natural world versus synthetic world

Use natural stones – the most durable option

“Feel natural, be natural, use natural stones.” Hello, everyone in the building and construction industry! A warm welcome to all users, interior designers, architects, and our supportive partners in the natural stone industry. Contrary to what many people think, natural stones don’t cause any harm to the environment. Using natural stones can even make our lives better. Our practices are eco-friendly for a healthier future.

Sustainability is the key factor for Natural Stones:

People have been using natural stones for various things like decorating walls and floors and creating pavements and landscapes for millennia. Some people, however, have criticized the industry that extracts these rocks from deep within the earth’s surface, saying that it harms the planet. This process can affect the environment, but we must consider that other surfaces we use require raw materials extracted similarly. These materials go through additional processes that consume more fuel. Additionally, the worth and individuality of natural stones come from their formation through natural geological processes taking millions of years, resulting in a stunning array of colors.

“Nature is the living, visible garment of God.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Natural stones leave a lower carbon footprint than faux stone counterparts:

When it comes to processing formats and surfaces for use in buildings and construction, for the sake of being connected to nature, it is better to use natural stones. The people who process natural stone have been checked out to ensure they’re doing things eco-friendly. Tests have shown that natural stone has a minor environmental impact compared to artificial materials. Research by the Natural Stone Institute shows that natural stones have less environmental impact than synthetic materials. So, being with nature is good for the planet.

Our message to designers and builders:

We strongly believe in using natural stones for building projects. Even though artificial surfaces are more affordable, natural stones are still the top choice for high-end homes and buildings. This is because they are stunning and long-lasting and add a classy element to any space. People have been using them in construction for thousands of years, and we are proud to continue this tradition by encouraging people to use these timeless materials in modern buildings. Even though their usage is less than artificial surfaces, we think that the advantages of using natural are much better, and we want to help our clients make the best decisions when choosing materials for their projects.

Low cost alternatives:

You have more options if you want to use only natural materials in your buildings and homes. Many people prefer to use wood, terracotta bricks, and terracotta tiles. It’s important to remember that the building industry intended to use these materials to enhance natural stones rather than serve as a substitute for them. In fact, some less expensive engineered options have affected the natural stone market.

  • Pre-stressed concrete tiles
  • Terrazzo (a manufactured product containing chips of various marble, granite and other stone aggregates)
  • Ceramic tiles

It’s easy to see why these products have gained popularity as surface and covering options. They are cost-effective alternatives thanks to their mass production. However, many still prefer the appealing and rustic looks and feel of using natural, especially in the luxury and upper niche segments. It’s important to consider all options and preferences regarding building and construction.

Other low-cost and low-weight clones:

As technology progresses, there are now alternative options that closely resemble the natural product. The synthetic and engineered surfaces industry developed cloned products that look like natural stone. Some of the recent ones are:

  • Porcelain: This lightweight product quickly passes off as a clone of the natural stone it resembles.
  • Engineered quartz surfaces: This product displaced natural stone in the countertop segment as they claim to perform as silica, which is harder than most other metals and elements on the MOH’s hardness scale and resists scratching by sharp metallic objects. However, this product contains highly compact silica as the raw material. This poses a risk of the harmful disease silicosis to those working on or installing the product.
  • Sintered stones: This product is an engineered surface reconstituted from stones. The sintered stone manufacturers consider their products as an alternative to natural stones. They claim to manufacture a product with increased durability, free of elements like harmful silica. Some natural stones and engineered surfaces do contain silica. In sintered stones, the silica is extracted and removed from hard materials like granite. After that, surface reconstitution uses minerals like feldspar that remain residual.

The installers working on natural stones use wet-cutting methods to avoid inhaling silica from dry-cutting methods used by those installing engineered surfaces. Therefore, we recommend that users consider the environmental impact, cost, and aesthetics before choosing the desirable products.

Why be natural and use natural?

If a user expects artificial or synthetic materials like faux stones to replicate the feel of natural stones perfectly, they will likely be disappointed. Natural stones offer a connection to the Earth that is difficult to replicate. Using artificial products that closely resemble them in our daily lives could harm our overall quality of life. Picture a scenario where we find ourselves amidst synthetic trees, foliage, earth, and grass. In such a situation, we must ask ourselves whether we can genuinely expect to enjoy the same benefits of nature that we do today. Ultimately, more is needed than for materials to merely look natural. Instead, we must strive to feel natural and embrace the beauty of the world around us. Therefore, use natural stones as a reminder of our connection to the planet.

Other resources for sustainability in using natural stones:

Updates on August 17, 2023:

We have discussed about the research and audits arranged by the Natural Stone Institute to prove the sustainability of natural stones. For additional resources, you may want to check out their website. The one research worth a read is Embodied Carbon and Natural Stone. To help quantify the embodied carbon of natural stone, the Natural Stone Institute published a set of Industry-Wide Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs). The disclosures include cradle to grave life cycle impacts for cladding, flooring, and countertops. Access datapoints and graphics here.

The Natural Stone Institute educates our readers in the building and construction industry on the Manufacturing Impact of Natural Stones as against other surfaces. Through this series, they aim to provide comprehensive knowledge of natural stones as compared to other materials. As we come across more research on the sustainability and impact of natural stones, we will keep you updated.

The building and construction industry can use all products that are available in the market. The natural stone industry is happy to co-exist with its peers in engineered and synthetic surfaces. We appreciate our share of the business. It is heartening to note that the trade volumes for natural stones show positive growth.

Note: The Natural Stone Foundation partially funded the EPD project.


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