Stone is a natural product of the Earth, the original green building material. It does not require other materials or resources to create it. There is an abundant supply with different veining, textures, colours, shapes, and technical characteristics that make it possible for stone to be used in a wide range of applications. Stone’s varying appearance is the result of millions of years of geologic change and mineral composition. Natural stone contains no harmful chemicals or toxins, so you can be rest assured that your interior environment will be healthy, an important component of sustainable design.
Stone stands the test of time, which means the choice to use natural stone will only enhance the value of your building while reducing the need to replace materials over a longer period of time. Stones such as marble, limestone, travertine, and granite will all age beautifully and gracefully, providing years of use and enjoyment. Stone can easily stand up to high traffic and use in areas such as courtyards, foyers, kitchens, and baths and may be designed to last for 50 or even 100 years. Durability is especially important when choosing sustainable materials so that resources are not used to create new materials as often.
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 need to be repaired or replaced frequently.
If maintained properly, stone will last for years and reward you with its beauty. There are a wide range of fabrication options and finishes that can be applied to natural stone that will also enhance its performance, including extending its life, resisting weather and wear and tear, or making the stone more slip resistant. Most stones can simply be cleaned with a mild dish soap and water. There are also cleaners made specifically for natural stone that are affordable and easy to use. Many of these cleaners are approved to meet sustainability standards, which means they contain no harmful chemicals and will not pollute the environment.
Stone is completely recyclable and has the potential to serve many different uses and purposes over its lifetime. Salvaging and recycling stone is a very viable option and a sustainable way to ensure that the useful life of the material will be lived out to its fullest. Environmentally, utilizing recycled stone can eliminate the energy, water, and other resources needed to generate new products from virgin or raw material sources, ultimately reducing or avoiding impacts to ecosystems and resource supplies.
There are many potential uses and applications for recycled and salvaged stone. For instance, an old stone building can be disassembled and the stone reformed or refinished for use as paving materials, retaining walls, or an exterior facade. Small flat stones can be repurposed and strategically designed to create a mosaic floor or wall design. Stone fragments can also be adhered together to create a completely new design or appearance. These materials can also provide a sense of history or nostalgia.
Advancements in technology, including improved methods of quarrying, extraction, and fabrication have led to increased options and reduced costs of stone products, making natural stone easier to use and more desirable than ever before. Conserving resources, preventing pollution, and minimizing waste are some ways the stone industry is working to be eco-friendly through practices that support sustainable design requirements. Through your selection of natural stone, you can be a part of using a material that is natural and is handled in a sustainable manner from the quarrying stage through to its installation and useful long life.
Sustainable design is here to stay. Designing with natural stone for a home presents an exciting array of options. The choice to design with natural stone is a very personal one, but sustainability should be taken into consideration to help with the decision-making process.