Cubic Zirconium or Diamonds?
Vinyl or Leather?
Particle Board or Hardwood?
Non-Organic or Organic?
Artificial materials are rarely preferred to the real thing. There is a plethora of building materials available in the market today, but we have a compelling argument for why granite is the best, most durable and sustainable building material the world over. Granite is awesome. There is no need to import it from oversees; and substituting it with artificial stone products sacrifices both beauty and our environment.
Promotes Harmony with Natural Landscape
Perhaps the most compelling reason to choose granite in your project is to create harmony with nature. Even after decades of trialing new materials and methods, the unique texture and form of natural stone cannot be replicated with artificial materials. You can create an even more cohesive aesthetic by choosing a local granite, allowing the colors and patterns found in natural and fabricated elements around your area to be repeated. Granite can be a staple material in achieving biophilic design aesthetic. Granite is infinitely versatile in that can be used in an array of vertical or horizontal applications; all segments of the construction industry; and holds up to the most challenging weather conditions making it superior to other natural stones or substitute materials.
Reliability Versus Imported Materials
In this day of anti-dumping laws and new tariffs being imposed on imported materials, it is hard to rely on their consistent delivery, service and sometimes availability. Aside from having the planned material on hand, there are many other elements to consider when thinking about reliability. Buying domestic products helps our country prosper independently without reliance on international trade. It provides a future of job security in our country so workers can rely on a consistent income. It also ensures the safety of those workers who are responsible for processing your material; something we can’t rely on foreign countries to consider. The hard truth is that if the construction industry doesn’t start relying more on domestic materials, the legacy of these granite quarries and the families who operate them are at risk.
Granite is extremely durable. When specified and installed properly, it can last for hundreds of years with very little to no maintenance. Combine these facts with its minimal processing and you see that its total embodied energy is significantly less than most substitutes.
The most common substitute for dimension stone is pre-cast concrete. Though the graph to the right shows a very small difference between the total embodied carbon of granite vs concrete, it is significant. Let’s explore the manufacturing process. Concrete normally consists of 25% cement and 75% aggregate. The aggregate is commonly natural limestone and granite. Thus, the beginning stages of the manufacturing process are similar to that of quarrying natural stone. Once extracted, the stone is crushed into different sizes of aggregate. Now analyze the process of preparing the cement portion of the concrete. Calcium-, silicon-, aluminum-, and iron-containing materials are mixed together and then heated at high temperatures produced via forced draft from the controlled burning of powdered coal, oil, alternative fuels, or gas. As the burning process progresses, many elements are driven off in the form of gasses causing pollution to our environment. In fact, 4-8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions result from concrete production. The remaining elements are cooled and then ground into a fine powder. The cement is then packaged and shipped, ultimately to be mixed with aggregate and water and poured into molds. Once hardened, it finally reaches status as a usable building material.
The conversation of substitute materials could not be compete without looking at the environmental impacts of glass. Granite and glass are both common building materials for facades. The manufacturing of glass requires high temperatures which ultimately release a host of emissions including carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides. Refer to the chart which compares the energy requirements of natural stone vs. glass over their entire life cycle. Natural stone requires little maintenance and minimal energy to manufacture equalling a much lower footprint than glass.
Mother nature has its own manufacturing process which occurs over thousands, sometimes millions, of years. Without any help from man, earth’s minerals are exposed to naturally occurring heat and pressure. This process produces huge deposits of a very hard, dense, chemically resistant, and beautiful material we know as granite. The quarrying process reveals this ready-made raw material. All that is needed to convert the mass into a building material is a little cutting. Once extracted from the quarry, blocks are taken to a nearby processing facility where they are cut into standard and custom sized pieces. Domestic granite quarriers operate very efficiently and cleanly. Water is recycled; excess materials are returned to the quarry; employees are ensured safe working environments; and emissions are minimal. Many have certified their compliance with sustainable metrics through Natural Stone Council’s Sustainability Standard for Dimension Stone.
Granite is nearly complete as a building material in its natural state. Energy is only consumed during its extraction and fabrication. Significant embodied energy is not collected until the transportation of the building material. If one is mindful of the distance from the quarry to the job-site and chooses locally sourced stone, then the total environmental impact of that material will be significantly lower.
No Toxic Chemicals
Granite contains no Red List materials. The International Living Future Institute (ILFI), as part of its Living Building Challenge, established and maintains this compilation of chemicals and materials which have proven to be harmful to humans and our environment. Many granite substitutes contain Red List materials within the fabric of the material; others use them during manufacturing. Granite has one ingredient. It does not pollute the environment and it is safe for construction and factory workers. It is as simple as that.
“There is no ‘perfect’ material, but natural stone is as close to perfect as we can get,” says Jason F. McLennan, Chair and Founder of the International Living Future Institute. Architects like Anthony Thistleton of Waugh Thistleton Architects agree, “It is time to move out of the concrete age. We have a responsibility to think about all the materials we are using and their wider impact.” It’s easy to source the the best building materials from the best companies through the North American Granite Quarriers Association: Browse Colors, Affiliate Members, Project Gallery.