September 2021–by Karl Doucas
Contrary to common belief, it’s quite easy to build with stone. The use of natural stone on buildings and paving can be traced back to the beginning of civilization.
There are countless buildings, monuments, and structures dating back thousands of years that have stood the test of time and left generations in awe—like the Great Pyramids of Giza (Egypt), Mayan Temples (Mexico), the Parthenon (Greece) and Coliseum (Rome). Many of these structures were built with no mortar; the stones were simply cut, tightly fitted together and layed atop one another—a method of stone installation mimicked in modern-day construction and referred to as ‘dry-stacked stone.’ In many ways, our ancestors in the building industry applied sustainable practices by using the larger quarried blocks for building construction and smaller waste pieces for erosion control and walkways. They also used the gravel to pave small roads from town to town.
But, we have moved beyond the stone age! When natural stone is properly specified and installed, few cladding materials last as long or perform as well. Not only is natural stone beautiful; it is also a low-maintenance, sustainable material. A project that uses stone is simply borrowing it from the earth; at the end of its long-life cycle, stone can be returned to the earth where its creation process began.
Here are five reasons why we advocate #UseNaturalStone for your next project:
Image by Denis Kovalev via Unsplash.
1. Natural Stone is a Green Material
Natural stone’s inherent characteristics make it Mother Nature’s green building product. It can be used without any additional finishes or wall coverings, has low maintenance needs, is highly durable (and recyclable!). Unlike the many cladding materials available on the market requiring extensive manufacturing energy, natural stone is extracted from the earth and processed by cutting and finishing.
Since building designs may be using more materials (and/or more carbon-intensive products) to achieve lower energy use, an increasing proportion of the total energy use and carbon emissions for high-performance buildings comes from its materials and products. By taking embodied energy into account, a project team can ensure it is designing for net carbon emission reductions. In the case of natural stone, this may consider the CO2 required in quarrying, transport to the plant, energy required for slabbing and fabrication, delivery to the site, and installation. Based upon most life-cycle analysis studies and comparisons, natural stone is consistently rated as one of the building materials having the lowest embodied energy across many metrics.
“The natural stone business in general is really focused on sustainability. The stone itself is a sustainable product as it is a very long-lasting building material. The manufacturing techniques and processes we use are always improving to reduce or re-utilize waste, to reduce energy consumption and to recycle water.” — Mike Picco, President, Natural Stone Institute
Image by Victor Malyusev via Unsplash.
2. Natural Stone is readily (and globally) Available
Stone is available regionally and locally—with quarry sites within 500 miles of nearly any building site in Canada and the United States. It’s also abundantly available in nature!
At the time of this post, a Google search for “natural stone slabs” yielded 42,000,000 results! Three of the top ten quarry operations in Canada are located in British Columbia, with four in Ontario and one each in Quebec, Nova Scotia and Alberta. You can also find quarries and plants dedicated to manufacturing a variety of high demand stone in the North American market such as: Indiana Limestone, Cambrian Black Granite, Bethel White Granite and Barre Gray Granite.
No matter where you go, around the world you will find beautiful buildings and structures that are characterized by their use of natural stone. The variety and diversity of stone is unparalleled by other hard surface materials. Even if natural stone is not the right selection for every project; it continues to offer limitless uses.
Image by Jacob Casener via Unsplash.
3. Natural Stone is Varied
By applying different finishes to the same native stone, designers can create an aesthetic variety without having to introduce a new material into the project. Unique finishing techniques applied to natural stone can create a range of tones and shades—varying from light to dark or muted to bold—achieving interest and contrast.
Every slab is unique. The finish applied to natural stone will have an important effect on how the material looks. While some choose a stone based on colour alone, it’s important for the client to understand they are buying all the stone’s attributes—perceived flaws and all. Therefore, it is imperative during the selection process the material be examined not only for colour and pattern, but the surface looked at from all angles to evaluate its surface characteristics. Evaluating a stone’s composition will further introduce options for its use.The range in density, flexural and compressive strength, co-efficient of friction among other properties, help define suitability for stone use as pavers, columns, lintels and facades. Despite how much we know about stone through history and experience, we are learning more about its potential as a purely structural element, or its heat absorbing capability, sustainable merits and its true abundance.
Image by Paul Zoetemijer via Unsplash.
4. Save Money using Thin Stone Veneer
Natural stone use is not defined by trends, it is ubiquitious; although like fashion, some colours are more desired than others through time. Also like fashion, sometimes premium products get repackaged and repurposed to be made more affordable. Thin stone veneer is a form of natural stone veneer that has been sawn to approximately 1” thickness with a ¼” tolerance allowed. To be classified as thin stone veneer, each piece must weigh less than 15 lbs per square foot. The introduction of these sawn, lighter-weight pieces create ease of installation and provide the appearance of full-depth stone without sacrificing any of its beauty—typically used in exterior stone cladding, outdoor living features and natural stone walls.
Natural stone also ages well and retains its value. Whereas many building materials become unsightly over the course of many years, natural stone will transform with a natural patina. As an added benefit, it holds 93% of its original value at its peak which is a higher percentile than most other cladding options.
Image by Mike Picco of PICCO Group.
5. Natural Stone offers a Return-on-Investment (ROI)
Did you know natural stone can be designed to last for 100 years or more? It offers many benefits such as longevity and quantifiable ROI when applied to flooring. Being the most long-lasting material available, natural stone (like marble) are often used in office towers and hotel lobby areas where frequent disruptions to repair or replace a floor, in areas like these, would have an adverse impact on customers. In the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills hotel lobby (above), PICCO coordinated and produced the stone shop drawings and fabrication tickets for the contrasting Italian marble inlaid with bronze, along with all the interior public spaces, presidential suite, counters, bases and tubs, as well as miscellaneous stone elements.
Natural stone is versatile enough to achieve the aesthetic, performance, and cost goals on both the exterior and interior of your project over the long term, being a fairly simple product to maintain. While it may seem that an engineered material might be lower maintenance than marble, it will never have the same depth, versatility and range of colour as natural stone. Natural stone is more resistant to scratches and staining than other materials, compared to wood flooring for example. Applying an annual sealing process, combined with routine cleaning will help to preserve its beauty and quality.
Talk to an experienced stone professional about your goals and specific needs for your project. Talk to PICCO!
Are you an Architect or Designer looking for new ways to push the envelope of creativity? Natural stone is so versatile it can be used almost anywhere in a building project, sculpture or landscape. In both residential and commercial settings, stone can be used for floors, paving, driveways, skirting, cladding, staircases, swimming pools or window frames. When you compare materials, consider them from a life-cycle cost perspective. Even if the stone is more expensive initially, it will more than pay for itself and reduce future costs compared to other materials that may need to be replaced or repaired frequently.
At PICCO, we can help advise and collaborate at the different stages of design, fabrication and installation that can lead to innovative design solutions. As an objective stone consultant, we bring value to a project by ensuring proper stone selection (including sourcing and testing), and offer value-added services of shop drawing creation and coordination.
Talk to us about any stone concerns/questions in your project!
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Written by: Karl Doucas
Karl has proudly been with PICCO Engineering since 1999. In addition to strategic planning and business development, Karl oversees all aspects of day-to-day operations driving best in class results with our internal team and for our valued clients. As an experienced problem solver and change agent, Karl’s passion for technology and innovation is a key ingredient of PICCO’s trademark project solutions.