Our choices are endless, and we have the freedom to use tiles as focal points, or supporting design-puzzle element to the room we are creating. Either way, we must choose carefully, and beside colors and patterns, we must pay attention to size and surface finish according to where they will be used.
Since I blog on sustainability, I am happy to take on TILES now, because tiles are a sustainable choice if they are carefully chosen and properly installed.
An important principle of sustainability is to build for longevity.
History has shown us how long ceramic and stone can last, we just have to look for proof in the ancient ruins of India, Egypt, Pompeii and so on. Ancient Egyptians were the first to use glazed tiles, but we owe it to the Portuguese for painting them with the most vivid imagination.
Ancient Egypt Painting Tile
Persian Tile in the 10th-11th Centuries, a process that included glassy layer over the clay
Ancient Indian Mughal Princess Ceramic Tile
Designed to last a long time?
If the answer is yes, we are reducing the need for future materials usage, and as a direct result reduce waste and contributing to air and water quality.
Designed to be durable?
Ceramic tile has been proven to survive fire and floods. Its color-fast and non-fading. Very strong, easy to clean, non-porous, no need to polishing or sealing. Its durability is not only earth-friendly, but also cost -effective.
(study: www.tileusa.com/PressRel2005/lifecclecost_Final.pdf )
Tiles go anywhere!
We can install it on floors, walls, countertops, pools, ceiling, tubs, showers, outside walls. Tiles can even be used on moving surfaces, for example boats and motor-homes.
Production - Transportation - Installation:
While ceramic and stone have a high embodied energy (production and transportation) , the durability should be considered when we compare it to other alternatives'.
When properly installed and maintained, residential tiles have a minimum of 50 years 'lifespan'. To ensure the maximum performance possibility, the design choice should be flexible and timeless. By prolonging replacement, we can save time, money and resources spent on extracting raw materials, manufacturing, logistics, demolition, disposal and installation. All these contribute to materials usage efficiency, air quality protection, water resource management, and energy efficiency.
Most of the tile suppliers manufacture their products in a "closed loop" process that recycles raw materials and water wastes back into the production cycle. Any left-overs are ground up and can be recycled into cement, artistic tile mosaics, bricks, paving and road fillers. The tiles cradle to grave environmental impact in a Life-Cycle Assessment is very favorable.
According to the Tile Council of North America (TCNA), Tile Life Cycle costs less per year, than all other floor finishes over the
life of a building. Sustainable tiles include recycled glass tile that comes in gorgeous colors. Beside the aesthetics, we should aim for the highest percentage of post consumer content. They are mesh mounted for easy installation. I'd like to highlight Starglass grout, it is an eco-friendly and beautiful product. Made from recycled glass and this grout has an amazing sparkle that regular grout can never produce.
Production methods that generate no waste should always be valued more than recycled products.
Another important principle of sustainability is health.
Tiles & Health
Building related illnesses like, Sick Building Syndrome and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity are on the rise and now that we have a better understanding of the cause, reasonably become a critical concern for us.
Ceramic tiles do not absorb or emit pollutants, no off-gassing is needed, inhibit the growth of mold, mildew, fungus, and viruses, letting us bread easier.
Ceramic tiles can be cleaned using warm water and pH-neutral cleaners. Ceramic tiles have a high stain resistance that reduces maintenance requirements. There is no need for chemicals, strippers, solvents, shampoos or waxes that only only poison our home's indoor air quality, plus add to the level of toxic cleaning products being flushed into our ecosystem. Regular cement-based setting and grouting materials generally do not contain Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) or other suspect chemicals. Sealers and cleaners that are water-based, also offer significant advantages for Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) during installation and for lifetime use.
Hygienic, hypoallergenic and non-conductive ceramics are preferred for sterile environments like research laboratories and operating rooms, restaurant-kitchens and so on. For residential application, ceramic tiles provide relief for those suffering with multiple chemical sensitivity. Cleanliness, ease of maintenance and safety are critical.
Ceramic tiles are fire proof, and will not emit gases. Therefore often selected for fireplaces and exit corridors.
Ceramic tile can survive fire and floods.
Energy Efficiency is another important consideration for sustainability
Tile is an excellent thermal conductor. I remember growing up with tile fireplaces in all our rooms -similar to the one on the first picture below. My parents hardly had to re-load it, because they were radiating the heat at a fairly constant temperature for a long period. It definitely lasted over night, and instead of heating the entire house, these individual heating units gave a great control over the rooms we were actually using. Heated floors are the new 'standard' for all above reasons. Provide comfort, work well as a supplemental heat in bathrooms and kitchens.
AURORA GLASS TILES are made of 100% recycled glass and ALL profits assist homeless and low-income people through emergency services, housing, jobs and training etc.
GLASS ROOTS' TILES are made with solar power manufacturing and 100% post consumer glass collected from the Montana region
FIRECLAY TILES contains over 60% recycled materials, including post consumer curbside waste glass and local Bay Area waste such as granite dust and used sandblasting abrasives
BEDROCK INDUSTRIES' BLAZESTONE TILES 100% post-industrial and post-consumer recycled glass and no additional oxides or colorants
CROSSVILLE TILES include 4% recycled content in all their tile and up to 50% in some of their "eco-line" of tiles (thank you Cathy Rust of Becgreen.ca for this recommendation)
The continuous Innovation in Technology is amazing and exciting.
Some favorites (and i invite You, dear reader to share your favorites with me)
ACTIVE -- Clean Air and Antibacterial Ceramic. Reduce surface contamination and clean the air though a photocatalytic process. (www.active-ceramic.com)
BIOS -- Provides continuous and durable protection against germs and bacteria. (www.casalgrandepadana.com)