Encouraged in part by the move towards eco-friendly and green products in home design and decor, many homeowners are drawing their inspiration from more neutral palettes. Woods and bamboo flooring, terrazzo tiles (including the Terrastone range exclusive to Union Tiles), Silestone anti-bacterial quartz surfaces, locally sourced slates and granites, and certain ceramic and porcelain tiles, are increasing in popularity as materials being incorporated into modern design for this reason. Austere minimalist designs are being infused with warmth by the incorporation of various natural materials. Lighting, fixtures and fittings are taking on more organic shapes, emulating nature including, for example, ceramic “wood look” tiles which are gaining in popularity. Colours are being selected from natural hues, such as earthy greens, and woody browns, sky blues and greys.
Bamboo and cork tiles:
Bamboo flooring is a material that enhances the beauty and comfort of any floor. It is the modern alternative to traditional hardwood floors and is an environmentally friendly renewable resource. It is harvested with minimal impact on its natural environments and returns to maturity in just five years, which makes bamboo an ecologically responsible flooring alternative.
Bamboo is a beautiful and strong flooring material and is considered a green product because it has the potential to grow to full height and girth in three to four months. In the past bamboo was thought of as a “soft” material, but now with the introduction of strand woven bamboo, bamboo flooring is twice as hard as oak.
Cork tiles are made from the outer bark of the cork oak tree, and are considered one of the greenest tiling options available, as they have many environmentally friendly qualities. Known for its antibacterial quality, cork repels dust, germs, insects, and mould. It can be maintained without the use of harsh chemicals and cleaners. Considered as nature’s shock absorber and sound insulator, it reduces noise and any kind of vibrations. Incredibly sustainable, the quiet and soft feel of the cork gives a consistent and springy texture to the home.
With today’s fast moving lifestyle, conscientious architects and designers have become more aware of conserving our earth’s natural resources and the environment, which is particularly relevant due to the depletion of our earth’s ozone and the burning of fossil fuels and massive waste generation.
Terrazzo is a highly sustainable form of polished concrete with added wear and stain resistant features. This sustainable aspect has been clearly understood by the major Green Building authentication councils. Polished concrete and terrazzo are extremely favourable products in terms of credits for Green Building status, potentially earning credits in the internationally recognised Green Building Councils.
Two of the most reputable and well-known Green Building rating systems are BREEAM (the UK based Building Research and Establishments (BRE) Environmental Assessment), and secondly in the USA, the Green Building Certification, LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Design), managed and developed by the American Green Building council and increasingly used in other countries, such as Canada, China, India, Mexico and South Africa.
With this in mind, Union Tiles, through its manufacturing division, has launched an exciting new range of extremely slim, full bodied, chemically modified cementitious tiles and mosaics. Some of these tiles incorporate environmentally friendly recycled glass and sea shells, available in an exciting range of colours and textures. The sea shells are sourced from commercially cultivated shell fish farms, and the tile is composed of up to 60% recycled material, which can be classed as an environmentally friendly “green” tile.
The Eco Terra-Stone Green range incorporates recycled waste by-products within the composition of the tile. These include pozzolanic cement extenders such as fly ash from the burnt waste ash from power stations and silica fume, a by-product from the steel furnace industry, either product resulting in a stronger cure when added to cementitious mixes.
LEED – USA Green Building Certification
LEED addresses the major concerns of green building including: the use of resource-friendly materials, energy saving design, and providing healthy indoor environmental quality (IEQ). These aspects can add up to significant LEED point earnings.
Carbon footprint assessments include valuations for: material extraction, manufacturing, transportation, installation, maintenance, disposal and replacement and these costs are paid for initially by the developers budget, but ultimately by our planet’s air, soil and water quality.
LEED uses a comprehensive point system to qualify for one of four certification tiers. A “Certified” LEED project equates to 26-32 points. “Silver” is 33-38 points, “Gold” is 39-51 points, and “Platinum” is 52-69 points. Using concrete/terrazzo flooring can be a major factor in potentially obtaining LEED credits.
The South African Green Star Environmental Rating
The South African Green Star environmental rating system is based on the Australian Green Star system and is customised for the South African environment, and includes systems and tools for the BREEAM and North American LEED systems detailed above. Incorporating Terra-Stone tiles in a building could potentially earn a contractors project Green Star SA points, with respect to local sourcing of materials and low volatile organic compounds (VOCs) of the selected flooring.
Locally sourced slate and granite
We are all made to be aware of our carbon footprint and there is a growing requirement to improve our efforts and make choices to minimise this daily. Sourcing your natural stone tile locally will not only likely be cost-effective, but will reduce fuel emissions too.
Slate is one of the greenest products available on the market today; long lasting and one hundred per cent natural, slate can be recycled and tends to outlast the buildings themselves. It is also fireproof, helps lower energy costs and is resistant to degradation whatever the climate conditions. Particularly when locally sourced, slate is a highly durable and environmentally sound material suitable for various applications.
With global warming staying at the top of the political agenda for a few years now, many people are looking for environmentally sustainable methods and materials when renovating or building. Purchasing local products can dramatically decrease the carbon footprint of those looking to improve their homes.
Silestone Antibacterial Engineered Quartz Surfaces
Silestone (available exclusively from Union Tiles), is a compound made up of 94% natural quartz, which makes it extraordinarily hard and resilient. This is the one and only worktop made of quartz with anti-bacterial protection, giving it hygienic properties that are not to be found anywhere else on the market. It is an excellent surface for kitchen worktops, bathrooms, floors and wall cladding using the minimum number of joints.
Silestone® Premium Plus incorporates the latest generation silver technology for bacteriostatic protection throughout the material.
The active agents are incorporated in the material during the manufacturing process and are distributed evenly throughout the product. The silver technology incorporated into Silestone® P+ is based on the controlled release of silver ions to minimise the growth and proliferation of different types of bacteria throughout the material including the surface, interior, corners and difficult to reach places, leading to:
Active protection of the material in any of its applications.
Material that is more hygienic and easier to clean
Active protection against odours caused by bacteria.
In addition, it comes in a variety of different shades of quartz colour, offering a number of decorative possibilities from a mere kitchen top to a project for a complete set of furniture.
In response to the increasing demand from commercial and consumer customers for environmentally friendly and sustainable materials, Silestone has launched their ECO range, a revolutionary new decorative surface material composed of 75% recycled materials. The ECO range can be used for work surfaces, interior cladding and flooring, perfect for the environmentally conscious consumer.
Ceramic and porcelain tiles
Increasingly, major ceramic and porcelain tile manufacturers have begun developing a
strong awareness of environmental and ecological aspects throughout their industrial
processes, through the use of natural resources and responsible methods of manufacture.
– The recycling of reject output and reuse of process water.
– Recycling and separate disposal of waste which cannot be used in the production cycle.
Products manufactured with recycled raw materials.
Treatment of flue gases and control of emissions.
Protection of the landscape with remediation of the form and vegetation of quarries after extraction of raw materials.
Energy saving: recovery of the heat generated in the production process and use of new technologies to optimise energy consumption.
Tiles (both ceramic and porcelain) are one of the most environmentally friendly of all building products in terms not only of the impact of manufacturing on the natural environment, but also when used within the interior environment and the disposal of the tile at the end of its serviceable life.
Ceramic tiles are made from naturally occurring clays and minerals . These 100% natural and plentiful raw materials are usually found in close proximity to the factories, thus reducing fuel consumption and transportation costs. These raw materials are heated to create an inert, stable product which, when properly installed and maintained, has an expected lifespan of 50 years. This reduces time, money and resources spent on extracting raw material, manufacturing, transportation, installation, demolition and disposal requirements.
Ceramic tiles have a lower impact on the environment than most other finishing materials, in terms of both the manufacturing process and the built environment after they are installed. As tiles form a completely inert flooring system, ceramic tile will not act as a “sink” to absorb volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or other chemicals from surrounding materials. They are not an original source of contaminants nor will they absorb or release other contaminants. They do not support bacterial or fungal growth. Ceramic tile also offers ease of maintenance with simple, water-based cleaning materials. They do not require solvent-based cleaners or sealers, chemicals, waxes, strippers, or shampoos that add to the level of toxic cleaning products being flushed into our ecosystem.
Ceramic tiles do not absorb or emit pollutants. When used with most common cement-based setting and grouting materials, your flooring system can inhibit the growth of mould, mildew, fungus and viruses, letting you breathe easier. Thus, they offer significant advantages for indoor air quality during installation, and for the lifetime of the tile’s use in a building.
Ceramic tile has been proven to survive fire and floods, can be installed over existing tile and salvaged or disposed of easily. Its color-fast and non-fading nature means it never needs replacement throughout its lifespan.
Many ceramic tile suppliers manufacture their products in a “closed loop” process that recycles raw material and water wastes back into the production cycle. Even the “leftovers” are ground up for use in paving bricks and road filler.
Over the last 10 years the focus of the ceramic tile industry, particularly within Europe, has been on adopting an integrated approach towards sustainability, to avoid pollution and limit the consumption of resources. The most progressive producers of tiles are joining the various environmental certification schemes such as Eco-label, ISO1400 and EMAS in Italy. These operate largely out of sight to the end consumer but the introduction of the European Communities ‘Eco-Label’ for hard-floor coverings encapsulates a set of technical standards that certify a tile’s environmental impact throughout its entire life cycle.
What better way to enhance your living space than to decorate it using natural and environmentally sustainable finishes which not only lend an organic feeling of warmth, but also acknowledge the seemingly unstoppable trend towards products with a gentler environmental impact. Whatever your project or application, the broad range of eco-friendly tiling and flooring options available are ample proof that elegant style and environmental consciousness need never be mutually exclusive.