Choosing Natural Stone – Sustainable Beauty with Unique Character
Image courtesy of M S International
By James Hieb
While it goes without saying that the look and feel of a finished home design project is always important, the materials used are equally important. Elements such as the way a material ages, level of required maintenance, and impact on the environment influence the decisions that architects and designers make when choosing the materials they use.
Natural stone has a storied history in the design of our nation. From buildings to bridges to monuments to homes, natural stone has been used and lauded throughout the centuries as a go-to material for creating structures that are both beautiful and enduring. One of the most important reasons stone has remained popular is its sustainability.
As the interest in the ways our building materials impact the spaces that we inhabit, it only makes sense that there would be a renewed affinity for the use of natural stone.
Not just for monuments
Using natural stone for home building or remodeling makes sense. It’s organic, beautiful and is unequaled for its strength and durability. As stone processing methods have improved and prices have decreased, clapboard and brick exteriors have been supplanted by a variety of natural stone cladding options. Indoors, stone has vaulted to prominence over imitation stone materials, as more building and design professionals – along with consumers – opt for the authentic, one-of-a-kind look of natural stone.
“Natural stone most often creates a neutral base, which complements the vibrant and striking colors of a living space,” comments Eric Osterhout of Northern Stone Supply, a member of the Natural Stone Institute. “It resembles nature, where you might see a blue-gray granite mountain spread with a deep green and gold forest, or deep rust and gold river rock crawling with bright green moss.”
Stephanie Vierra, architect and president of Vierra Design & Education Services, echoes Osterhout’s sentiments: “Since stone is available in such a wide range of colors and is a natural material, it can coordinate with or contrast any color scheme.”
“In many cases, we start a design with a feature material like stone, knowing that it will not only last a long time but will also work well with other elements in a space,” Vierra continues. “Additional colors, especially trend colors, can be applied to the design after the primary materials have been chosen to create a cohesive look.”
In addition to being beautiful and durable, stone is easy to maintain and affordable. Combined with the myriad of patterns, textures and colors available, it’s easy to understand the demand for natural stone.
To keep pace with demand, stone suppliers are tempering their production with a new focus on sustainability. Stone is nature’s original “green” building material, and the industry is laying claim to the environmental benefits of its use in a wide range of construction projects.
Stone quarrying practices continue to improve and are regularly monitored for regulatory compliance. In some cases, old quarries are being reclaimed as parks and recreational areas – adding valuable green space. Moreover, no energy or power is required to create stone – it exists naturally. While energy is undoubtedly required for stone extraction and processing, less energy is consumed when compared to the amount required to produce comparable manmade building materials.
Natural stone is, for all practical purposes, a permanent building material. It requires replacement infrequently, if ever, and is completely recyclable at the end of its useful life.
Following are 5 reasons why natural stone is sustainable, according to www.usenaturalstone.com.
1. Stone is a natural material. Because stone is produced by the Earth, no other materials or resources are required to create it. Stone is widely available and, owing to its diverse veining, textures, colors, shapes and technical characteristics can be applied in almost limitless ways.
2. Stone is durable.Stone stands the test of time, which means the choice to use natural stone will only enhance the value of a home or structure while reducing the need to replace materials over a longer period of time. Stones such as slate, limestone, travertine, marble and granite will age beautifully and gracefully, providing years of use and enjoyment.
3. Stone offers ease of care and maintenance. If maintained properly, stone will last for the lifetime of a structure. There is a wide range of fabrication options and finishes that can be applied to natural stone to extending its life, boost its resistance to the elements and wear and tear, and make it more slip resistant. Most stones can simply be cleaned with mild dish soap and water.
4. Stone is recyclable. Stone is recyclable and has the potential to serve many different uses and purposes over its lifetime. Salvaging and recycling stone is a viable option and a sustainable way to ensure that the useful life of the material will be extended to its fullest. Stone remnants can be repurposed for use as vanities, tabletops, pastry boards, landscaping elements, etc.
5. Stone is quarried and manufactured sustainably. Advancements in technology, including improved methods of quarrying, extraction and fabrication, have led to more options and reduced costs of stone products, making natural stone easier to use and more desirable than ever before.
For more information on natural stone, visit www.usenaturalstone.com.
About The Author
James A. Hieb, CAE, is CEO of The Natural Stone Institute, where he is responsible for the strategic development and execution of the association’s mission in the areas of industry promotion, membership advocacy, and advancing safety/educational programming. The Natural Stone Institute serves more than 1,900 members in 55 countries who represent every aspect of the natural stone industry.
About The Natural Stone Institute
The Natural Stone Institute is a trade association serving more than 1,900 members in 55 countries who represent every aspect of the natural stone industry, offering them a wide array of technical and training resources, professional development opportunities, regulatory advocacy, and networking events. Visit www.usenaturalstone.com for more information.