Interior Design / Hospitality/Commercial Design / Contemporary Stone & Tile Design Magazine

Large-format tile for a large-scale project

When Brocade Communications, a worldwide leader in networking solutions, unveiled its new corporate headquarters in San Jose, CA, it marked the completion of a grand-scale project. The 562,000-square-foot campus, which accommodates more than 3,000 employees, includes two new office buildings and an advanced data center and engineering lab. Brocade recently earned a place on Information Week’s annual list of 500 most innovative business technology users in recognition of the data center’s sustainable design, energy efficiency and ingenious deployment of technology.


Custom Building Products of Seal Beach, CA, delivered a complete solution to address the critical issues involved in the large-format tile installation at the new Brocade Communications facility. Developer: Hunter-Storm Properties; Architect: KHSA (Core and Shell)/RMW (Corporate Interiors); Contractor: Vance Brown Inc.; Tile Contractor: DeAnza Tile; Installation Products Manufacturer: Custom Building Products, Seal Beach, CA; Tile Manufacturer: Ceramiche Caesar; Tile Supplier: Spec Ceramics, Fullerton, CA

The design of the headquarters is also notable for the use of large-format tiles for its interior flooring. The floor on the first floor features 2- x 4-foot tiles, while 3- x 3-foot floor tiles were employed for the second floor in the lobbies, hallways and landing areas. The large-format tiles used in the installation were manufactured by Ceramiche Caesar of Italy, and they were supplied by Spec Ceramics of Fullerton, CA.

“The key to large-format tile installations -- especially with this large of tile -- is substrate flatness and using the proper mortar,” said Clayton Peck, Regional Technical Sales Representative for Custom Building Products of Seal Beach, CA, who advised DeAnza Tile, the company that installed the tile, on technical product criteria and selection.

“These were the largest tiles we’d ever installed,” said Rich Papapietro, President of DeAnza Tile. “We were concerned about the flatness and tolerance of the tiles; variations are common among large-format tiles.”

Custom delivered a complete solution to address the critical issues involved in the large tile installation. “A major reason we were awarded the job was because of our partnership with Custom Building Products,” said Papapietro. “The Custom team was instrumental in helping us through the entire project. With Custom’s total solution and their outstanding support, we were able to offer a single source solution with a 10-year warranty that exceeded the warranty requirements.”

DeAnza Tile used EasyMat® with SoundGard Technology for the underlayment. This is a bonded system that does not break or uncouple from the substrate or the mortar/mat matrix. EasyMat allows for the use of a modified mortar and also creates higher shear bond strength to both the tile and the substrate (450 psi vs. 210 psi).

The architect agreed to switch to EasyMat because the competitive product that was originally specified for the job recommends ANSI A118.1 mortar and did not meet the specifications of the tile manufacturer. Caesar by Spec Ceramics requires ANSI A118.4 mortars to be used to adhere to the tile, and EasyMat also offered sound attenuation that the original mat did not.

ProLite® by Custom, a medium-bed, fortified tile and stone mortar, was recommended and used for several reasons. Its non-slump features are ideal for supporting large-format tile installations. It also helps address slight floor and tile irregularities and tile-to-tile adjustments, especially when there’s a large disparity between the grout joint size and the tile size.

ProLite’s medium-bed characteristics also control shrinking during the curing process, which can contribute to loss of bond or mortar cracking as it hydrates. “Using a standard polymer-modified mortar can lead to problems or failures later on,” explained Peck.

“ProLite is formulated for thicker application and maximum coverage that large-format tile installations like the Brocade project demand. It has a creamier texture and easier trowel-ability onto the floor. ProLite’s lightweight and advanced handling characteristics help make spreading and overall handling easier; reducing labor time is important when tiles are so big that it requires two people to set a tile.”

Another major consideration was that ProLite is formulated with recycled material, so it contributes to LEED-certification and exceeds ANSI A118.4 and A118.11 without the need for additives. Brocade was looking to achieve the highest green building standards possible, so this was an important issue from the onset of the project. The Brocade headquarters has since received LEED Gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council for its high-performance green buildings.  

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