Stony Creek Quarry: Certified Sustainable

Benefits of Certifying to Sustainability Standard: Spotlight on Stony Creek Quarry

This interview was originally published in Natural Stone Institute‘s Cutting Edge Newsletter

Today, architects, landscape architects, engineers, contractors, building owners, managers and the public are driving a building revolution that encourages the design and construction of healthy built spaces. These projects are designed and built to give to rather than take from the environment from design through construction practices, including the choice of sustainable building materials.

To satisfy the growing demand for sustainable product declarations, the Natural Stone Council partnered with NSF to create ANSI standard NSC 373 Sustainable Production of Natural Stone, which launched in 2013.  Through certification to NSC373, stone producers and suppliers can verify compliance to strict national and international requirements for environmental, ecological, human health, and social responsibility in stone quarrying and production. The success of this industry-created standard strengthens with each new certification. Natural stone from NSC 373 certified producers is recognized by USGBC LEED v4 and Living Building Challenge green rating programs to directly contribute to a project’s sustainability goals.  Many Natural Stone Institute member companies have realized multi-faceted benefits because of their certification.  Tom Cleveland, Director of Sustainability at Stony Creek Quarry in Branford, Connecticut shared his experience with us.

Please tell us a bit about your company, and why you felt it was important to earn this certification.

Stony Creek Granite has been an iconic stone in the history of the American republic.  Important structures like the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge abutments, Grand Central Station, South Station in Boston and a host of recent landmarks (including the new Statue of Liberty Museum) attest to the legacy of this stone. We took a leadership role in the NSC 373 process to complement the history of our material, to strengthen our own internal processes, and to show our commitment to preserving the unique beauty of our location.

Our quarry is located on land that is owned by the town of Branford and, as such, we have a very public relationship with the people of Branford.  Our working quarry is surrounded by over 1,000 acres of natural open space that is critical to the rich ecology of the region. But beyond the fact that we operate on town land and are in the middle of town open space, the quarry is intimately wrapped up in the town’s history and identity.  Many families in modern Branford can trace their roots to immigrants who came to work in the quarry. We are certain that our efforts to get certified under NSC373 are appreciated by the town and add to the sense that the town and the quarry are working together in a progressive manner to preserve and strengthen the quarry as a sustainable symbol of the town.

The Stony Creek Quarry has been active since the 1850s producing granite blocks and fabricated stone work. Today, we have a highly trained and experienced staff operating sophisticated and productive mining and excavation equipment. We maintain tailored block programs for many of the biggest fabricators and builders around the world and are proud to be working a geological formation with generations of future blocks in the quarry’s enduring and beautiful ledges.  

What have you found most surprising about the process of certifying to the NSC 373 standard?

All of us were struck by the unifying sense of accomplishment that we felt as we walked through the certification process. Where first we saw the certification as a chore, it became a source of pride as we felt our organization changing for the better. Darrell Petit, from the Stony Creek Quarry, launched this process and was lucky to get Ms. Ariel Russ, a Masters candidate at the Yale School of Forestry, to help us with the initial application.  Today, I am proud to continue and expand her work with the commitment of the whole company behind us.

What do you feel will be the biggest benefit to your company in securing certification to the sustainability standard?

Again, the most important change is an attitudinal one—most of the requirements of NSC 373 are things we know that we should do. Now, we get the operational benefits from the changes as well as the satisfaction of being recognized for the changes. It also feels good that we are part of an industry change that is bigger than any one of us and one that is helping to create a greener built environment.

How has this process helped your company’s bottom line?

We have been awarded jobs based on our certification—it is that simple. Once we got certified, we felt an immediate response from the architectural and design communities as well as from the owners and developers. Our counterparts have made it clear that they value our certification and that it is a key differentiator for our stone. The fact that they can now use Stony Creek Granite as a qualified material for either their LEED or Living Building Standard applications has brought us into more important jobs and at a higher level of consideration.

What would you like to communicate to the design community about this standard?

NSC 373 certified companies have “sweated the details”—and the design community knows how important all details are to a successful project. The discipline and rigorous standards of the certification process help stone industry partners deliver creative solutions to design professionals because internal operations at certified companies are more organized.

We believe that the design community, as well as the owners and developers they represent, wants sustainability ingrained into their supply chains and that NSC 373 is where the market is headed. As a primary stone producer, without integrated fabrication, our strength is in the partnerships we can form with larger partners. Those partners demand that we be certified and, as a result, we have embraced the NSC 373 standard and a future of sustainable natural stone production.

How long did it take your company to complete the standard certification?

Our initial certification was completed over about three months in the Spring of 2016.  Stony Creek Quarry’s Darrell Petit, and Ms. Ariel Russ worked together with the owners and staff to gather the information and to conduct the necessary trainings and protocols.  Total man-hours were in the range of 150-200 hours. For the last 7 years, Darrell has been a member of the NSF Joint Committee on Sustainable Dimension Stone Standard to help develop the new and ever evolving Standard. He reflected, “Once we got into the process, we realized that we had already accomplished many of the pieces of the certification—it really seemed a matter of organizing our existing resources for the application. Much easier than we originally feared.”

What was the biggest challenge for your company in completing the certification and how did you overcome it?

As with many things, the hardest part of this journey was taking the first steps.  Darrell worked hard to convince the owners of the quarry that the rewards were worth the costs and the efforts as well as persuading other members of the headquarters staff and operational team that the certification process would improve the health and safety aspects of the entire company.

Change is never easy but it is always good.  To some extent, Stony Creek Quarry has always used sustainable practices—we have harvested our geologic formations for over a century of operations.  NSC 373 helped us to consciously change and accept the need to be continuously learning and adapting to the changes of our market and customers. We look forward to these changes with great optimism!