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Sustainability 69: Solid Surfaces

Updated on February 6, 2011
Solid Surfaces
Solid Surfaces | Source

In our striving for sustainability, we are essentially pursuing four major goals: 1) maintaining our health and that of others, while 2) reducing our consumption of renewable as well as non-renewable natural resources, such as fuel, water, energy and raw materials, while 3) limiting the burdens we place on the environment, in the form of traffic, waste, pollution, damage to biodiversity, and 4) minimizing potential environmental risks, such as harm to fragile ecosystems or dissemination of toxins.

The structures we build to house ourselves and our businesses, stores, hospitals, universities, warehouses and factories annually consume over 2/3rd of our electricity, while providing 2/3rd of our waste and well over 1/3rd of our carbon dioxide emissions. They also account for 1/8th of all water use. The modification of structures therefore presents us with ample opportunities to improve our overall societal sustainability. Thus the recent surge in popularity of green buildings, green design and all things green.

Green building is becoming increasingly attractive to builders and users, for it offers improvements in operating costs, overall building value, building occupancy rates, potential market rents, and overall return on investment.

Synthetic manufactured solid surface materials — those commonly used in countertops, but also increasingly in flooring and wall applications — can contribute to building sustainability.

Most solid surface materials consist of a hardened acrylic or polyester resin, within which are suspended particles or crystals of ground stone (often quartz). The sustainability benefits offered by solid surface materials are many:

• They can be produced locally and shipped shorter distances.

• They can contain high percentages of both pre- and post-consumer waste.

• They can be custom formed or shaped to virtually any configuration.

• They are available in a broad range of colors, textures and surface patterns.

• They are extremely durable, easy to clean and maintain, may be heat-resistant, may be non-porous and non-allergenic, may be stain- and scratch-resistant, and do not support the growth of mold or mildew.

• They are low-emitting products with low volatile organic compound (VOC) content.

• They can be certified as to fire-rating classification, and as to suitability for use with food preparation.

• They can be recycled or repurposed.  


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