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In fact, once LCA becomes more mature—and focused on closed-loop manufacturing—it’s our view that basic assumptions about renewability and green materials may get a second look. As blunt-spoken architect and co-author of “Cradle to Cradle” Bill McDonough said at a conference I attended in Spain last month. “I like toxins. There’s nothing wrong with toxic material, if it makes a product better and it’s part of a closed-loop system. It’s only when the system is open ended that toxins become a problem, when they are allowed to enter the environment and poison our water or our atmosphere.”


What’s Driving LCA?
With growing frequency, we’re seeing companies voluntarily pursue life-cycle assessments of their products—among them, countertop makers, cement associations and vinyl siding manufacturers.


For example, Cosentino has taken major steps into the green category with its Eco by Cosentino brand of countertops, which is available in the U.S. The tops incorporate various types of recycled scrap aggregate, from broken mirrors to crushed bathroom fixtures. They just completed a life cycle assessment using Environmental Product Declarations (EPD), an organization operating primarily in Europe and Asia.


Cosentino’s move into “greener” materials was motivated in large part by raw resource costs, says marketing director Santiago A. Rodriguez. “Some of the materials we use in our Silestone brand, such as crushed quartz, were coming from farther and farther away,” he explains. “The price is very volatile, often determined by local politics. So we began looking at other aggregates that could replace it.”


Out of that effort came a new countertop line. An EPD assessment made sense, Rodriguez says, because architects were asking increasingly tough questions about the product’s green credentials. “People want that recycled look,” he says, “but the professionals want more data. Their questions created a chain of events that led to the [life cycle assessment].”


08.2011
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