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Plane Porcelain Panels

Plane from Stonepeak is a large-format porcelain panel that can be used for exterior cladding, walls, countertops, and other solid surfaces… Read more
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  • These products are environmentally attractive because they need to be replaced less frequently or their maintenance has very low impact, both of which can reduce costs as well as environmental impact.
    Robust answers on typical service life of products can be hard to come by, however. In GreenSpec we reserve this criterion for products where the material is clearly more durable than alternatives, such as an exceptionally traffic-resistant polyurethane floor finish. We refer to standardized tests for durability when they are available and appropriate.
    We also consider “appropriate durability”: long life is more important in a building envelope than in interior finish materials that will be replaced for aesthetic reasons. Here, reduced maintenance can be particularly important. An example is resilient flooring that doesn’t require regular waxing: an unnecessary use of resources and a health hazard.

Plane from Stonepeak is a large-format porcelain panel that can be used for exterior cladding, walls, countertops, and other solid surfaces. Imported from Italy, these panels have all the performance characteristics of porcelain—they are strong, dense, nonporous, and impervious to moisture. They are also chemical-resistant; flexible; resist scratching, staining, fading, and cracking; and are not affected by freeze-thaw cycles. Though these panels take significant energy to produce, they should have a very long service life and require minimal maintenance. These ¼"-thick (6 mm) panels are available in sizes up to 5' x 10' and come in three colors—white, silver, and Calacatta Vena, a marble simulation printed onto them.

The environmental impact of tile depends on both material and application method.

Materials include ceramic, stone, glass, plastic, and metal. GreenSpec lists products with reduced impact, with at least 50% recycled content, or other reduced environmental footprint relative to the norm.

  • Ceramic and recycled-glass tile are inherently low-toxic, low-emitting, waterproof, durable finish materials for flooring, walls, and other applications. While ceramic tile is somewhat energy-intensive to manufacture, the materials involved are relatively abundant and mined with relatively low impact.

  • Plastic tile is typically inexpensive, and appropriate in wet areas, but is not always durable enough for heavy traffic areas. Look for products with textures and open-weave construction when good slip-resistance is needed. Recycled PVC tile is widely available, and is not listed here due to the availability of PVC-free alternatives.

  • Metal tile made from recycled metals is available for countertops, tables, backsplashes, and walls.



Tile application methods can be a source of indoor air quality problems. Adhesives and mortars can have high VOC levels or chemicals of concern, and poor installation can lead to mold hazards.

  • GreenSpec looks for products that are designed for installation without adhesives or mortar (see Tiling Adhesives).



In 2011 NSF International released a standard, Green Squared, for sustainable tiling. When the market has begun to adopt this standard, GreenSpec will revisit our criteria for tiling and consider requiring certification to this standard.

Countertops and other horizontal surfaces have to be able to withstand water, cleaning chemicals, abrasion, and other abuse. There is no perfect surface for every application and aesthetic sensibility, but whichever type of surface you choose, you can find products with raw materials, binders, and adhesives to minimize environmental impact.

High-pressure laminates (HPLs)—with Formica being the best-known brand—are inexpensive and are made from kraft paper and melamine (MF) or phenol formaldehyde (PF) binders crosslinked together into a thin thermoset plastic. The HPL is then adhered to particleboard or MDF panels. According to manufacturers, the formaldehyde in the MF and PF resins is transformed by the manufacturing process into an inert material, resulting in extremely low emissions from the final product. Products listed by GreenSpec contain FSC-certified content and meet CDPH Standard Method emissions requirements. No-added formaldehyde, biobased laminates are also listed.

Composite surfaces are also made from paper or wood fibers and PF or MF binders. They are available in different thicknesses and are not laminated to wood cores. There may not be as much paper or wood fiber in these products as you might assume, with resins sometimes comprising 50% of the final product by weight, but some contain biobased resins. Products listed by GreenSpec contain 100% post-consumer recycled or FSC-certified content.

Glass composites use pre- and post-consumer recycled glass and/or porcelain along with a portland cement-based binder. Some glass composites contain biobased resins, but avoid those that use epoxy, which contains the endocrine disruptor bisphenol-A.

Solid surface materials are made from either acrylic or polyester resins and conform to ANSI-approved performance standards. Non-porous and homogenous, they can be sanded and repaired if damaged and can be installed without seams. GreenSpec lists products that contain post-consumer recycled content and meet CDPH Standard Method emissions requirements.

There are plenty of wood and rapidly renewable surface products available. GreenSpec lists those made from reclaimed wood; FSC-certified wood; and rapidly renewable bamboo, wheat, sorghum, or hemp.

GreenSpec does not currently list natural stone countertops, pending review of new life-cycle assessment data produced by the industry.

LEED Credits

EQc4.3: Low-Emitting Materials—Carpet Systems

IEQc4.3: Low-Emitting Materials—Flooring Systems

IEQc4.6: Low-Emitting Materials—Ceiling and Wall Systems

MRc2: Sustainable Purchasing—Durable Goods

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