As stone professionals, we believe that stone is as natural as building material gets, and yet it has not received much attention from the ‘green’ industry until now. A recent article published by BuildingGreen.com has finally given natural stone its due and the future looks promising.
The crux of the article written by Brent Erlich, emphatically supports that as a building material, stone requires virtually no manufacturing and is so durable that stone structures built thousands of years ago are still used today—characteristics few contemporary “green” products can equal. Yet stone has been largely overlooked by the green building movement, while ephemeral products made of recycled plastic often carry green labels. Granted, stone has some significant environmental impacts, but they may not be as big as you think, and the stone industry has undertaken noteworthy sustainability efforts. Erhlich further writes, that this ancient building material may be more relevant than ever in today’s green building industry.
Stone has all the attributes of a green product. It requires almost no chemicals to produce or maintain, it emits no VOCs or hazardous airborne pollutants, and it is water-resistant and durable. It is also an attractive material that will outlive most structures built today, and it can be salvaged from one building to be reused or repurposed in another. Stone cladding is used on new buildings to match original historic structures, and in the right application or climate—such as in areas with large temperature fluctuations—stone can be used as thermal mass for space heating and cooling. Some stone even has good solar reflectance.
However, quarrying methods, processing techniques and transportation issues have caused concern to environmentalists. The stone industry has lacked organization and public awareness that has kept them from spreading a more positive perception. Now they are employing new quarrying and production methods that improve the efficiency of stone production and lower its environmental impact and in recent years taken action to organize and develop stone industry standards that will establish a rating system for quarries and stone processors.
The third-party-verified metrics will change the way the stone industry is both viewed and measured for effectively contributing to green standards – as they naturally have all along.
For the entire article click here.
What is considered a ‘native plant’ and how does is contribute to sustainability? Some people in the US believe they’re plants that were growing on the continent before the arrival of Europeans or people from any other continents. But a broader definition accepted by others is any plant that grows naturally in an area without human interaction. Either way, a native plant is not an exotic plant that has been introduced to the area and has taken over and choked out other species, or one requires constant attention and resources to get it to grow.
On the whole, native plants require less care from us. They’re native to the area and have adapted to living off the native soil. The exception is when you first bring them into your garden as transplants. They do require care until they’re established, and after that they’re fine. Starting them from seeds means they’ll establish themselves as they grow.
Native plants are able to handle the area’s weather. They can survive extreme weather conditions such as hot dry summers and cold snowy winters. They have adapted to the normal amount of available groundwater or rainfall. In other words, you don’t have to constantly water these plants and that’s a relief to your water bill and less time spent in the garden.
Another benefit to planting local species is their ability to resist local pests and diseases. They thrive and are healthy, naturally. And for you this means cutting down and hopefully eliminating pesticide usage, which is, of course, better for everyone’s health and well being. And finally, natural plantings can help slow down erosion. This is particularly true for riverbanks, cliff tops, wetlands, ocean shores and your storm drains.
These reasons save us time, money, and frustration for sure, but there are also reasons to plant native that include the birds, bees and wildlife. They depend on native species for food and shelter, plus the chance to pollinate. In addition, the plants provide wildlife protection from predators. The plants and the wildlife help make up our ecosystem and make for a healthier, well-rounded environment.
When you include native plants and grasses in your garden, you have vegetation that is not invasive, but rather fits seamlessly in the landscape, looking perfectly at home. You are also contributing to diversity and preserving various species of vegetation and the animals that depend on it for their habitat.
These are all good reasons to “go native” with your plantings. Remember native plants when you plan your garden and keep in mind it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
The use of terrace planting beds in gardens has historically been the best way to deal with slopes, which can be difficult and even dangerous to maintain. Terraces have been an important part of garden design since ancient Persia and Roman times and were popular in the Italian Renaissance and with English landscape gardens.
A terraced landscape is created by building a series of retaining walls, allowing space for level beds or lawns. There is a wide choice of materials to create retaining walls; stone and brick for traditional gardens, concrete, metal and railroad ties for contemporary landscape designs are most popular. With proper design this style of garden can become lush through the use of container gardening, automated drip irrigation and low-flow irrigation systems, and outdoor furnishings.
Traditional terraced gardens tend to reflect the planting style of the overall garden and style of the house linking the house to the garden as well as to the contours of the landscape.
A beautiful example of linking home and garden using terrace planting beds, was accomplished with our client located in Laguna Beach California. Laguna Beach is known for its pristine beaches and steep sloping hillsides which provide many residents with ocean views. Santa Barbara Sandstone was selected for the Tuscan style of architecture as veneer stone for both the garden and home built on this very steep property.
Santa Barbara Sandstone is harvested from the region it is named for. It is an extraordinary stone that works easily in a mason’s hands. Terraced gardens will show off the beautiful stone material you select; whether this or any of the many fine natural stones we offer.
A home and its landscape is one of your largest investments. A qualified landscape architect, landscape contractor and professional stone supplier can work together to recommend and stay within a budget that will bring your hardscape and paving stone vision to reality.
The budget for natural paving stone material and installation, can be managed by creative design and careful assessment of installation options and selection/variety of natural stone materials. A qualified stone professional will have suggestions that vary in price, color, look and feel to provide the beauty and quality you desire.
Natural paving stone for walkways, driveways or other hardscape surfaces not only are more visually appealing, but have the distinct advantage of lasting longer than manufactured pavers, decomposed granite or concrete. This should be considered in terms of the budget’s longevity; how soon will a manufactured concrete paver surface need maintaining and how long will it last? Most natural stone exterior surfaces if installed properly need nothing more than a sealant and sometimes not even that, depending on the type of stone and can last indefinitely. Old reclaimed granite cobblestone for driveways for example, requires no sealant or maintenance in most situations.
For today’s sustainable design requirements, keep in mind that installations on a natural base with sand joints, add the environmental benefit of permeability – allowing water runoff to percolate through areas that would traditionally be impervious and infiltrate to the soil below. Again, a qualified landscape architect, contractor and stone supplier are the professionals to look to for ensuring your investment will have the desired result and provide years of enjoyment.
What does the term “hardscape” mean? Lots of people, mostly those who haven’t had a lot of gardening experience or who have never had their own yard, are unfamiliar with the term. It actually refers to the parts of your landscape that are “hard”, or the ‘bones’ such as stone or concrete other material that make up pathways, decks, patios, retaining walls, and structures such as gazebos.
When planning your garden, starting with the hardscape and designing around it, is critical. You have a defined space to work with and chances are, you’re going to be investing time and money and will want it to last a very long time.
You’re going to have areas for bushes, trees, and flowers, defined with some sort of hard barrier between them and the grass, right? You’re also going to want a space where you can put outdoor furniture like a table and chairs, which calls for a patio or deck. Consider natural stone for areas such as these because its beautiful, durable and adds greater value to your investment.
You also might have some issues to resolve because of the slope of your land. Slopes can call for retaining walls and there are different materials to choose from depending on your needs and the look you like, but of course we suggest beautiful, durable natural stone.
Maybe you’re lucky enough to be able to include a swimming pool, hot tub or outdoor kitchen area in your landscaping plans. You might also want an area for a play structure for the kids. These will be a big part of your hardscape planning.
Lastly, you might desire to fence in the whole area or parts of the area, like to keep the dog in or the neighbor’s dog out. Or want lattice work to hide the garbage cans and air conditioning unit, and give yourself privacy.
As you can see, there are many reasons to use hardscapes in your landscape. There are also many different materials involved, including an array of beautiful natural stone products that will add an organic, natural feel to your design; pathways, patios, side yard, courtyards and driveways.
But hiring a professional landscape designer or architect is the very first step after you decide what your dream garden might look like. Remember, it’s the skeleton of your garden. You won’t plant flowers until you have that retaining wall in to retain them, and you won’t plant your wisteria until you have a trellis for it to climb up.
It becomes infinitely easier to plant your “softscape”, trees, bushes, and flowers, after all the permanent hard structures are in place. Hardscaping helps you to see the whole picture and gives you the actual space left to work with.
Architect John Hill writes about architecture and the ability to endure a beating from storms and flooding. On the west coast, the biggest fear are earthquakes. As a result, architecture guidelines do the best they can to ensure a building will withstand that once in a lifetime large shaker.
But on the east coast, one expects a beating from good old ‘Mother Nature’ if you live in those zones – on an annual basis. If one single event in 2012 had long-term consequences for the future of architecture it was Hurricane Sandy, which hit the East Coast of the U.S. in late October. Responses to climate change are finally entering the political picture, after being batted about by architects, landscape architects, urban planners and others for years. While the impact of rising seawater points to big fixes (levees, locks and the like) and questions where we build, not all responses need to be big according to Hill.
This Florida island house points to one tactic: raising a building’s living spaces above high waters.
An earlier hurricane, Katrina, necessitated even more rebuilding, much of it in poor areas of New Orleans. One high-profile response was spearheaded by Brad Pitt with architects like Frank Gehry, whose design for Pitt’s Make It Right foundation is pictured here. The house is fairly subdued for Gehry, but its combination of being lifted up on stilts (not apparently high enough, given the 8 feet of water that inundated the Lower Ninth Ward, where it’s located) and having solar panels for off-the-grid power in emergencies is a good model: part historic precedent and part modern technology.
Source; John Hill, HOUZZ
As stone professionals, one of the most important services we offer is to consult and enlighten our clients on the best natural stone veneer options for their project. It is truly a collaborative effort working with the architect, contractor and homeowner that will help ensure the desired result.
The options are endless, the stone industry loaded with a variety of stone, found both near and far. Local stone sources are important for LEED accreditation, but can present a challenge if not available in your area. No matter, the USA has a enormous supply of natural stone for building and landscape needs in beautiful durable stones such as limestone and granite to begin with.
On a previous post, we discussed a resource from a website by Professor Railback on stone buildings with a lengthy geologic listing of every type of stone available in the world. The purpose of Professor Railbacks web page is straightforward:
1. to remind general observers of the use of geological materials in building;
2. to encourage general observers to look at the stone in buildings they visit;
3. to encourage architects and builders to remember stone as they plan their work; and
4. to acquaint geologists with some of the unexpected uses of geological materials as building stones.
There are many factors to consider with stone, including color and thickness. Another interesting resource is found on HOUZZ.com, an article by Bud Dietrich AIA, which discusses the options with both full thickness and veneer stone options more fully. One caveat however, we don’t believe manufactured imitation stone such as El Dorado, should be included in a topic focused on ‘stone’ ie, natural stone, as it causes confusion.
At Monarch Stone International, we are enthusiastic, yes even passionate, about natural stone for both building and hard-scape/landscape use. We offer consultation and management services and are a credible resource for any level of interest with the goal of increasing ones understanding of stone in architecture.
At least in California, homes with a ‘Green’ label are worth more, according to a study conducted by researchers with UC Berkeley and UCLA. The study entitled, “Value of Green Labels in the California Housing Market” found that a typical California home valued at $400,000 sells for an average of 8.7%, or $34,800, more when it has a green label. Researchers from UC Berkeley, Nils Kok and UCLA’s Matthew Kahn were able to prove the investment in an energy-efficient home will pay off during resale.
There are about 10,000 green-label certified homes in California. Having examined data for the 1.6 million single-family homes sold in California between 2007 and 2012, about 4,300 of those homes were green-label certified. The study focused on production homes, not custom-built properties, and it compared green-labeled and non-green-labeled homes of similar age, size, amenities and location.
The study, as reported in the LA Times, estimated that the average cost of making a home 35% more efficient was $10,000, “so the benefit of green homes far outweighs the cost.”
As a stone supplier, our company promotes the value of natural stone and reclaimed/recycled stone which can contribute to a green living environment whether a home is being built with Green label or LEED rating in mind or not. And some stone products can be recycled for future use or are already recycled such as reclaimed cobblestone from our Historic European Cobblestone collection. Give us a call to discuss how stone can help you create a more natural, green living environment.
Source: LA Times, CA Real Estate Magazine, Nils Kok.
We thought it was great learning about the effort that went into sustainable architecture for the London Olympics. What happens after the Para Olympics are over in a few weeks?
Planning for the future of the impressive Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, has been in the works for some time, according to World Landscape Architecture. The Mayor of London created the “London Legacy Development Corporation” that will be “setting and maintaining standards for quality of design, construction and urban planning, to ensure a sustainable and enduring legacy for the Park”.
When the Para Olympics is over, the first phase will focus on temporary and moveable facilities such as the basketball and hockey arenas and some bridges being removed and re-used. This will continue through summer of 2013. Other stages of construction will follow in careful phases.
A Design Services Framework Panel was created to assist and support the design quality of the Park and surrounding area, including new neighborhoods, venues, parklands and public spaces. Companies will sit on the panel for four years as a specialist resource for three areas: Architecture and Urban Design, Landscape Design and Graphics and Visualization. For a list of the member companies visit, World Landscape Architecture.
The games were exciting, the eclectic British scene was entertaining and memorable. But the future will be equally impressive and satisfying knowing there is firm direction and planning in the hands of the London Legacy Development Corporation. Bravo London!
For a fascinating look at some of the innovative ideas which have gone into making the 2012 Games arenas some of the most sustainable ever seen at an Olympic event, visit RTCC (Responding To Climate Change). The website reports on the structures and their content, along with possible recycling and re-use and is raising the awareness and excitement level for the 2012 Games!
Olympic Park for example, has been something of a success story, especially for sustainable architecture. The area looked very different four years ago – less a park and more a mixture of tattered industrial buildings and toxic wastelands. Constructed on 246 hectares of once heavily contaminated industrial land, one of the first challenges that faced the Olympic Park organizers was reclaiming the site. 98% of the materials from the site’s demolished buildings, including glue factories, a chemical works and an oil refinery, were re-used and 700,000 cubic meters of soil, enough to fill two billion cans of coke, were cleansed to be re-claimed.
So why are the organizers so confident they can deliver a truly ‘green’ Games? Read more at www.rtcc.org.