In researching some of the latest tile and stone construction methods, I recently met with representatives from Marazzi, a large Italian manufacturer of porcelain tile. Through its U.S. operation, Marazzi USA, the company supplies everything from large-format tiles to glass mosaics to distributors across the country. Of note, the company has begun a campaign to market its ventilated tile wall system -- which has gained a measure of popularity overseas -- here in the U.S.

Michael P. Johnson Design Studio
Architect Michael Johnson of Michael P. Johnson Design Studio in Cave Creek, AZ, used 2- x 3-foot Marazzi Lavagna Levigato black porcelain tiles to clad the exterior façade of an office/warehouse in Phoenix, AZ.

While the Green Movement is rapidly gaining speed in the U.S., it is surprising to me that ventilated facade systems aren't an obvious choice for exterior facades. This system has been employed in architecture for many years in Europe and other parts of the world. In addition to creating a clean contemporary look, the ventilated facade also offers benefits such as savings on energy usage, better sound insulation and thermal stability, as the ventilated cavity creates a "chimney effect" that removes excess radiant heat from a building while insulation prevents heat loss from within a building, according to the Italian tile manufacturer.

Of course, education plays an important role in the introduction of new products. And although Marazzi's ventilated wall system is not new, it is not commonly seen here in the U.S. Once architects and designers learn more about the product and its benefits, I can't imagine how it
will not be seen as a viable option -- especially for sustainable designs and ones targeting LEED certification. Marazzi offers a seminar on its ventilated wall systems that allows participants to earn Continuing Education Units (CEUs). More information can be obtained by visiting the company's Web site at: Its ventilated wall system was also part of Marazzi's product display at Coverings, the tile and stone exhibition that was held in Orlando, FL, this past spring.

Ventilated Wall SystemAlso I have mentioned in the past, new green products are continuously being introduced to the market -- from tiles made of recycled glass to water-based stone care products with low VOCs. In the Green Design section of this edition of the Stone & Tile Design Insider a girl's bathroom is featured, which recently won in the "Project: Green" competition that was sponsored by Coverings and Environmental Design + Construction magazine. The bathroom floor is made of "Jelly Bean" tiles that are made from a company called Fire Clay. The pebble-like tiles are made from recycled clear glass Coke bottles.

Clearly, tile manufacturers are showing innovation in their approach to developing green products. While some products consist of recycled material, others are using eco-friendly practices and some, such as ventilated wall systems, offer energy-saving benefits after the products are installed. With new green products continually being introduced to the market, it is inevitable the number of sustainable designs each year will continue to increase -- making for a better built environment.