The Natural Stone Council’s Development of ANSI/NSC-373
The Natural Stone Council is a collaboration of business and trade associations that have joined forces to promote natural stone in residential, commercial, government, institutional, and educational applications. Its sustainability standard, known as the ANSI/NSC 373 Natural Dimension Stone Standard, puts criteria into place for the industry to tell its story in a credible way, verified by a third party, how best practices and optimal use of our resources are used in the extraction and processing of natural stone.
While the sustainability of natural stone as a building material remains unquestioned with regard to its longevity, beauty and durability this new standard expands the meaning. How the stone is quarried, processed, and transported is now incorporated into the definition.
Developed by the Natural Stone Council in conjunction with NSF International, the National Center for Sustainability Standards, using ANSI guidelines the standard sets forth a series of well-defined environmental, ecological, social responsibility and human health requirements for stone quarries and fabricators.
Sustainability is at the top of people’s minds within the construction industry, especially the design community where they are using green program guideline (e.g., LEED, LBC) to create high performing structures. This standard aims to reassure everyone from designers to owners to material manufacturers, all the way to the end user of the project that the material they are using has been sustainably sourced. For architects and owners, this standard confirms that their building’s stone is produced in a way that is both environmentally and socially responsible.
In 2014, the Natural Stone Council established the sustainable stone certification with several objectives. One is to recognize and drive sustainability practices in the natural stone industry with an emphasis on continuous improvement. Another is the development of a multi-stakeholder, science-based approach that is both third-party verified and recognized by the green building movement as an indicator of leadership in sustainable performance. The Standard also provides an important opportunity to educate key members of the design and building professions, end users, government and environmental advocacy groups about the production of natural stone products. This voluntary Standard emphasizes the disclosure of information necessary to mitigate negative impacts and promote efficiencies in the production of natural dimension stone products in a sustainable manner.
What It Is and Who It Impacts
Both quarriers and fabricators can certify to the ANSI/NSC 373 Standard, which includes certifying to the companion Chain of Custody (COC) Standard. This companion COC standard drives sustainability throughout the supply chain, ensuring that natural stone products that are sustainably produced are also handled throughout the supply chain in a manner that ensures their sustainability. Throughout each step in the stone’s process, the standard must be conformed to or certification will be lost. Though they would not certify to the ANSI/NSC 373 standard, Distributors and Brokers can certify to the Chain of Custody standard to ensure they are certified to maintain the certification throughout the supply chain.
The standard covers nine elements of a quarrier and fabricator’s respective operations. They are: Water, Custody and Transportation, Site Management, Land Reclamation and Adaptive Reuse, Corporate Governance, Energy, Management of Excess Process Materials and Waste, Safer Chemical and Materials Management and Human Health and Safety. Additionally, there is an optional facet that is referred to as “Innovation.”
Each company is certified on a site-specific basis. That means that even though a company may have several quarries, only one may be certified at a time. However, they are able to pursue certification for all of their locations.
In total, there are 18 requirements within the standard and a possibility for a site to receive 41 points. Depending on a company’s scores, they are assigned a bronze, silver, gold or platinum certification. Companies achieving bronze, silver, and gold certifications have room for improvement in the respective areas they may not have gotten the maximum points.
When stone companies are looking to receive the ANSI/NSC 373 certification, a third party such as NSF International will verify via a desk audit as well as a site audit. First, organizations will go through a document review. This is followed up with an on-site audit.
This series of elements allows companies to set a benchmark for themselves with the intent of continuous improvement. With that in mind, recertification takes place every three years. The second and third year of certification add a surveillance review with a documentation review only, and the fourth year involves an on-site audit in addition to the documentation review for recertification. At any point, companies can upgrade to a higher level of certification.
For contractors, this is particularly relevant, as the standard has been accepted by two popular green building programs, LEEDv4 and the Living Building Challenge, under the materials and resources section. Thus, it will continue to come up in conversations where stone is a specified building product on a project that has sustainability at the forefront. By understanding the intent of the standard along with what goes into becoming certified, contractors will be able to become a resource in the recommendation of particular materials that will align with a project’s goals.
The Standard’s External Recognition
Groups like the International Living Future Institute (ILFI) and US Green Building Council (USGBC) make it a priority to educate and inform thousands of architects, builders and developers of the best choices when it comes to design and materials. Their respective building rating systems, ILFI’s Living Building Challenge (LBC) and USGBC’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), specifically set forth guidelines for the sourcing of responsible materials.
For the Natural Stone Council to align and get recognition from those two groups was crucial. In order to do so, connections were made with the appropriate contacts at ILFI, USGBC, Green Globes and the International Green Construction Code to present the new standard. This was essential for the groups to understand the long-term sustainability practices that have been in place for natural stone and the continuous-improvement mindset that the standard supports.
The journey to develop ANSI/NSC 373 for alignment with LEED and LBC, the NSC Sustainability Committee worked closely with third-party organizations including Jack Geibig at Ecoform of Knoxville, Tenn., and NSF International of Ann Arbor, Mich., to determine the sustainable footprint of how stone is quarried, transported and processed. In addition, ANSI/NSC 373 was developed using the consensus-based ANSI (American National Standards Institute) process and can be applied internationally with certification by a third-party certifier like NSF International.
In October 2016, NSC announced ANSI/NSC 373 is recognized in the latest versions of both the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program and the International Living Future Initiative’s (ILFI’s) Living Building Challenge (LBC). Recognition in LEED v4 falls under the Building Product Disclosure and Optimization–Sourcing of Raw Materials. Within LBC version 3.1, the Material Petal advocates for ANSI/NSC 373 under Responsible Industry.
Design teams desiring to source sustainable stone in their projects can write the standard into the project’s specifications. Architects are urged to update their documentation to include language indicating a preference for stone from ANSI/NSC 373-certified companies, as well as the NSC COC designation.
Architects also benefit from the standard’s clarification of certain misconceptions in the industry. Most natural stone quarries have a small footprint as compared to possibly a large building excavation in the city or mineral mining operations. Most of the certified quarries have operated in one location for many decades, creating material for thousands of residential and nonresidential construction projects in a small footprint.
Beyond its ability to bring clarity to some misconceptions, the standard’s biggest benefit for architects is perhaps third-party verification. For years, the stone industry has either not reported or self-reported its practices relating to sustainability, but the new standard requires third-party verification. For quarriers and fabricators, this third-party verification is a key component of the process because it confirms authenticity.
As more projects and design teams specify certified stone, the entire construction industry will reap the benefits. Awareness of this important product designation will be generated, and the bar will be raised for stone production and fabrication across the globe.
Cold Spring, MN
Charcoal Quarry, St. Cloud, MN;
Mesabi Quarry, Babbitt, MN;
Rockville Quarry, Rockville, MN
Coldspring Headquarter Campus Facilities (Fabricator), Cold Spring, MN
Milbank Quarry, Milbank, SD
Delta Stone Products
Heber City, UT
Halquist Stone Company
Chilton Processing, Chilton, WI (Fabricator);
Chilton Quarry, Chilton, WI;
Ideal Quarry, Sussex, WI;
Lannon Quarry, Lannon,WI
Hamilton Quarry, Byron, WI
Michels Stone / Anderson Bros & Johnson
Fond du Lac, WI
Beaver Dam Quarry, Fond du Lac, WI
Fond Du Lac Quarry, Fond du Lac, WI
Wausau Red Quarry, Wausau, WI
Wisconsin Red Quarry, Merrill, WI
Mountain Valley Stone
Quarry, Peoa, UT
Northern Stone Supply Inc.
Fabricator, Oakley, ID
Quarry, Oakley, ID
Quebec City, QC, Canada
Saimt-Nazaire Quarry, Quebec, Canada
Stony Creek Quarry Corporation
Quarry, Branford, CT
TexaStone Quarries, LLC
Garden City, Texas
Quarry,Garden City, TX
Fabricator, Garden City, TX