Share This :
Sustainable building has been at the forefront of the construction industry for the past decade, due in large part to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) LEED® Green Building Rating System™.
The Leadership in Energy and Environment Design, or LEED, is the most recognized and used rating system for green building in the United States. The points-based system is applied to new construction and major renovations to determine their environmental responsibility, health and profitability in four categories, including materials and resources.
LEED requires that construction materials must have an environmentally sound lifecycle, from raw materials extraction through their uses and applications. The emphasis is well-founded. Building structures alone are currently responsible for about 39% of all CO2 emissions in the United States due primarily to energy use, and it’s projected to climb another 2% over the next three decades. This startling statistic is compelling architects to design to green initiatives, as reflected in the doubling of zero-energy buildings erected across 36 states in just two years.
As a natural product, stone ranks high among preferred materials for environmentally conscious architects and contractors. However, being nature-made isn’t enough to satisfy the requirements of a LEED-certified build. You must choose stone based on these LEED considerations:
Often, “mining” and “quarrying” are used interchangeably to describe the process of extracting raw materials from the earth. The truth is that the two processes are not the same, and the differences are particularly important to eco-consciousness.
Generally speaking, mining requires deep drilling in order to access raw materials, like coal and metals. The substantial disruption of the earth is disproportionate to the low yield of usable material. Quarrying, on the other hand, requires minimal removal of overlying earth to remove material like natural stone since it lies close to the surface. The benefits of nominal land disturbance are multiplied by the consistently high yield of usable natural stone.
Indoor Environmental Quality
A building’s indoor air quality is a direct result of the construction materials used. To combat the ill effects of potentially substandard materials, many architects and contractors are turning to regionally quarried, salvaged or reclaimed natural stone. This decision is smart on a couple of levels: stone doesn’t introduce off-gases into building environments, and the use of a close-at-hand, natural material contributes to the LEED points awarded for materials and resources.
Looking at construction on the whole, product manufacturing and conventional building practices are responsible for mass consumption of energy and water, as well as excessive air emissions and waste streams. The harmful effects in the short- and long-term are self-evident.
LEED builds favor the green attributes of natural stone. The nature-made material has a low embodied energy — meaning it contributes only slightly to overall construction project energy consumption — and it’s easily available often within a reasonable distance from a jobsite, which lowers transportation impact.
Natural stone embodies characteristics that align with LEED-build goals. In addition to the lack of off-gases, low embodied energy, ready availability and recyclability, stone is an impressive performer. It efficiently stores and releases heat, is low maintenance and delivers exceptional durability — a boon for structural permanence.
Choosing to use natural stone is imperative for proper LEED scoring and green initiatives, but it accomplishes more. It demonstrates that you are accountable to the natural environment and prioritize preserving it.
Learn more about factors to consider when selecting environmentally sustainable materials in Understanding and Selecting Natural Stone: A 5-Step Checklist. Click the button below to access your copy now!