Ceramic tiles stand out for their limitless visual potential, their versatile applications and properties such as their durability and resistance. But what contributions does this material make to the environment and to the current economy?
The Spanish Ceramic Tile Manufacturer’s Association (ASCER) conducted an environmental and circular analysis of Spanish ceramic tiles in conjunction with specialist consulting agency, Eco Intelligence Growth, with the support of the Valencia Regional Ministry for Finance. The aim was to gather proven information relating to impact ceramics have on indoor air quality, its carbon cycle and the contribution ceramics make to sustainable building programs and product certification schemes in addition to conducting a lifecycle analysis of tiles in comparison with other materials.
One of the conclusions that can be drawn from the analysis is, ceramic tiles are products aligned with European and national current goals, thanks to its potential cyclability and capacity to reduce negative environmental impacts. These types of tiles are made of 100% natural materials found in abundance in nature; new tiles contain a certain percentage of recycled material; are designed to be long-lasting; and can be re-used at the end of their life by converting them into raw materials to produce other products, providing that the right conditions are available to do so. Ceramic tiles are also resistant to fire and chemical abrasion and so, potentially, tiles can be used in many different projects during their entire life.
Ceramic tiles offer the guarantee of long-lasting durability, with an estimated useful life of 50 years. Because there is no need to replace them during this period, responsible consumption is encouraged, reducing the use of new raw materials and greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing processes.
A Comparison of Covering Materials Used in the Building Sector
The impact of construction materials varies considerably, depending on the product in question. On average, people spend 90% of their time indoors and so healthy materials are fundamental in order to safeguard their health. Numerous studies have found a direct correlation between healthy work environments and worker productivity.
Ceramic tiles offer numerous benefits as a construction material, whether they are used in residential environments or for public projects. Notable benefits include:
- The potential for customization. Tiles come in a wide range of different thicknesses, sizes and formats.
- Ceramics do not release toxic substances and are naturally VOC free.
- Wall and floor tiles are very resistant and long-lasting. In the study four alternative types of floor coverings were analyzed (ceramic tiles, vinyl, wood and carpeting). Of these four, ceramic tiles have the longest lifecycle. This directly affects ceramics’ environmental impact because the useful life of a tile can be equivalent to 4 or 5 lifecycles of another material.
- Better performance because tiles are easy to clean and care for. Ceramics also have a high stain resistance, and no additional energy is required for maintenance.
- Ceramics have a high thermal inertia: an inherent characteristic contributing to energy efficiency in the use of heating/air conditioning.
- Potential for long life: extensive useful lifecycle. Can remain in circulation for a long period of time.
Tiles can be re-used or recycled. If they are properly sorted and separated from other building material waste, they can be used as a by-product, for instance, as aggregate for concrete or as a plant substrate.
This story was originally published in Ceraspaña 48, a journal published by ASCER/Tile of Spain to promote the use and benefits of Spanish ceramic tiles in contemporary architecture and interior design. Read the article and view past issues HERE.