the grout. The tiler mixed new grout and applied it over the top of existing grout. After almost a year, cracks were discovered in the grout. Water presumably penetrated the grout cracks and allowed moisture behind the tiles and onto the mortar.

AtE_septThere was a secondary issue where only plywood was used and tiled over without a waterproof membrane. When attempting to rectify the cracks, the builder indicated that the cracks were due to the movement in the exterior wall from the settling of the home. Most of the grout was removed with a utility knife (therefore not completely removed). A couple of days later, a white crystal substance could be seen growing out of the grout lines. Thinking back, this was observed prior to the grout removal and was seen growing on the surface of the grout.

I wonder if you can provide any insight as to the cause of this growth, which I can only assume is efflorescence. As the manufacturer of similar products, I would be very interested in your opinion as to how to remedy the situation, and advice if you have ever heard of or seen such a reaction. It has been seven weeks since the grout was removed and it continued to produce this growth.


After looking at the pictures you sent, it appears that the tile was bonded directly to plywood walls with an organic adhesive (mastic). This is not an approved method according to The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) or The Tile Council of North America (TCNA)  for installing tile in a wet area such as a shower stall.

No tile or grout should be considered waterproof – even if a tile and grout sealer has been used. While some tiles such as porcelain are impervious and only absorb a small amount of water other ceramic tiles may absorb much more water – up to 30% of their weight. This absorption allows the water to transfer through to the back side of the tile, thereby requiring  a water management issue to be addressed. 100% waterproofing behind the tile is not required in all cases, but for a successful tile installation, a water-management system is required along with appropriate use of products.

For instance, a house with a shingled roof doesn’t have a waterproof roof. But if the appropriate shingled products are used, and a skilled professional properly installs these products according to ANSI standards or the product manufacturer’s written directions, a successful long-lasting installation will be achieved.

I’m sorry, but it appears necessary to remove all tile work in the wet areas and replace tiles using any of the several methods found in the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation for tile installation in shower receptors. Plywood and wet tile don’t mix well and will most likely continue to be problematic. This combination will most likely produce cracking grout joints and cracked or loose tile and also offers a perfect opportunity for mold and other bio-organic growth.

The National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) web site offers a list of NTCA tile contractor members that are located all across the nation ( – click on Find a Tile Contractor or Consultant). I highly recommend a tile contractor that is a member of the NTCA, because members are well-informed on standards and updates in our industry.

– Gerald Sloan, NTCA presenter/consultant


Business Tip – August 2013

SponsoredbyMAPEIRevisions to retainage laws welcomed by tile contractors

By Bart Bettiga, NTCA and Greg Preves, Curran Group Inc.


All tile contractors have undoubtedly encountered a “retainage” clause in contracts for both private and public projects. This clause allows the project’s owner or general contractor (GC) to withhold a certain percentage of each progress payment until satisfactory completion of the entire project. Owners and GCs argue that retainage is necessary to assure completion of the project in a timely and workmanlike manner.

The most common retainage provision allows the owner or GC to withhold 10% from every progress payment made to the contractor. The sums retained are then released as part of the final payment made after the entire project has been completed and accepted by the owner. Occasionally, the contract provides for the reduction or elimination of retention after completion of a certain percentage of the work.

Tile contractors should carefully consider the impact of retainage provisions. At the very least, retention means that the contractor will have to complete all work before the release of withheld payments.  As a result, contractors may have to pay vendors for tile and installation materials long before all of the necessary funds to pay for such materials are released.  Additionally, where the release of final payment is contingent upon the owner’s acceptance of the entire project, retainage will be held until all contractors have satisfactorily completed their work.   This means that final payment could be held for long periods of time due to third-party performance issues over which the tile contractor has no control.

In an environment of dwindling profit margins, retainage often exceeds the amount of the contractor’s profit. Not only does this situation present liquidity challenges, but extends the contractor’s exposure to the risk of owner or GC insolvency. Tile contractors are also vulnerable to unscrupulous owners and GCs who may purposely delay payment to assist in financing the job or as leverage to resolve work issues or claims.

Although retainage is a contractual issue, tile contractors should be aware that many states have begun to impose limits on contractual retention requirements.  Thanks to hard work by groups like the American Subcontractors Association ( and the Associated General Contractors of America (, such legislation continues to move forward. Tennessee has enacted a law limiting retention in both private and public projects to 5% of the contract amount. The law requires that retention funds be released within 90 days of the contractor’s completion of the work. In North Carolina, new legislation limits retention to 5% on public projects over $100,000, and prohibits further retention after 50% of the project reaches “satisfactory” completion. In total, 40 states have enacted laws specifying a maximum retainage percentage for public and private work.

Some states have gone further to limit retention rights. In lieu of retainage, 21 states allow contractors on public projects to post security such as a bond, certificate of deposit, or letter of credit. Mississippi, Oregon, and Tennessee offer a similar alternative on private jobs. Meanwhile, some states require that retainage held on certain projects be placed in interest-bearing escrow accounts, such as California, Kansas, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington for public projects and Connecticut and Ohio for private projects.

Many states have enacted prompt payment requirements that provide for substantial monetary and criminal penalties. New Mexico imposes the most restrictive limits, requiring that retainage funds be released separately as each individual scope of work item of the project is completed.

If you are a tile contractor who works on commercial projects, you should be aware of the retention obligations at the time of the bid, and negotiate these terms with the owner or GC prior to signing a contract.  If you are uncomfortable with the requirements, consider requesting a reduced retainage percentage or a specific deadline for retention release.

You also need to be aware of the retainage laws in the state where the project is located. Several contractor association websites provide summaries of the retention laws in all 50 states. Visit these resources for more information:

• American Subcontractor’s Association:

• This 2004 paper from the American Subcontractor’s Association is a bit older, but gives an excellent in-depth discussion of the topic and discusses the approaches of many different states:

• This survey was produced by the law firm of Holland & Knight: Uploads/Documents/Alerts/Construction/01-20-12.pdf

To the extent contractual retainage requirements violate state law, they are unenforceable and should be removed from the contract. The goal is to draft a retention provision that fairly balances the owner or GC’s need for timely project completion with the tile contractor’s need for timely payment. A little time spent addressing this issue at the beginning of the project may save a major problem down the road.


Greg Preves is a staff attorney for Curran Group, Inc., parent company of Crossville, Inc. Founded in 1986, Crossville, Inc. is a U.S.-owned and operated manufacturer of award-winning porcelain stone tile collections for residential and contract applications.

Ask the Experts – August 2013


Oh my gosh! I inadvertently sprayed Lime-A-Way® on travertine! How do I correct the problem? Thank you for your professional advice.


You are definitely not the first person to say “oops” after spraying an unsuitable cleaner onto stone tile. It is actually a pretty easy fix, though probably not inexpensive.

You need to contact a stone restoration or stone re-polishing company. Try the Yellow Pages first, and if you don’t have a listing, call local tile distributors, local tile contractors, or local granite countertop fabricators, since this is a skill that some installation companies have. In some cases just the affected area can be ground and re-polished to blend indistinguishably with the surrounding original stone, but in some cases all the stone needs to be hit with the final grits to give an even appearance.

If this is a shower, all the better. Re-polishing stone done wet precludes the major dust that comes with dry grinding and dry polishing within your home. My company would have the polisher strip down to a pair of swim-trunks to do the wet polishing inside a shower, and once finished with the polishing process, wash down the shower and himself, and squeegee off the walls and shower glass.

Hope this helps.

Michael K. Whistler, presenter/technical consultant, NTCA



In the July 2013 Ask the Experts, the answer to this question was incorrectly stated, due to an assumption that the inquiry included concrete structures. This is the correct question and answer.


Can ceramic tile floor and wall finishes be installed in commercial modular buildings (which are constructed offsite, then hauled to and set up onsite) using the standard TCNA tiling methods, or are there special requirements for this type of building? These are wood-framed modular buildings (similar to those used for school classrooms), which would have restrooms with ceramic tile floor and walls. Are there any special tiling requirements to accommodate the movement of the manufactured building while being transported and set onsite? Maybe ceramic tile would not be a good choice here?


Any tile installation requires a certain stiffness, or lack of deflection. If in moving the structures it can be pre-determined or engineered that the completed tile installation will not be subject to any bending or twisting, it would probably work. I see this as highly unlikely, though.  Perhaps the structures could be moved into place and tile installed after the structures are permanently installed on their foundations.  Tile is a very good heavy-service finish, but it does require a very stable substrate.

– Michael K. Whistler, presenter/technical consultant

Wake Med Heart Patient Tower and Children’s Hospital

Wake Med gets new “heart” with expansion

David Allen Company tackles complicated challenges to bring beauty and functionality to project














Wake Med’s expansion into its new Heart Tower and Children’s Hospital in Raleigh, N.C., incorporated 87 patient rooms, six gang restrooms, and lobby for a total of 37,204 square feet of tile in 15 different tile colors and sizes. The project provided a number of challenges for locally-based NTCA Five Star Contractor David Allen Company (DAC), including adapting tile installation to out-of-level vinyl floors, and a complex grid of tile color and orientation changes in the main lobby.

The patient toilets in the Children’s wing had 12”x24” wall tile with a 1”x2” custom glass accent and vinyl flooring. The general contractor had an issue on a previous project where the vinyl flooring was not cut nicely to the ceramic tile base. To remedy this, the GC scheduled the wall tile installation after the vinyl floor. However, upon inspection after the vinyl floor installation, DAC discovered that almost half of the rooms had floors that were 1/4” to 1/2” out of level. To correct this problem, DAC needed to level the walls by scribing the cove base. This totaled about 2,100 linear feet. This adjustment caused issues with all of the switch plates, which were designed to be installed in the 6” bullnose above the glass accent. The condition in every restroom was different, thus requiring coordination with the electrician for all rooms.

From east to west, the main lobby is 388’ long. It is divided into three areas and consisted of three different 12”x24” tile colors. Every time the tile color changed, the orientation of the tile was rotated ninety degrees but the grout joints still had to align. Plus, every color change was either on a non-parallel line or a radius.


The three lobby sections had to be installed separately with the center section as the last to receive tile. Control lines were critical and difficult to obtain, since the tile contractor didn’t have a clear line of sight from one end to the other. DAC started its control line in the area with the public restrooms that were completed in phase I, on the west side of the building.

Control lines were created heading east down the north and south corridors. When the installation moved into the center section where the building wasn’t parallel, DAC had to transpose the control line into segments. Then the control line was continued in the east section, which is where the installation began. DAC moved west installing tile in the north and south corridors simultaneously. The north and south corridors’ pattern joined on the east side of the building to meet the public toilet tile.

The steel staircase had a 12”x48” step tread, with the 12”x24” tile brick pattern continued from the main floor on the risers and stringer. In combination with the difficulty of the brick pattern on a small stringer, it also had 2” steel glass supports that had to be core drilled through the tile. Precision was crucial in drilling because there was less than 1/8” overlap of the cover plate for the hole. DAC did a couple of field mock-ups for the owner and architect to see how the holes and the pattern looked together on the small stringer. Some of these areas were installed from a lift 15’ high.

Even with the difficulties, DAC often finished tile areas with days left on the schedule.

Green Tip – September 2012

Federal initiatives: sustainable product procurement

By Bill Griese, Tile Council of North America, LEED AP BD+C

In 2009, President Obama issued Executive Order 13514 for Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance. This order required the federal government to demonstrate leadership in the use of sustainable technologies and environmentally-preferable materials, goods and services.

Over the past three years, Executive Order 13514 has generated several directives, including federal green purchasing programs. Through these programs the federal government has used its enormous buying power to stimulate market demand for green products. This has impacted the construction industry in a number of ways, especially as it pertains to governmental construction and product procurement.

Various new laws and parts of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) now require that agencies purchase environmentally-sustainable products. Per the National Technology Transfer Act (NTTAA) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-119, federal agencies have been directed to use voluntary, consensus standards in their regulatory and procurement activities. On many occasions the government has turned to industry for these standards. Often only industries with sustainable product specifications have been considered under preliminary procurement efforts, making the establishment of the tile industry’s sustainable product standard, ANSI A138.1/Green Squared®, very relevant.

For government building projects the General Services Administration (GSA) now requires that its employees comply with the GSA Green Purchasing Plan (GPP) when selecting building products. GSA employees rely on industry sustainability standards for direction on which products to choose. Many of these standards, including ANSI A138.1/Green Squared®, are referenced in the GSA’s Performance Based P100 Program – Facilities Standards for the Public Buildings Service.

To further the goals of Executive Order 13514, the Section 13 Workgroup on Product Standards and Ecolabels, co-chaired by the GSA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was formed. This group is currently developing a report with product selection guidelines based on existing environmental sustainability standards and eco-labeling programs. If completed and released later in 2012, this report would go to the White House Council on Environmental Quality and be published in the Federal Register.

While these initiatives are centered predominantly on federal government procurement, it is likely they will have a strong influence on the greater green building community and green product selection in general. Given the direction sustainable product specification is heading and the emerging demand for industry standards, having ANSI A138.1/Green Squared® already in place is huge for our industry, as it ensures ceramic tile and related installation products can be considered for federal government projects.

Business Tip – September 2012

Delivering customer service

By Steve Rausch, USG Corporation

“Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.” – Walt Disney

In my humble opinion, the quickest way to make or break your company is via your customer service system or lack thereof. One of the big problems of customer service is the definition of what customer service is! It’s so difficult because it is such a moving target. Once you discover what customer service means to your company, you quickly find that (a) it needs improvement, (b) your competitors have exceeded or redefined the limits required, or (c) you just continue on doing what you have been and discover you are losing market share rapidly and don’t know or understand why.

Customer service has been and continues to be the number one driver of growth at most major successful companies. Think about Amazon, BMW, FedEx, Ritz Carlton, UPS and Zappos – all are widely-known and respected for their customer service.

One story, told by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, is about a phone call to their 24-hour customer satisfaction center (customer service via phone center) asking where to get a pizza delivered late at night. Now Zappos isn’t in the pizza business, they’re best known for shoes, yet their rep took the initiative to go online and find the closest pizza place to the customer’s location and gave the caller the phone number. No sales transaction took place that night for Zappos; however, that is one customer who won’t go anywhere else for their shoes when they do want/need them.

And Ritz Carlton Hotels keep a list of returning customers’ likes and desires so they can have the room just right. For example, I use a CPAP machine at night and discovered my room at the Ritz had no outlet by the bed for my machine. After calling down to the desk they sent up a person with an extension cord with multiple outlets for my machine. Pretty standard for a hotel – BUT WAIT, the next visit, and every visit since, my room always has that same setup so that I don’t have to call and request it ever again! Now, can you imagine that I use Ritz Carlton whenever possible?  You bet I do!

What can YOU do in your business to take your customer service above and beyond the expectations of your customers? What needs can you anticipate and have already handled when your customers do business with you? The bottom line here is determining what UNEXPECTED PLEASURE you can provide to your customers so they provide you with a better bottom line. In the words of Jim Rohn, “One customer well taken care of could be more valuable than $10,000 worth of advertising.”


Steve Rausch represents the Substrates and Specialty Products Division of USG Corporation.

1 36 37 38 39 40 43