Responsible materials selection is one of the most important steps in creating a sustainable home. However determining what materials are most sustainable when building or renovating your home can be a minefield. For centuries, natural stone has been a popular choice for use internally and externally in buildings – but is it an environmentally responsible choice? In this blog, co-written with Athena Stonecare, of Chalfont St Giles, we highlight the merits of stone as a sustainable building material.

1. Stone is a natural material

Unlike many of the alternatives such as concrete, brick, ceramic or corian, stone is a natural product of the Earth.  As it is not manufactured by man it does not require other materials or resources to create it. There is an abundant supply, and it is found in almost every location.

2. Stone is a durable material

Stone has been the material of choice for centuries across the world. Consider the white marble in the Taj Mahal or the limestone that has stood the test of time on the façade of Buckingham Palace. Both of these buildings demonstrate the longevity that using natural stone provides. Stone can withstand high traffic and so is an ideal choice in areas such as courtyards, patios, hallways, kitchens, and bathrooms where it can last for 50 or more years. Durability is especially important when choosing sustainable materials as products with a longer life mean that resources aren’t used to create new materials as often.

3. Stone is a classic design choice.

Alongside its durability, natural stone is a classic design choice which will enhance the value of your home. Slate, limestone, travertine, and granite all age beautifully, and provide years of enjoyment, without ever going out of fashion. When you compare materials, it is important to 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 (such as ceramic) that are less durable, may date, need to be repaired or replaced frequently.

3. Stone is a healthy, inert material

Natural stone contains no harmful chemicals or toxins, so by choosing to use stone in your home you can ensure your interior environment will be healthy – another important component of sustainable design.

4. Natural Stone can be sourced locally

If we are extracting the stone from the environment, how can we be sure that this is a sustainable and environmentally responsible choice for our homes? Whilst extracting stone has an obvious impact on the environment, there are ways the ensure that you limit this. Natural stone bought from a local quarry is much more sustainable that stone produced from a deep stone mine on the other side of the world. Also, by choosing locally extracted materials you can reduce their environmental impact by reducing emissions of greenhouse gases during transportation of the materials.

It’s important to understand that quarrying and mining are actually two very different processes. In quarries, the stone often lies very close to the surface and so requires minimal removal of overlying earth. Mining by contrast involves deep drilling and removal to get to the raw material – much like mining for coal. In addition quarrying is more efficient as the yield of usable material is generally greater versus mining.

Most quarries will produce a report on the sustainability of their processes and provide information of this on their website. By choosing a local stone, you can also further reduce your carbon footprint. The UK is known for producing some of the most stunning quality limestones, that can really add an edge of authenticity to your home too.

6. Stone is easy to care for

Stone is durable but as a natural product it should be treated with care, and not be cleaned with harsh chemicals. For marble especially, the advice is to clean with warm soapy water. Even many of the specially formulated products for cleaning stone are specifically low on chemicals in order to reduce the chance of damaging your stone. The gentle nature of these products also help boost stone’s green credentials as their use won’t pollute the environment.

The longevity of natural stone can be hugely increased if it is cared for properly. Athena Stonecare has recently launched a new guide helping customers care for their stone. This includes advice on reducing likelihood of scratches by using coasters on the feet of furniture throughout the home. It is recommended also to use coasters underneath cosmetics and soaps in the bathroom as well as oils and vinegars in the kitchen.

N.B The advice from Athena Stonecare would always be to do your research first. Natural stone does need to be looked after properly to ensure that it lasts. To receive a copy of their new Athena Aftercare guide email becca@athenastonecare.co.uk

7. Stone can be restored

One of the main advantages of natural stone over other materials is its longevity. If cared for properly, it can stand the test of time. Whereas a chipped or cracked porcelain tile will need replacing; marble, limestone and travertine can be restored. Furthermore, the processes used to restore the stone are usually chemical free. Using diamond abrasives, the surface of the stone is firstly ground to remove scratches and etch marks before being polished to the required shine. This can be done many times, using simply water and electricity from your home. Most of the sealants then used to protect the stone have also been developed to be eco-friendly too.

8. Stone can be recycled

Due to its ability to be restored back to its original beauty, stone is very easily recyclable. They say that one man’s waste could be another man’s treasure and it has never been truer in the case of stone. Masons are extremely skilled in their ability to transform a material such a marble worktop removed from one home into a feature piece for another. When sourcing smaller amounts of stone for your home, this could be a more sustainable and also cheaper option to go with.

Are you planning a sustainable building project? Here at CLPM we can help you make the best choices to make your home more sustainable and energy efficient. If you’d like to hear more about how we can help then do get in touch.

Call 01923 896550, email info@cl-pm.com or complete a contact form today.

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CLPM Project Managers cover London, Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire, Surrey, and West Sussex. Energy Consultancy and Cost Advice services available across the UK.
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