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        Tile Tour 2008
        January 2nd, 2009

        Tile of Spain Offers the Unexpected Imagination and technology team to offer new options for tile installations.

        January-February 2008

        Tile of Spain branded manufacturers have tapped imagination and technology to deliver designs that work well beyond the kitchen and bath.

        Many Tile of Spain manufacturers have revolutionized the idea of using tile in rather unexpected situations. They are specifying ceramic tile in rooms where we normally don’t expect to see tile at all. Ceramic tile isn’t just for the kitchen and bath anymore; in recent years we are seeing it used more often in dining rooms, living areas, bedrooms, and hallways—and not only in residential spaces, but in commercial spaces as well.

        For hospitality situations, where a digital printed, wood-looking wainscoting tile can be used in hotel hallways to accentuate a more boutique or intimate feeling, ceramic tile is not only aesthetically the best option, but durable and easy to maintain.

        Inalco, one of the manufacturers under the Tile of Spain umbrella, demonstrates this trend in a collection called Suite using large format tile in 18″x 35.5″, which comes in white, beige or grey. It is a creative, innovative and a chic representation of an unusual way to use ceramic tile. Ceracasa, another Tile of Spain branded manufacturer, uses digital technology as well to create printed tiles that look like a white leather tufted chesterfield fabric. These tiles are perfect for a fabric-looking headboard, or a unique way to create a powder room floor.

        Whatever can be imagined from a fresh, cutting-edge design standpoint, can be realized. It is a fun and dramatic way to incorporate ceramic tile, or make it the focal point, while still being practical and functional. Most of Ceracasa’s digital tiles can be specified in large or medium formats.

        The Spanish Ceramic Tile Manu-facturer’s Association (ASCER) is the private organization whose primary objective is to support Spain’s ceramic tile manufacturers and the industry as a whole by stewarding and promoting the Tile of Spain brand worldwide. A strong global leader in the industry, the Tile of Spain brand comprises 220 manufacturers concentrated primarily in the province of Castellon.

        For more about tile produced in Spain, contact Tile of Spain Center at the Trade Commission of Spain, 2655 Le Jeune Road, Suite 1114, Coral Gables, FL 33134. Call 305-446-4387 or visit www.spaintiles.info.

        One-on-One…with Kate Flaherty
        January 2nd, 2009

        “We offer the most cutting-edge products and set the trends in the industry.”

        Talking with LuxeHome’s Kate Flaherty about the upscale residential market

        First Quarter, 2009

        By Jeffrey Steele

        Fifteen years ago, the opportunity to shop for and purchase luxury kitchen and bath products was far more limited than it is today. Much of the credit for the revolution that has since taken place is justifiably bestowed upon Katherine Flaherty, who heads kitchen and bath business at LuxeHome at Chicago’s Merchandise Mart, New York City’s Architects & Designers Building and D.C.’s Washington Design Center.

        LuxeHome is the world’s largest collection of luxury boutiques for home building and renovation. Its products include cabinetry, countertops, flooring, kitchen systems, integrated media systems, architectural moldings, hardware, paint and wallcoverings, bath accessories, doors, marble, stone, granite and tile.

        In Chicago’s Merchandise Mart, LuxeHome’s dozens of boutiques range from Ahalya Stone to Woodland Artisan Cabinetry. Adding to the considerable value the boutiques offer is LuxeHome’s adjoining Design Resource Center, a 6,000-square-foot area replete with beautiful specialty-item-filled vignettes, where consumers and trade professionals alike can find kitchen and bath design direction and inspiration.

        Helping keep consumers and home design professionals apprised of emerging design trends and innovations are LuxeHome’s many special events. These include book signings and kitchen and bath design lectures served up by industry luminaries and shelter magazines. Fully operational kitchens in some LuxeHome showrooms are the settings for special events and in-showroom cooking demonstrations.

        For example, last October, LuxeHome celebrated National Kitchen and Bath Month with a full day of special events that included a keynote presentation by the host of HGTV’s “Designed To Sell,” Monica Pedersen, as well as a “Tile Fashion Show” at new LuxeHome boutique Artistic Tile, which showcased coutre-quality garments handcrafted from tile and mosaics. In November, LuxeHome in cooperation with Wine Spectator hosted its second annual CHILL wine and culinary event, which helped raise more than $50,000 to benefit the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago.

        Finally, the LuxeHome Concierge is available on a daily basis to help tailor the shopping experience for trade professionals and consumers seeking to meet specific needs on their design projects. Little wonder, then, that thousands of interior designers, architects, custom builders and affluent homeowners shop LuxeHome each week.

        Overseeing much of this activity with a skilled, graceful touch is Kate Flaherty. As vice-president, kitchen, bath and building products of Chicago’s Merchandise Mart Properties, Flaherty 14 years ago pioneered the concept of one-stop kitchen and bath shopping for homeowners. Much of her success since then has been attributable to what colleagues term a passion for bringing together manufacturers, dealers and design community members to create beautiful and luxurious products for the home.

        But those who know Flaherty best believe there’s another crucial key to her success. That is her respect for the artisans and craftsmen whose creativity, talent and accomplishments help deliver a continual supply of new products to make homes more beautiful, comfortable and functional. “So many business leaders concentrate solely on the numbers,” says one Merchandise Mart Properties official. “Kate is insightful [and] dedicated to the aesthetic, and has a well-rounded view of the business of living well.”

        Flaherty graciously agreed to a recent One-on-One interview with TileDealer. In the exchange to follow, she addresses the scope of LuxeHome and how it serves its clientele, how LuxeHome is responding to the downturn in new home construction and the economy in general, the nature of her own background and current responsibilities, LuxeHome’s response to interest in Green Building, and what’s ahead for LuxeHome.

        TileDealer: What is The Merchandise Mart? And what is LuxeHome?

        Flaherty: The Merchandise Mart is the world’s largest commercial building, largest wholesale design center and one of Chicago ’s premier international business locations. It encompasses 4.2 million gross square feet, and the Mart spans two city blocks and rises 25 stories.

        LuxeHome is open to the public and is located on the first floor of the world-famous Merchandise Mart. It is the world’s largest collection of luxury boutiques for home building and renovation, and has become synonymous with the best of the best in luxury kitchen and bath products for the home.

        TileDealer: Can you give us an idea of the scope of its operation, in terms of vendors, products, buyers, etc.?

        Flaherty: LuxeHome features more than 100,000 square feet of space, with 30 boutiques that boast the finest kitchen and bath products for luxury home building and renovation from the most recognized and respected manufacturers worldwide.

        LuxeHome displays the widest selection of products to fit all lifestyles, from modern European to classic American to traditional English, and offers a variety of products including tile, cabinetry, lighting and fixtures, glass, paint and wall coverings.

        The world-renowned brands of LuxeHome include Poggenpohl, Kohler, Clive Christian, Ann Sacks, Poliform and Artistic Tile, among others. In addition to the extensive lineup of manufacturers, each boutique offers knowledgeable designers who are available to assist with all phases of each design project. LuxeHome’s boutiques are open for shopping Monday through Saturday.

        TileDealer: How much of LuxeHome is focused on residential vs. commercial?

        Flaherty: Ninety-five percent of business at LuxeHome is residential.

        TileDealer: How is LuxeHome planning to deal with what we expect will be a long-term drop in the housing and coverings marketplace?

        Flaherty: We are becoming more aggressive in our marketing, advertising and public relations efforts, to get the word out about our wide selection of luxury products and brands. Additionally, we are targeting new industries, including real estate, to reach a different audience.

        TileDealer: Where do you see the strengths in the marketplace?

        Flaherty: LuxeHome is a one-stop-shop for the latest products in the kitchen, bath and building products industry from the world’s leading brands. Because it is located on the first floor of The Merchandise Mart, LuxeHome is in a great location and attracts consumers, designers and other trade professionals visiting the building.

        The Merchandise Mart has restaurants, lounges, coffee shops, etc. which makes it such a wonderful place to shop and spend the day.

        LuxeHome also has a very insightful website that offers information on the products and services at LuxeHome, as well as a Product Locator navigation tool that helps visitors find the exact product they are looking for. In addition, LuxeHome offers a concierge service, located in the new Design Resource Center, to answer any questions and offer guidance while shopping the 30 luxury boutiques.

        TileDealer: What is LuxeHome’s role in the architectural and design community, in both Chicago and the nation as a whole?

        Flaherty: LuxeHome in Chicago is the one-stop-shop for luxury home building and renovation products from the most recognized and respected brands from around the globe. Trade professionals and consumers alike look to LuxeHome for the latest products and trends in the kitchen and bath industry.

        We have people from around the world travel to LuxeHome to browse and purchase products for their homes. We recently launched the LuxeHome brand in three additional cities including Boston (at Boston Design Center), New York City (A&D Building) and Washington, D.C. (The Washington Design Center). The name LuxeHome has become synonymous with luxury and quality.

        TileDealer: How is green building affecting products represented in LuxeHome?

        Flaherty: In November, 2007, Merchandise Mart Properties, Inc. (MMPI) announced that The Merchandise Mart Chicago, the world’s largest commercial building encompassing 4.2 million square feet, had been awarded the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED-EB) Silver certification for existing buildings.

        Many of our tenants offer green products including Chicago Kitchen Design Group, Valcucine Chicago, Paris Ceramics and Urban Archaeology, among others. Green design is important to us, and our customers and our tenants have responded to this demand in the marketplace.

        TileDealer: What is your background, and what led you to your current position?

        Flaherty: I oversee the leasing for all the kitchen and bath business at LuxeHome at The Merchandise Mart in Chicago, the Architects & Designers Building in New York City and the Washington Design Center in Washington, D.C

        Fifteen years ago, I brought the one-stop-shopping concept to homeowners with LuxeHome. Today, we have some of the best brands under one roof and host amazing events including an Open House in October, Chill Wine and Culinary event in November and other guest lectures and appearances throughout the year.

        TileDealer: What’s ahead for LuxeHome?

        Flaherty: Our goal is to maintain the best brands in the world at LuxeHome and keep our tenants and customers happy. We offer the most cutting-edge products and set the trends in the industry.

        Surviving in a Sinking Economy
        January 2nd, 2009

        First Quarter, 2009

        To put it mildly, these are tough economic times. The residential real estate market is in the tank, retail vacancies in some regions are at 10-year highs, consumer confidence has plummeted, and some economists are predicting already high jobless rates will be swelled by 1.5 to 2 million new unemployed over the course of 2009.

        Because it is tied to housing, the tile industry is bracing for one of its worst years ever. But there are still ways for tile dealers to stay afloat in our sinking economy.

        In this report, TileDealer turns to some of the brightest minds in the business for suggestions on how to remain buoyant as other companies go under. Here, tile makers and distributors share ideas on such life preserving tactics as returning to basics, cutting costs, targeting the remodeling market and optimizing marketing dollars.

        Return to Fundamentals

        This will be a “tough, challenging year,” says Frank Douglas, vice-president of business development for Crossville, Tenn.-based Crossville Inc., America’s premium porcelain tile manufacturer. Douglas believes 2009 is a year for tile dealers to go back to the basics they mastered at the very beginning when they launched their businesses.

        That means making sure showroom sales staffs are well trained on products, following through on promises and, above all, partnering with trusted vendors.

        “Dealers should look to manufacturers to help train their salespeople,” Douglas says, noting that’s a critical way of trimming costs in a troubled fiscal environment.

        He also believes dealers must look to trusted supplier partners that can provide quick, reliable logistics functions. “Once a customer has placed an order, being able to quickly fill it in a timely, accurate manner with quality product is crucial,” he says.

        Finally, to both reap cost savings and take advantage of invaluable promotional assistance, dealers should look to suppliers that are helping their dealers merchandise showrooms in a consumer-friendly way, Douglas reports.

        Also urging a “back to basics” strategy is Thomas J. Kotel, president of Elk Grove Village, Ill.-based Mid-America Tile, a nearly 50-year-old, family-owned importer of ceramic, porcelain, glass, metal and natural stone tile from around the world.

        Kotel believes 2009 will present the industry with unprecedented hurdles. “I think dealers will be challenged to compete, because the urgency to buy isn’t there,” he says. “People are going to shop a lot more. Everyone has a budget, so price is important. But the dealers who make it through aren’t going to fall for selling on price.”

        A back-to-basics approach, Kotel says, involves upgrading product knowledge, customer service, and customer contact. “You should go back and look at a list of your core clients, and make sure they know you’re still in the game,” he says. “That’s the old 80-20. Eighty percent of your business comes from 20 percent of your clients.”

        “The question that should be asked is, ’How can we do better?’ When you take a look at your showroom, make sure you have the products that are going to excite the clientele. Also, I would probably take a look at who you represent, in terms of suppliers. Get the ones that are easiest to do business with and the most creative.”

        This is also a time to take a look at your store personnel, Kotel recommends. “You want the friendliest and most knowledgeable people on your staff,” he says.

        Fine Tuning Marketing

        Ron Williamson, marketing services director for Ironrock, doesn’t like the term “dire’ to describe today’s economy. But he does believe this year will be a struggle.

        The way to come out on top in that struggle, he says, is not to do things differently, but to do all the normal, everyday things far better. That’s just the strategy that will be used in ’09 by Canton, Oh.-based Ironrock, purveyor of Meredith Collection art tile, Metropolitan Ceramics quarry tile and MetroBrick architectural thin brick.

        Williamson urges dealers to take a cue from Ironrock and ratchet up the creativity and focus of their marketing efforts. “You have to be cognizant of all the things that go into marketing your products,” he says. “You can’t take anything for granted.”

        Williamson says Ironrock will focus marketing efforts in two key areas this year. First, it will target institutional or commercial builders of schools and healthcare facilities, which he says will continue doing well. Second, it will put more stress on green building, whose ongoing ascendance is reflected in the estimated 50-percent attendance growth at the 2008 Green Building Expo vis-à-vis the 2007 turnout, he says.

        Recognizing budgetary constraints are likely to be the order of the day in 2009, Williamson also believes dealers should examine alternative ways to market that may be a little less costly, but still effective in reaching target audiences. “I would tell them to try and update the customer databases as much as they can, and also to use the inexpensive tool of email marketing to get the message out,” Williamson says.

        Dealers might also want to take a page out of Ironrock’s book and consider using their websites as the foundational backbones of their marketing strategies.

        “Everything ties into our website,” Williamson says. “For instance, when we send an email blast, we won’t try to give them every bit of information in that email. Instead we’ll have a link to the website and from there they can contact us and follow up. With architects, for instance, we’re informing them of new products, such as Enviroquarry, our new green 60-percent pre-consumer recycled product.”

        Since Ironrock believes its distributors need to focus more on specific target groups to achieve greater effectiveness, the company has also designed four specific vertical market sell sheets, Williamson says. These four focus on commercial kitchens, healthcare, hospitality and schools. “They can have a focused tool to take into the architects’ offices, and provide as a leave behind. We’re doing that as an email blast to our distributors and making it very easy for them to get their hands on.”

        Ironrock even utilized its website to showcase an eight-minute YouTube video it created, centered on the production process used to produce Meredith art tile. Ironrock made that video available to its dealers, asking them to use it to help sell consumers.

        Williamson urges dealers and distributors to focus on chances to market for low or no cost, including using free listings provided to architects. “I wonder how many send press releases to their local newspapers and broadcast outlets,” he says. “A full-page article is usually worth more [in generating business] than a full-page ad . . . I would be reaching out to the media, and holding open houses and special events designed to reach my customer base, whether it’s the consumer or builders and architects.”

        Use Downtime To Boost Training

        Vice-president of sales Brian Petit and marketing manager Nick Duve of Akron, Oh.-based NAC Applied Construction Products, a 25-year-old manufacturer of “floor protection systems from the ground up,” are also convinced 2009 will be a year of challenges. But along with challenge comes opportunity, they say.

        “This year, because it could be slower for some companies, it’s a good time to educate yourself about evolving industry standards, and how various products meet those standards,” Petit says. “Everyone is looking to cut costs. So some manufacturers may be cutting stone a little thinner than they have in the past. That means installing that stone properly becomes even more important. Where you might have had some leeway in the installation process before, you don’t have that anymore.”

        For education, enlist organizations like the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association, National Tile Contractors Association and Tile Contractors of North America, he says.

        “Some of the organizations we belong to have great educational programs, where they train people on best practices in the industry,” Petit says. “The dealers could have contractors come in, and give them the chance to learn about changes in setting materials, practices and products. Some of our distributors come in with a trailer, set up tents, and have industry experts provide seminars on setting materials and proper installation practices. This helps with your costs as you expand knowledge.”

        In other words, they say, dealers should use available time this year to learn and master new products, solidifying themselves as the go-to experts for the years ahead.

        Agreeing with other experts who urge a “back-to-basics” approach, Petit and Duve add that knowledge enhancement will likely lead dealers back to the most time-honored and trusted products. “The reason we’ve been around for so long and stood the test of time is our product works,” Petit says. “There are no gimmicks and no cost cutting. It’s just a solid product. There have been a lot of new companies come in with lower quality, lower-cost products over the last few years, as business boomed. Those companies may fall off as dealers look to consolidate with established brands.”

        Target the Remodeling Market

        Today’s one bright spot is that many homeowners are focusing on what they can do to upgrade the homes they currently own, Williamson points out. “Whatever way [dealers] can think of to reach that audience, including teaming up with remodelers and restoration architects, would be a great way to approach the market,” he says.

        He’s got a good point, if the recent Cost Vs. Value report by Remodeling in conjunction with National Association of Realtors’ Realtor magazine is any indication.

        The National Association of Realtors reports home values have declined by an average 7 percent nationally over the past 12 months. But in that same period, the value of homeowners’ investment in remodeling projects declined only 3.86 percent.

        Homeowners can expect to recover 67.3 percent of their investment in 30 popular home improvement projects, not that far below the 86.7 percent back in boom year 2005.

        Pan American Ceramics’ president Tom Carr, who says his Industry, Cal. firm is generating “decent” business from the remodeling sector, is in complete agreement.

        Carr has found many homeowners have resigned themselves to spending years in their current homes, because the residential real estate market has declined so profoundly. That’s changed the kinds of products people are having installed. A couple of years ago, they might not have paid much attention to quality, because they were going to turn around and sell their homes anyway. But now that they know they will be the ones occupying the house a half decade or more, they’re upgrading quality levels.

        “What we’re telling our customers [is] to concentrate on the mid- to higher-range products for remodeling projects,” Carr says. “These products really add value to the home, and that’s what people are looking for. They want to have stylish, high-quality products they’re going to feel good about for the next three to five years.”

        Some Final Thoughts

        Just as it makes sense to be creative in ensuring marketing dollars stretch further, it’s also a wise move to look at new ways to cut other costs, Carr says.

        “To gain the staying power for the next four to six months, try to lower your expenses, but without compromising service levels,” he urges.

        “If you fire all your showroom people, it’s not going to please your customers. We’re looking at flexible or rotating hours, so we still maintain the same open hours for our customers while trying to avoid laying people off during the slow times.”

        Carr also believes dealers can improve their chances of weathering the economic storm by partnering with distributors that, like his company, are actually increasing inventory on new items, and maintaining inventory on current products.

        “That’s one of the opportunities for us,” he says. “We’ve been able to add new items. Before, you needed a lot of inventory on new items, because if they took off and dealers and builders were buying them, you could run out quickly.

        “But now that sales are slower, when we introduce new items, we don’t have to begin with as large an inventory as we did in the past. So a tip for dealers is to identify distributors who are adding new inventory and maintaining service levels during this downturn. They’re more likely to survive and help you survive.”

        Finally, Carr agrees with other experts that dealers should use this moment in time to pare down their vendor lists. One mistake some dealers have made in the past is trying to be all things to all people by showcasing every product possible. That approach makes it tough to effectively spotlight any one product, Carr believes.

        “Use this time to sort out whom you want to do business with,” he advises. “When dealers support those distributors and assist them, it in turn enables them to develop alliances that will help them make it through the downturn.”


        Tom Carr, president

        Pan American Ceramics, Industry, CA


        Frank Douglas, vice-president

        business development

        Crossville Inc., Crossville, TN


        Nick Duve, marketing manager

        Brian Petit, vice-president of sales

        NAC Applied Construction Products, Akron, OH


        Thomas J. Kotel, president

        Mid-America Tile, Elk Grove Village, IL


        Ron Williamson, marketing

        services director

        Ironrock, Canton, OH


        Color Fusion: The Blending of Color Philosophies
        January 2nd, 2009

        First Quarter, 2009

        By Barbara Schirmeister, ASID, CAUS, DC

        Color dichotomy” best describes the color forecast for 2009-2010 for residential and commercial interiors from the Color Association of the United States (CAUS), a forecast of color trends used by manufacturers of environmental and interior products. The palette exhibits both contrast and contradiction, reflecting uncertain and chaotic circumstances as we approach a new decade of the 21st century.

        In searching for meaning and order, we are looking for a new attitude—a new design aesthetic. A desire to break away from the norm has helped to create new color solutions for today’s co-existing philosophies:

        Classic versus Contemporary;

        Moderation versus Excess;

        Energetic versus Relaxed;

        Reality versus Fantasy;

        Urban versus Rural;

        Playful versus Serious;

        Sensationalism versus Rationalism; and

        Exotic versus Simple.

        Individualism reigns and is responsible for the diverse emergence of mini trends, seen at all of the leading international trade shows and fashion runways. These mini trends incorporate all eras and cultures, and strive to introduce visionary, futuristic concepts.

        The Palette

        The palette for 2009-2010 has the following characteristics:

        A fresh, balanced approach fusing warm and cool hues;

        The complex neutrals are more saturated and refined;

        Brights are more confident;

        Technology coexists with romance;

        Reflections of an entrepreneurial spirit;

        A redefinition of luxury.

        Urban Neutrals

        Urban neutrals are the core and dominate the palette. They are pivotal swing colors that become a springboard for interesting new accent hues. These neutrals consist of:

        No-colors—a bit off kilter and moody, such as sepias, taupes, tobaccos, bronzes and off-browns;

        Whites—a strong story that speaks of purity, luxury, the ethereal and a new start; it acts as a stage set for beautiful color combos.

        Gray—Definitely the new leading family. We see “techie” grays alongside of elegant taupes, metallic silvers and graphites.

        These neutrals are the perfect vehicle for understated elegance in classical environments or contemporary spaces. These more somber hues are the perfect foil for bright spurts of color, or they work beautifully together in more monolithic schemes, playing off one another. The layering of neutrals in varying textures and lusters utilize a play of light as an essential part of the scheme.

        Graphic Brights

        These vibrant, energetic colors are represented with new neons, acid and fluorescent brights, electric primaries, and the bold contrast of black and white. They can be characterized as:

        Somewhat eccentric or bizarre;

        Retro—Flashback (as in time-travel), Edwardian, 80s Pop Art, Steampunk and Art Deco;

        Surreal—a rebellion of sameness and corporate culture;

        “Techie”—Electronic media used in patterns, textures and grids, micro-mesh, 3-D, and precise laser techniques;

        Preppy—Mid-tone brights;

        Olympic fever and Asian influences.

        This segment of the palette will be used to punch up the urban neutrals and the black and white story.


        The most current driving influence on color and design is sustainability and ecological concerns. There is a great deal of confusion as to what is truly green. Honesty has become a driving force, fostering a new purism and neo-nature movement. In addition, honesty in production is value-added—recycling, neoadaptation, eco-friendly, transformation. This family of color echoes the “organic-chic” of fashion: pre-washed hues, organic dyes, tender colorations inspired by nature. These colors are familiar and comforting. They include:

        Cheerful, sunlit golds and yellows;

        New botanical greens as fresh grasses and new leaves, celadons, clean tropicals and jades;

        Reds are important—from terracottas and pinks to crimson;

        Orange becomes coral, copper and cantaloupe;

        In place of pastels, there will be expanded tinted whites;

        The blues promise to be escalating. They represent wellness, sky, water, dependability and faithfulness. We will have blue in all its glory: Sky blue, periwinkle, cobalt, cornflower, royal, nautical, lavender blue and a plethora of spa-influenced blues. Purpled blues and blued-greens shift into a new range of teals and aquas. The blue palette will play off of the urban neutrals and metallic segments of the palette.

        Luster and Shimmer

        It seemed that sparkle and shine had peaked, but it has resurfaced with a vengeance. Everywhere, adorning all products, there can be found glitz, dazzle and shimmer—from flaunt-it-shine to subtle sheen. Luster is being used to add life to deep shades; woven and embossed effects are threaded with shimmer; crystals are imbedded in textiles; and fiber optics is escalating.

        There is a fascination with the mystery of light and shadow and with the illusion of smoke and mirrors. This contemporary fantasy embraces glamour in all forms and applauds over the top drama in design.

        Metallics are a major influence in reflective color: tarnished, burnished, polished or brushed, they add to the neutral palette. Choose from an array of silvers, coppers, bronzes or precious metals. They are indeed a palette in themselves.

        Finally, there will be an emphasis on imagination, fostering experimentation and risk-taking. This will result in adventuresome mixes of unusual color combinations. A fickle marketplace generates a faster turnover for trends. Consequently, we see less longevity for color popularity and a more radical shift in our upcoming forecast palette.


        Internationally renowned color expert Barbara Schirmeister, ASID, has been a longtime member of the Color Association of the United States (CAUS) Interiors Committee, helping to formulate the annual Environmental/Interiors Forecast palette. She has served for many years as color consultant to a number of major companies, including Crossville, Inc.; American Standard; Unisys; Motorola; Pantone; Eastman Kodak and Hunter Douglas, among others.

        The Gray in Green Product Labeling: A look at Standards and Certifications
        January 2nd, 2009

        First Quarter, 2009

        Humans feel an innate sense to connect. Where do we fit into life and with whom? What is your identity? Corporations spend an enormous amount of capital on helping us through this dilemma with their own choice question—What products do you associate with and consume? Marketing gurus are masters of this identity artform and skillfully craft the image and characteristics of a product into a single icon that conveys all that perception — the label.

        As environmental consumers, the ability to show our green side has become as important as showing our financial success. We use labels to tell us the greenness of a product, and then trust that the product is good for the earth. Very few consumers are educated enough to truly understand the total environmental impact of a product. The ultimate problem with green is that there is a subjective set of qualitative factors that can be used in whole or in part to substantiate a claim.

        If you look at the exhaustive list of attributes that fall into the green realm, you’ll quickly discover that it is nearly impossible, without a lot of knowledge, to determine which attributes are really important. Take a look at the following short excerpt and determine which of these is the most important to the overall health of planet earth.

        Environmental contamination from the manufacturer

        Waste in the product packaging

        Off gassing from the product or installation materials

        Manufacturer’s carbon footprint

        Compliance with industry building codes, product standards and environmental regulations

        Use for product after its initial life

        Ease of recycling product and diverting from landfills

        It is a difficult and scientific dilemma overshadowed by a healthy dose of judgment. When faced with this type of choice, our human inclination is to get buy-in from others and collectively we define a standard answer to our particular question, which in this case is—What is green about this product?

        So what happens when a standard is missing to validate the greenness of a product? Initially a manufacturer is left with little other choice than to define their product’s green attributes, and then market based on these criteria. The biggest problem with this method is that the data used to define that particular product’s green features, may or may not be applicable to others of its kind. If each manufacturer is out there creating their own set of green criteria, it causes confusion in the consumer’s mind. This confusion has been labeled as “greenwashing.”

        Is there a label out there that can be relied upon to not have false claims? Within the green world of labeling, that’s a path full of pitfalls. One issue is that there is a whole array of Single Attribute Green product labels that certify one particular characteristic of a product as being green. The other attributes of the product could be very ungreen or downright detrimental to the environment. For example, bio-based fuels were long thought to be earth friendly. Then it was discovered that rainforests were being clear-cut, to create more farming land, to produce more crops to be turned into bio-fuels. Net result—bad for the environment. Usually a label based on verified Multiple Attribute criteria is considered to be more reliable because it takes into consideration broader environmental factors.

        Another option is to turn to a cumulative decision making body for definitions. The International Standards Organization (ISO) is a non-governmental standard setting body founded in the early 1940s. This group includes representatives from standard setting organizations such as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Within the ISO 14000 standard there are requirements and guidelines for environmental product labeling.

        Type I labels define compliance with a multiple attribute set of requirements and offer a stamp based on a pass/ fail rating. The difficulty is that they aren’t designed to provide a consumer with detailed comparative information on performance between products.

        Type II labels are self-declared environmental claims based on a single attribute of the product such as energy consumption, recycled content, or emissions.

        Type III labels are comprehensive third party certified statements about a product’s environmental performance. They will often include an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) that evaluates the environmental impacts of a product such as raw material usage, air emissions, waste generation and / or the product’s overall Life Cycle Assessment (LCA).

        Currently within the Green Labeling world, most are either Type I or Type II labels. This leaves a gray area—how to make sure that the product complies with the claim to green? Non biased certification of a product is a good avenue to follow.

        A characteristic of a product needs to be certified, if it isn’t obvious in the product’s makeup. For example, an untrained consumer can look at a tile, and determine if the tile has a textured surface. It takes a person with experience to look at a tile and determine if it is porcelain or stone. Only a lab can determine the amount of recycled material in the body of the tile.

        The criteria used to label the product as green, should be based on a standard. Standards can be developed by a manufacturer, an industry organization, government entities or a standard setting body such as ANSI or ISO. The best standards are typically those that have been developed by a voluntary consensus organization such as ANSI or ISO because they have industry support. The consensus process is slow, but ultimately removes conflicts of interest, due to the multiple sources of input into the standard.

        Lastly, the product needs to be certified against the standard. This is where labeling and certification go gray together, because the testing can be performed by the manufacturer, an industry association or an independent lab. In the certification of products, the levels between the manufacturer and the standard or certifying entity are there to eliminate conflicts of interest. Let’s look at a scenario using the manufacture of widgets (not a real product, in case you are wondering).

        At the first party level of certification, a “widget” manufacturer creates a list of attributes that describe the greenness of their “widgets.” This list may or may not be based on industry defined environmental aspects.

        At the second party level of certification, an industry organization, such as the “Widget Distributors of America” create a standard for the greenness of all widget products. They will select green attributes that are beneficial to the sale of most widgets. This consensus standard, however, is still tilted toward the sale of widgets.

        At the third party level of certification, an independent lab will be commissioned to certify the widgets against an environmental standard. The lab is in the business of testing products and would lose credibility as a testing facility if they reported a false claim of green attributes.

        At the end of the day, this is where the battle rages among flooring products—who has the best standard and most valid claim of a product’s greenness?

        The first environmental wave in green flooring labeling was focused on the Single Attribute measurement of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) as a contributor to bad indoor air quality. What is a VOC? It’s that new car smell, or the smell of fresh paint. You might enjoy these scents, but it has been determined that VOCs contribute to poor indoor air quality and sick building syndrome. The California Department of Health Services has been at the forefront of developing air quality standards for the entire nation. Entities such as Green Guard will third party certify a product as complying with the California emission standards.

        In early 2000, the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) created the Green Label Plus as a second party industry label. This label was based on a modified version of California’s emissions criteria. Shortly after, the Resilient Floor Covering Institute (RFCI) adopted an emissions certification developed by the Scientific Certification Systems (SCS). The resulting third party label, Floor Score, is a measurement for all hard surface flooring and flooring adhesives / mortars. The carpet industry followed up, and was the first to create a standard for green carpet. The NSF 140- 2007 for carpet, is the first ANSI approved multiple attribute certifications in the flooring industry. It evaluates a carpet product on the multi-attribute areas of manufacturing process, recycled content and end of life reuse.

        So how does tile measure up in the green arena? For thousands of years, tile has been an environmentally friendly product. It has one of the best life cycles of any product in the flooring industry; it is made of locally sourced materials, and is great for indoor air quality. To give tile an even bigger boost, most tile manufacturers have practiced Economic Environmentalism for decades. To define my own phrase—

        Economic Environmentalism means doing good things for the environment that also make good economic sense for the business. A lot of the waste tile created during the manufacturing process is added back into the production line resulting in the diversion of hundreds of millions of pounds of landfill waste. A lot of the US manufacturing plants also use clean burning fuel resulting in negligible CO2 emissions, and some are even taking major steps to reduce their carbon footprint. Millions of gallons of water are reclaimed and reused in tile plants across the US, and some manufacturers are working towards net zero discharge of process water into the public sewer. Sounds like tile is at the top of the green flooring food chain right?

        Wrong! If you’ve read this article thus far, you have hopefully picked up on the fact that certification against a standard is important.

        Tile has always had a favorable green weight, so there hasn’t been any urgency to create green tile industry standards. This lack of tile industry certification and labeling is putting the industry at a major disadvantage on both the consumer and construction green front. There is a lot of liability for an architect in selecting green products that will comply with the parameters for a LEED certified project. It is much easier for them to select from the vast array of third party certified products based on reputable standards, than to verify a first party claim to being green. Along those same lines, the carpet industry is doing a FANTASTIC job of marketing to consumers about the various green attributes of their products.

        So what is the tile industry to do?

        The most important challenge will be for the tile industry to band together and approach the mountain of green with a deliberate collaborative plan rather than disjointedly as we have in the past. The good news is that some of our industry groups such as the TCNA and the CTDA have already made a move in this direction. A committee has been formed with joint representatives that will focus on bringing the tile industry further into the green light. Will it be enough or too little to late? The Green Industry is a complex and rapidly changing movement where many core components are still being developed. Leaders in our industry believe that tile can still achieve the recognition it deserves as a truly green product—but it needs to have buy-in at all levels. Are you ready to drink the punch?

        Tile Distributors Once Again Extend Invitations to Their Customers
        January 2nd, 2009

        First Quarter, 2009

        Several tile distributors are inviting their customers to join them for a trip to Chicago for the 2009 Coverings show. The international exposition and conference dedicated exclusively to the newest in ceramic tile and natural stone takes over the McCormick Place Convention Center, April 21-24, with 1,200 exhibitors from more than 50 countries attracting nearly 37,000 attendees.

        With four locations based throughout Michigan, and none much more than a four-hour drive from the Windy City, Genesee Ceramic Tile Distributors, Inc. is preparing to host about 50 clients including architects, designers, residential builders and remodelers for a two-day visit. There is no admission charge for the show and all seminar sessions also are gratis, so it becomes a tempting proposition for Genesee’s guests to sign on.

        “We’ve been going to Coverings since the show started 20 years ago,” said Jim C. Cokley, founder and president of Genesee. “It’s always been worth the travel investment, regardless where it’s held, because there are so many new products to see and resources to discover. We’ve also found it a valuable venue for networking. Professionally, it’s a tremendous experience.”

        According to Cokley, the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA), a Coverings sponsor, first suggested Genesee host a client trip. In fact CTDA has teamed with the show’s management to help line up some of the logistics and details for those distributors interested in the program.

        “We’re trying to put the word out about this offer to our members who are within easy traveling vicinity to Chicago,” said Rick Church, CTDA executive director. “It’s a modest investment in time—just the matter of a day or two—to visit the show, but the payoffs are manifold. You’ll be building goodwill with your best customers and at the same time helping introduce them to new products, new resources, and contacts from all around the world.”

        For Cokley, who has been joined in the business he founded 35 years ago by two sons and a daughter, the conference sessions also are worthwhile, and he and his staff will be encouraging guests not only to travel the show floor but also to take advantage of some of the seminar programs, especially since so many offer CEU credits.

        “The two-days will be jam-packed, but with Chicago so close by, we’d be remiss not to offer this, and I’m confident those who take the time out to join us will find it hugely beneficial to their own businesses,” Cokley added.

        Also sending a contingent to the 2009 show is Keen Tile. With four locations in central Illinois, Keen is planning a one-day excursion with about a dozen client guests. It has been issuing the invitations informally, via word-of-mouth.

        “We’ve been attending Coverings for 13 years straight,” said Rick Jackson, Keen’s owner. “It’s an important show for seeing the latest trends and a rich resource for finding new manufacturers, plus renewing relationships with many of our existing suppliers. To be able to share this experience with our clients, which is a mix of retailers, builders and installers, is fantastic, because it opens their eyes to how vast the industry actually is and the depth and breadth of tile and stone out there from all over the world.”

        The concept for distributor-sponsored trips to Coverings emerged two years ago when the trade show made a return appearance in Chicago after a 15-year absence. At that time Miles Distributors, one of the mid-west’s largest, hosted about 1000 clients from its five locations. This past year for the Orlando show, Palm Beach-based D&B Tile Distributors and Master Tile, which has two Florida locations, participated in the program, bringing a total of 220 guests.

        According to Glenn Feder, president of client events for National Trade Productions, which manages and produces Coverings, “This program has evolved to become an ongoing initiative with CTDA and one that makes sense for its members. This coming year, especially, given the economic climate and challenges to business, the opportunity for a distributor to offer something of added value to his or her client is a great demonstration of support that helps build relationships.”

        Other distributors who want to host a customer trip should contact National Trade Productions, 703-683-8500.


        Online registration is now available for Coverings 2009, the annual international tile and stone exposition and conference, April 21-24, at Chicago’s McCormick Place Convention Center. The advance registration is accessible at www.coverings.com.

        More than 80 percent of show goers now take advantage of the Web-driven advance service, attracted by its sheer convenience and ease. There is no charge to register or attend Coverings, which features nearly 1,200 exhibitors from more than 50 countries. Attendance topped 37,000 when the show was in Chicago in 2007.

        “For anyone planning to attend Coverings 2009, the advance online registration from one’s own desktop is the best way to sign up,” said Glenn Feder, president of client events for National Trade Productions, which manages and produces Coverings. “And, this year, we’ve added a great new incentive, not only for pre-registering online, but also for referring a colleague.”

        According to Feder, the newly created Refer A Colleague program is aimed at encouraging registered Coverings attendees to recommend the show to business associates or colleagues who have not attended in the past. “When you register,” explained Feder, “you are given a Refer A Colleague code. For every additional new guest you refer who also registers—and actually attends—you are rewarded with 25 shopping points that are redeemable online with your choice of hundreds of top-flight merchants nationwide.”

        The range of 350 participating Refer A Colleague merchants includes major retail chains such as Target, Home Depot, Zales Jewelers and even food and entertainment favorites such as AMC Theatres, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, and Outback Steakhouse.

        There are numerous other benefits to using the online registration. Updates on events, conference sessions and other programs of interest at the show are issued regularly from the time you register up until show week. Another helpful bonus is being able to directly access Coverings Connect, the online tool that helps you communicate with exhibitors you want to see at the show before you even arrive onsite.

        “The online registration tool is completely user-friendly,” said Feder. “With so many international guests who come to Coverings, the service is especially helpful and is one less travel hassle. Even for those who are locally based, it’s appreciated as a huge time-saver, eliminating the need to wait in long lines and maximizing time that can be spent on the show floor.”

        Though online increasingly is the preferred registration method, a toll-free registration hotline will also be available starting October 21; 866-285-3691, or direct dial at 703-706-8257.

        Underlayments for Ceramic Tile Installation
        January 2nd, 2009

        First Quarter, 2009
        By Steve Rausch

        Ceramic tile provides one of the most desirable types of treatments for walls and floors. There are many ways of doing a ceramic tile installation. Thick bed, or mortar bed, is one method which has been around for centuries; however, thin-set installation is the most common method used today.

        When using a thin-set installation, you have various choices of underlayments, depending on many site factors. Many times you will want a backer board unit as an underlayment material. Backer boards are designed to provide a solid surface for bonding ceramic tile, to minimize transmission of movement from the subfloor to the tile surface, to minimize level variations with other finish materials, to increase water resistance in wet tiled areas, to insure solid bond to the substrate, and some backer boards (CBU’s) to protect combustible walls from room heaters or wood burning stoves.

        Backer boards are typically a 3′ by 5′ panel, usually ½" or ¼" thick on residential applications and 4′ by 8′ panel, usually 5/8" thick on commercial applications. Backer boards are typically used on floors, walls, countertops, as a heat shield, or on the building exterior.

        Backer boards may be installed over a wood subfloor (never over concrete, use a self-leveling underlayment for that application) or directly to the stud walls to function as the tile backer or substrate. There are also limitations for tile backer boards such as: they are not structural, they must be mechanically fastened, all joints and seams must be taped, and they need a leveling bed of setting material under the board if used on the floor.

        According to the 2008 TCNA Handbook, there are various types of backer boards and each has unique installation requirements and suitable applications. The TCNA Handbook as well as the ANSI and ASTM standards refers to backer boards by their generic names rather than by their market names. In order to use the correct standard and method you must know both the generic name(s) for the board(s) as well as the brand names.

        Different brands of backer board that fall into the same generic category will perform similarly, have similar, but not exactly the same installation requirements, and will be similar to work with. For example, DUROCK and Utilicrete are two different brands of the same generic type of board, cementitious backer units (CBUs) and the same installation methods will apply. The manufacturer’s installation requirements may differ and ultimately that is what you must follow for any installation.

        Categories of Backer Units

        According to the 2008 TCNA Handbook, the following categories comprise most of the common backer board units:
        Cementitious Backer Unit (CBU)
        Coated Glass Mat Water-Resistant Gypsum Backer Board
        Fiber-Cement Underlayments
        Fiber-Reinforced Water-Resistant Gypsum Backer Board/Underlayments
        Cementitious Coated Foam Boards

        There are other products produced that do not fall into these basic categories, but they are not generally recognized by the NTCA or TCNA and therefore have no industry guidelines or methods for installation. If you choose to use one of these other products, be certain to follow the manufacturer’s written instructions closely. Some products such as water-resistant gypsum wallboard (Green Board) and standard white gypsum wallboard are also sometimes used behind ceramic tile, but each of these products has many different limitations that need to be considered before installation.

        Let’s break each category of backer boards down and discuss them individually and specific areas where they can be used.


        Comply with ANSI A-118.0 and ASTM C 1325
        Use on walls, floors, ceilings, and countertops
        Use in wet or dry applications
        Use with glass tile or large format tile
        Use in steam rooms or saunas
        Use on interior or exterior applications
        Noncombustible, will not swell, soften, decay,
        delaminate, or disintegrate.
        The most widely accepted backer units
        The only backerboard able to be used as a heat shield


        Conforms to ASTM C 1178
        Use on walls, floors, ceilings, and countertops
        Use in wet or dry applications
        Interior use only
        Cannot be subjected to continuous high heat for long periods of time
        Cuts with utility knife using score and snap method


        Conforms to ASTM C-1288
        Use on walls, floors, ceilings, and countertops
        Use in wet or dry applications
        Interior use only
        Carbide-tipped knife or power shears are recommended for cutting


        Conforms to ASTM C-1278
        Use on walls, floors, ceilings, and countertops
        Use in wet or dry applications
        Interior use only
        Lighter weight than cement underlayments
        Cuts with utility knife using score and snap method
        95% recycled content


        Conforms to ASTM C-578—ONLY Extruded Polystyrene with cementitious coating designed for ceramic tile assemblies can be used.
        Use on walls, ceilings, and some floor applications
        Use in wet or dry applications
        Interior use only
        Lightweight, cuts with utility knife


        Conforms to ASTM C-1396
        Moisture resistant paper and core
        Use on walls and ceilings only
        Use in dry areas only—excluded for wet area applications by International Residential Code
        Interior use only


        Conforms to ASTM C-1396
        Paper face
        Not treated for moisture resistance
        Use on walls and ceilings only
        Use in dry areas only
        Interior use only

        Pourable and self-leveling floor systems
        Ceramic tile can also be installed over pourable, self-leveling systems that can be poured, pumped, or trowel applied and would include current products that are cementitious, gypsum, or epoxy based. There are currently new composition designs being developed in this pourable category as well. This type of system is generally installed over previously installed concrete (although some are used over existing wood subfloors) where preparation of the substrate is required. There are many considerations to this type of installation, including service use requirements and environmental conditions. There are products for both interior and exterior use and generally all require primers or bonding agents. You also need to consider the thickness of the underlayment, minimum and maximum tile sizes, compressive and/or flexural strength and deflection considerations plus local building code compliance requirements. As with the backer boards mentioned previously there are many different manufacturers, and you will need to follow their specific written installation instructions for a successful application.

        Using Membranes on floors and walls
        Membranes generally come in several varieties, flat flexible sheet products, and uncoupling membranes. In addition to providing a bondable surface for ceramic tile, these membranes can also provide other characteristics such as waterproofing and crack isolation in the tile installation. Because the flat membranes and uncoupling membrane systems have significant variations in application, installation requirements, and performance, they have separate TCNA handbook installation methods.

        Membranes are most frequently installed over concrete slabs for waterproofing, uncoupling, and/or relocation of movement joints in the concrete slab. Because of the various functions that membranes can offer, membranes use can be a challenging topic due to the variations in use, performance, and installation requirements.

        When membranes are used on wall applications they generally are used to provide waterproofing of the area to protect the wall cavity behind the installation. In some applications, like steam rooms, the membrane is required to also be a vapor-proof membrane as well as waterproof membrane.

        Sorting through the options
        The preceding information is an overview of the industry accepted basic thin-bed installation methods of using different types of underlayments. Professional tile installers will use many of these different products at different times for different installation requirements. The important thing to know and remember is how to use the TCNA handbook installation guides and methods as well as the ASTM and ANSI standards that apply to the various methods. The TCNA handbook provides a great starting point for determining if a particular generic product category is a suitable match for the method, service requirements, and expected use of the finished installation. One final note to remember is that the TCNA handbook, ASTM, and ANSI standards are constantly being reviewed, revised, and updated, so make certain that you are using a current year edition of the publications. Everything in this article is from the 2008 publications.

        Steve Rausch is with the Substrates and Specialty Products Division, USG Corp. He can be reached at 678-942-1203 or Srausch@usg.com

        One-on-One…with Ashley Katz
        January 2nd, 2009

        The Blending of Color Philosophies

        “Becoming a LEED AP is a valuable and marketable credential.”

        First Quarter, 2009

        By Jeffrey Steele

        Environmental sustainability seems to take stronger hold on the American public consciousness with every passing day. Tile dealers and installers can be a part of this green movement by learning more about the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building certification system and its LEED Accredited Professional (AP) program, which can help build eligibility for projects on which owners are mandating the participation of a LEED Accredited Professional.

        To help readers gain critical insights into the USGBC and LEED certification, we invited USGBC communications manager Ashley Katz to sit down for a TileDealer One-on-One interview. In the informative exchange that follows, Ms. Katz discusses how tile dealers and installers can gain LEED credits, the benefits of Accredited Professional status, and how today’s challenging economy is affecting the green building movement.

        TileDealer: What is the USGBC and why was it founded?

        Katz: The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is a non-profit organization composed of leaders from across the building industry working to advance buildings that are environmentally responsible, profitable and healthy places to live and work.

        The USGBC was founded in 1993 to bring together professionals from every sector in the industry and to create a common definition for green building. Today, USGBC has more than 17,800 member companies and has also developed the voluntary consensus-based LEED green building certification system, which is driving the transformation of the market to sustainability.

        TileDealer: What is LEED?

        Katz: LEED is a third party certification program and the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings, which are more environmentally responsible, healthier, and more profitable structures. LEED addresses a variety of buildings and building project types through individualized systems. They include new construction, existing buildings, commercial interiors, core and shell, homes and neighborhood development.

        TileDealer: How can tile dealers and installers become knowledgeable about LEED?

        Katz: The first way to learn more about LEED is to attend one of the hundreds of workshops, online courses and webinars offered throughout the country on LEED and green building.

        These workshops should help tile dealers and installers increase their knowledge, expand their practice, and maximize their success in the green building industry. You can find a listing of all available workshops online at http://www.usgbc.org/DisplayPage.aspx?CMSPageID=283.

        TileDealer: What’s the easiest way to get LEED credits in terms of tile?

        Katz: There are two credits in the Materials and Resources category of the rating system specific to recycled content. In the first credit, you can earn one point for using Recycled Content: 10 percent (post-consumer plus 1/2 pre-consumer). If you use 20 percent recycled content, you earn an additional point. Here are the specifics:

        Use materials with recycled content such that the sum of post-consumer recycled content plus one-half of the pre-consumer content constitutes at least 10 percent (based on cost) of the total value of materials in the project. The recycled content value of a material assembly shall be determined by weight. The recycled fraction of the assembly is then multiplied by the cost of assembly to determine the recycled content value.

        Recycled content shall be defined in accordance with the International Organization of Standards document, ISO 14021—Environmental labels and declarations—Self-declared environmental claims

        (Type II environmental labeling).

        TileDealer: What’s the best way for tile dealers and installers to market LEED capability to architects, specifiers, and others?

        Katz: Tile dealers and installers may want to become LEED APs, or LEED Accredited Professionals. Like any other program, you are required to have knowledge in the building industry and then must pass an exam to demonstrate your knowledge.

        There are many benefits. Becoming a LEED AP distinguishes individuals with detailed knowledge of LEED project certification requirements and processes and a command of integrated design principles. For professionals, becoming a LEED AP is a valuable and marketable credential for employers, prospective employers, or clients.

        APs are eligible for projects on which owners are mandating the participation of a LEED Accredited Professional. LEED APs also receive recognition for involvement in LEED projects, including a listing on the USGBC website directory of LEED APs and a certificate. For the building industry, becoming an AP encourages and promotes higher understanding of LEED and supports USGBC’s mission of transforming the built environment.

        TileDealer: Where does the USGBC want to be in 5 years? In 10 years?

        Katz:We hope that we’ll be continuing to move the market forward, as there is still much to be done. Our goal is that by 2010, there will be 100,000 LEED certified commercial buildings and one million certified homes. By 2020, there will be one million LEED certified commercial buildings and ten million certified homes. But really, our goal for green building is that the phrase disappears, because all buildings will be green.

        TileDealer: The USGBC is currently strong in commercial, municipal and educational buildings. Is residential its next goal?

        Katz: We actually have a residential component to the LEED certification system called LEED for Homes, a voluntary rating system that promotes the design and construction of high performance “green” homes. A green home uses less energy, water and natural resources; creates less waste; and is healthier and more comfortable for the occupants. USGBC began the pilot test of LEED for Homes in August 2005, and launched the certification system in December 2007. Currently, there are more than 1,151 LEED certified homes and 13,747 registered homes as part of the program.

        TileDealer: How is the current economy impacting green building?

        Katz: Green building is even more important in the current economic crisis. To meet the challenge, USGBC is turning its focus to greening our existing buildings—homes, schools, and offices. Focusing on existing buildings will create new green jobs that save money and energy, all while addressing our single greatest opportunity to help solve the climate change equation. The McKinsey Report on reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions makes the business case clearly: Greening our existing buildings will make money, and will meet 85 percent of our new energy demand through 2030.

        TileDealer: Is the USGBC getting a boost from the current emphasis on energy savings?

        Katz: The current emphasis on energy savings has certainly helped increase awareness and spread the message about the importance of green building. It all comes back to the fact that buildings are an incredible source of solutions for some of the biggest challenges facing our society today. The footprint of the built environment is absolutely enormous: Nearly 40 percent of U.S. CO2 emissions (more than cars), 12.2 percent of potable water usage, and 14.7 percent of the $10 trillion U.S. GDP. Moreover, we spend 90 percent of our time indoors, which means buildings have a significant—although little researched—impact on our health and well-being.


        Ashley Katz, communications manager

        U.S. Green Building Council, Washington, D.C.


        Green Building with Tile
        January 1st, 2009

        The Tile Industry’s First Guide to Green Products

        Green Building, 2009

        By Zoe Voigt

        The Green movement seems to be everywhere these days. At Coverings 2009 in Chicago, there were a dozen conferences offered specifically about environmental issues. Naturally, lots of new green products and technologies were launched. Also at the show, many manufacturers were touting sustainable products, handing out environmental mission statements and in case anyone missed the point, there were even a number of booths that were literally the color green.

        The media and manufacturers are not the only source of this shift toward sustainability. Dealers report that their customers are coming into showrooms asking for environmentally friendly products.

        Alan Court, of East Hampton, NY, says he’s seeing real demand for green products in his showroom, “There are two ways it happens. The first is that this interest in green products is architect-driven rather than client-driven. Architects are interested in LEED points and that seems to be important in projects,” says Court. “The other way we are seeing this desire for green products is with contractors and spec builders. They see the green improvements as something they can advertise to sell the house. Buyers would prefer to get green products, if they can, so that makes those spec houses more appealing.”

        “Being environmentally conscious is interesting to professionals, because there are a number of people who really care. Therefore, we’ve tried to have any number of materials that qualify.”

        With all the attention environmental issues have been getting in the news, green seems to be the new neutral. This is great news for the tile industry, as industry leaders begin to get the news out that tiles are green. Ceramic tiles contain no VOCs, require little maintenance, have a long life cycle, and many contain recycled materials. These attributes all contribute to the eco-friendly nature of tile.

        Bill Griese, LEED AP, Standards Development and Green Initiative Manager for the Tile Council of North America (TCNA), points out, “Tile is a natural choice when building green. It is ecologically advantageous, and the use of tile is consistent with green building practices.” In fact, he adds, “Tile is inherently green. It was green before green was cool.”

        Executive director of TCNA, Eric Astrachan, says that TCNA put together 60 technical experts to work on green initiatives. Some of the information can be found in the TCNA 2009 handbook, where there is an eight-page insert called “Tile is the Natural Choice,” which details the reasons why tile is green.

        Dark green vs. light green

        In many ways, tile manufacturers have always used sustainable practices, because they were cost efficient and just made sense. These practices include closed loop water processing and recycling pre- and post-production waste and dust within the factory. Still, if tile is intrinsically green, how does one distinguish those manufacturers who take extra steps to stand out in the crowd and make their products even more sustainable?

        According to Griese, “One should look beyond inherent green properties of tile to identify the companies that are using innovative technologies to add to the green quotient.”

        Now manufacturers are taking sustainability even further by coming up with novel ways to recycle post-consumer waste, reduce transportation burdens, and even use innovative technologies to convert smog to breathable air.

        With everyone claiming that their products are environmentally friendly, it can be hard to distinguish between green and what is referred to as “greenwashing.” In a recent focus group by Market Resource Associates, the builders surveyed had little idea of what was available, beyond energy efficiency. Dealers were seen as merely setting price and were judged on location, not on ability to provide reliable info for their clients.

        Griese says, “Green building is not static, it is dynamic. Definitions vary, depending on objectives, current events and point-of-view. One way of looking at it is to consider natural resource conservation, to reduce the environmental burden. Environmental and human health, sustainability and affordability must also be considered.”

        “The tile industry should also be talking about life cycle, recycled materials, transportation, air quality, and maintenance issues,” says Griese.


        TCNA had an independent consultant analyze flooring life cycle cost, which includes installation, materials, maintenance and removal. The results show that all kinds of tile, “Cost less per year than all other floor finishes over the life of a building.”

        Because replacing flooring uses resources, it is much better for the environment that tiles do not need to be replaced nearly as often as other products. This cuts down on manufacturing, transportation, installation and waste materials. While the study suggests that tiles last fifty years, obviously tiles can last significantly longer.

        Regarding air quality, Griese says, “Unlike other flooring industries, like carpet and resilient flooring manufacturers, the tile industry is late to promote itself in this way. While carpet manufacturers tout their ‘reduced VOCs,’ (volatile organic compounds) we have not gotten the point across that tile has no VOCs whatsoever.”

        Griese explains, “Tile is inhospitable to dust mites and mold. The tile itself has no VOCs and the adhesives have little or none. Tile has no VOCs because they are fired at high temperature, and at 2000 degrees not too many organics can survive.” As for setting materials, he says, “There are no VOCs in sand adhesive cement, and if there are no VOCs at the beginning, you won’t end with any. Mastic and resins may contain a few VOCs, but nearly all manufacturers are in compliance.”

        Cleaning a product with harsh chemicals detracts from its indoor health factor. “Tile requires low cleaning and maintenance, which negates the need for chemicals,” says Griese.

        Ceramic Tiles of Italy’s Green card emphasizes this point, “Maintenance is simple: warm water and neutral cleaners are the only cleaning products required. Additionally, tiles are inert and do not release any substance; therefore they do not increase the level of toxicity of cleaning products that, after use, are flushed into the ecosystem, such as chemicals and solvents. This easy maintenance contributes to consumer cost savings over the life of the installation.”

        According to Court, “One of the criteria people are looking at is the distance [between manufacture and installations]. Some are interested in local products, and apart from that, shipping costs matter. We scout out materials not only for how they are made, but where they are made.”

        “There is a perception that green products cost more,” says Court. “I tell my clients that they can think of this comparison: ‘Why do organic groceries cost more?’

        “While cost is an issue for some, it just depends, and green isn’t always that much more money. Many times, the tiles are comparably priced to another high end, handmade ceramic tile. Green tile does not cost more than art studio produced handmade tile. Stone, if it comes from closer, can cost less money because of the shipping. Cork isn’t expensive to begin with. Cement tiles aren’t expensive. Recycled glass is comparable to other glass products. So it isn’t really accurate to say that green products cost more, at least not in all our materials. That isn’t why they are expensive,” says Court.

        Anti-pollution tile

        Several years ago, Italian tile manufacturer, Gruppo Ceramiche Gambarelli promoted a new technology that enabled them to incorporate titanium dioxide into the surface of the tile. Those tiles are now in production and have been used in multiple installations in Italy.

        Oxygena works by converting pollutant gases into nitrate ions, which combines with water to become inert. According to the company, sunlight hits the titanium oxide in the tiles, and the photocatalytic properties produce oxygen. The tiles come in five lines and multiple colors and sizes for interior and exterior applications.

        BionicTile by Ceracasa is an innovative new product that uses nanotechnology to filter nitrous oxide from the air. The company says that BionicTile improves the environment by continuously decontaminating the air, filtering harmful nitrous oxide, the air contaminant responsible for acid rain and a leading cause of climate change and pulmonary diseases.

        The company claims that one square meter of BionicTile is able to decompose 31.2 mg of nitrous oxide an hour. At this rate, an urban core of 200 buildings covered in Bionic Tile would remove 82 tons of nitrous oxide a year.

        The tile won the 2009 Alfa De Oro award for most innovative product. According to Spanish tile manufacturer Ceracasa, this new tile will be available to come to market by the end of this year.

        StonePeak Ceramics announced new titanium dioxide photocatalytic tiles that will reduce organic and inorganic pollutants. According to Dr. Jennifer Ariss, research scientist at TCNA, “Photocatalysis is a simple chemical reaction, requiring only light and water to be activated.”

        Noah Chitty, Director of Technical Services and Quality Assurance at StonePeak Ceramics, adds, “The main difference between the two technologies [StonePeak and Ceracasa] is that we are not using nanotechnology in the manufacturing process (micrometric is the terminology we have used). We have also found higher reactivity in the technology that we have developed than some of the other similar products we have studied. The reduction in NOx gases is for exterior use and the interior would be the anti-microbial benefits.”

        “The main market for this type of tile is definitely vertical and exterior application,” says Elena Limon, StonePeak’s Southwest Regional Account and Architectural Manager.

        This photocatalytic tile will be launched in the fall of 2009 with one or two collections in 12″ x 24″ and 24″ x 24″ formats.

        Ultra thin, technical porcelain

        This year, several manufacturers have introduced ultra thin, high performance, large format porcelain tile. These tiles are very light, minimizing transportation burdens on the environment and reducing installation costs.

        SlimmKer by Inalco is 4 mm thick porcelain, available in 18″ x 35″. It is easy to cut or perforate, and is lightweight. A new anchorage system allows for easy replacement, reducing landfill waste and demolition mess.

        Ceramiche Ceasar offers large format porcelain, 3m x 1m and only 4.6 mm thick, mounted on fiberglass, with 40% recycled content.

        Provenza’s EcoMood is a very thin tile for walls and floors with texture available in large format. It consists of 40% certified recycled content.

        Kerlite by Cotto D’Este offers a range of colors and sizes in 3mm thick porcelain tile for interior and exterior cladding. Optional fiberglass backing adds one half millimeter to the thickness. The tiles are available up to 3m x 1m.

        Products with recycled content

        Crossville Tile has been committed to sustainability issues for years and their website is a good source of information on the subject. “We’re a member of the Green Building Council,” says marketing manager Laurie Lyza.

        “This is a great illustration of how Crossville works,” says Lyza. “We’re going to be able to recycle fired tile. This is a huge investment, but it will solve the problem of how to make new tile from old tile.

        Eventually we’ll implement a tile take back program for previously installed tiles, resolving the issue: ‘What do you do with a product that was designed to last forever?’ Well, we’re working out the details and we will start productions with our fired tile this summer.”

        Depending on the color, the Echo Glass line contains 10% to 100% recycled content. “We’ve worked on formulations and we’re in the process of getting this line certified by Scientific Certification Systems,” says Lyza.

        The first certified recycled tile, EcoCycle is Crossville’s certified recycled porcelain stone. It is available in 24″ x 24″ and 12″ x 24″ with a minimum 20% pre-consumer waste.

        For introduction this summer, Urban Renewal is a line of metal accent and trim pieces made with 60% post consumer recycled material. Because of a dimensional composite body, the pieces are very light.

        Plan is a stone look, technical porcelain for commercial and residential exteriors. The minimalist, textured surface provides a high coefficient of friction and metallic micro-crystals create a subtle shimmer. Plan is the first tile to receive the Porcelain Tile Certification Agency’s new “Certified Porcelain Tile” designation.

        Canadian company Interstyle primarily manufactures glass tiles, but has ceramics, terracotta and glass countertops as well. The terracotta tiles have 50% recycled glass content, which gives them low water absorption, according to senior vice president Mike Hauner. Icestix is a 100% post and pre-industrial recycled glass tile line. Countertops are made of leftovers from glass tile production. They are available up to 4′ x 8′ and are made to order from over 300 colors.

        Roca Ceramica’s Green Earth and Green Urban series use 80% recycled pre-consumer waste. Green Earth is a porcelain tile for rustic interiors, while Green Urban is a minimalist stone look suitable for floors and walls, interiors and exteriors.

        Artisan tile and countertop slab factory, Trinity and Squak offer a natural stone alternative made with low-carbon cement, waste paper and recycled glass. Squak slabs are ?” thick and are available from 12″ x 12″ up to 56″ x 96″. Handfinishing with natural variation gives it a rustic character and an aged look.

        According to owner Ameé Quiriconi, “Trinitry is a more refined look and is as close to natural stone as you can get. It has the same characteristics with reduced quarried materials.” Slabs are made with 70% recycled content.

        In its plant located in Tennessee, Italian tile manufacturer Graniti Fiandre uses a 100% closed loop process to recoup raw material and water. Eighty products from 15 collections have been certified as having over 40% recycled content.

        Demand for Green Tile

        “Here on Long Island, interest in green materials has grown, so we have found lots of tile to satisfy that need. The other reason we sell green products is that we like to do it. I would add that the products are also beautiful—they aren’t second rate at all,” says Court.

        “Ultimately, it may not be the final choice that they make, but green products are requested and considered by my clients. It seems like something they are looking to do whenever possible.”


        Tile Council North America


        Gruppo Ceramiche Gambarelli




        Cotto D’Este






        Graniti Fiandre


        Trinity and Squak





        A dramatic video on YouTube that describes how BionicTile works,


        Alan Court


        Chicago Museum of Science and Industry Smart Home
        January 1st, 2009

        A houseful of green building ideas includes green tile & setting materials

        Green Building, 2009

        The Chicago Museum of Science and Industry recently opened a new “green” exhibit, “. . . for guests to see the latest innovations in reusable resources, smart energy consumption, and clean, healthy living environments in a contemporary setting. Conceived by Michelle Kaufmann Designs, the country’s leading designer of sustainable, green homes, the Smart Home: Green + Wired exhibit celebrates exciting new directions in sustainable living and environmentally friendly technologies for the 21st century.”

        The 2,500-square-foot mkSolaire home—located on a park on the east side of the museum—was constructed in two parts. The modular three-story house was built in a factory by All-American Homes of Middlebury, Indiana. After the pre-fabricated components were transported to the museum site, Norcon, Inc., the general contractor for the Smart Home, assembled the three levels with the use of a crane and then completed the interior work and exterior green landscaping.

        At the request of Daltile Corporation, MAPEI was introduced to this project to participate in the donation of a flooring system utilizing MAPEI setting materials and grouts.

        The tile floors in the bathrooms were installed at the plant in Indiana using Mapelastic 315, Kerabond/Keralastic for setting and Opticolor for grouting. The Blazestone 2″ x 2″ wall tiles in the powder room on the first floor were made entirely from post-industrial and post-consumer glass, as were the Blazestone “Subway” 3.5″ x 7.5″ shower tiles in the master bath. The floor tiles in the master bath – from Terra Green Ceramics – were made with 55% recycled glass content and qualify for LEED certification points. The shower and floor tiles in the second bathroom were handmade from recycled glass, paper and low-carbon cement.

        The Jurastone? Beige limestone tiles used for the flooring throughout the ground level were set with the Kerabond/Keralastic mortar system to stand up to the heavy traffic from the thousands of visitors who tour the Smart Home. The tiles were grouted with #94 “Straw” Ultracolor grout.

        On the second and third levels, the wood flooring was set with Ultrabond 990 premium solvent-free, one-component urethane wood-flooring adhesive. SYNERGY prefinished strand bamboo flooring from Teragren was used for the bedroom and hallways because bamboo is a highly renewable material. It grows quickly – more than 90 feet in just one year. Ultrabond 990 was chosen for this installation because the bamboo had to be bonded to the steel base of the pre-fabricated modules.

        Perhaps motivated by the Smart Home, other museums and organizations around the United States are planning and incorporating “green living” displays into their exhibits; but none have so far created a real, working home complete with green landscaping surrounding the home. The Smart Home includes a green roof, a “lawn” of native plants and perennials with a porous paver system forming the walkways, and a unique vegetable garden that makes use of growing boxes to provide vegetables and herbs during three seasons of the year.

        The museum’s curators had originally planned to display the Smart Home: Green + Wired exhibit from May 2008 through January 2009, but the immense interest in “Chicago’s greenest home” has inspired them to extend the exhibit for an additional year. MAPEI is pleased and proud to be a part of this exhibit, which mirrors our company’s vision for sustainability and minimal environmental impact.

        For more information on this project, contact www.mapei.com.

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