It has been said that it only takes one good idea.  And that was exactly the case for Ellen Blakeley of Ellen Blakeley Studio in San Francisco, CA, who was a pioneer in using recycled material to make glass tiles. Driven by creativity, Blakeley - who is featured in our green building article on page 42 of this issue - started using broken glass from vandalized bus shelters for artistic purposes years before the green movement really started into full swing.  Today, her custom-made glass tiles not only contain aesthetic value, but they are meeting a growing demand for green products.

And due to the rapid momentum of the green building movement, many tile manufacturers are encouraged to think outside the box to develop new products that offer environmentally friendly options to architects and designers and meet LEED standards. Recently, I went to Valencia, Spain, to attend Cevisama, the International Ceramic Tile and Bathroom Furnishings Show, which is held annually. When walking the exhibition floor, it became apparent to me that manufacturers are taking green building seriously. There were so many more products that contain large percentages of recycled material than in years past. Some of these tile lines can be found in a product review that begins on page 18. Additionally, many manufacturers were also promoting methods used during the production process that save time and energy.

In particular, several companies stand out to me as innovators in this area. Ceracasa, a Tile of Spain branded manufacturer, has created a product called Bionic Tile, which actually removes harmful nitrous oxide (NOx) pollution from the air through a process of photocatalysis, with the help of sunlight and humidity. It is amazing to me that a tile has the ability to accomplish this. Not only does it meet building standards, but it is also directly helping the environment. Another tile manufacturer that has been developing with the environment in mind is Tau Ceramica, which offers a line called Eco Tile. Each tile in this series is made with at least 45% recycled material and its manufacturing process follows LEED guidelines. According to the company, 90% of its commercial line that is sold to the U.S. qualifies as Eco Tile.

With companies such as Ceracasa and Tau setting such a high standard, it pushes other manufacturers to increase their efforts and level of innovation - which can only inspire and offer new possibilities in design.  Just as artists such as Ellen Blakeley and the research and development teams of stone and tile companies are expanding beyond their imaginations and introducing top-quality products, the architect and design communities also can challenge each other by incorporating these products into their designs to create outstanding applications that meet both form and function.