Stone is cheap, fireproof, and has less carbon footprint compared to concrete. This material is used as a primary building material for thousands of years. The entire city was built with quarried stone, putting on top of another to construct columns and walls. This great forgotten material has withstood the test of time and it is staging a comeback. Natural stone has some attributes that make it sustainable and environmentally friendly, for instance, its capability of heat absorption, availability around the world, and quarries out of mountains and even from underground. This article will discuss some precedents on how the stone has potentiality for architects to use it as a modern building material.
Digital stereotomy: The art and science of cutting three-dimensional solids like stone or wood into practical shapes is called stereotomy. Typically, for a couple of years, materials such as stone can be digitally fabricated for complex structures like vaults, arch, etc. The computational simulation and fabrication techniques are not trendy yet, but the new realm of possibilities is in the vicinity. Several architects and universities have already achieved some precedents of success with their experiments and research projects, the stone arch in Jericho is one of them. This pavilion is the first outcome of research into computational stone construction techniques by AAU Anastas – and therefore the Geometrie Structure Architecture research unit of French university ENSA Paris-Malaquais. “The research aims at including stone stereotomy – the processes of cutting stones – construction processes in contemporary architecture,” said the project team. This latticed canopy is designed by individually cutting three hundred mutually supporting stone pieces. The self-supporting pavilion covers 60 square meters with seven meters of span. Apart from scientific and technical issues, the project represents the region’s traditional techniques used to build-arch and domes.
Translucent building envelope : Thin panels of marble, is widely applied in building envelopes, due to light transparency effects. The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library was opened in 1963 is renowned for its foremost collections of rare manuscripts and translucent marble façade. Controlling light was the primary design concern of the library. Ambient light was required for study and reading; however, exposure to sunlight could damage the preserved documents. The thickness of the marble panes of the façade is roughly 1¼” or 3cm allows to diffuse some sunlight into the interior without damaging the documents. The gray-veined white marble gives the library a monumental outlook with a cold and impenetrable appearance from the exterior, but from the interior, the glow of stone and warmth of a comfortable level is enjoyed because of sunlight.
Reduce urban heat island effect : Natural stones used as architectural elements can reduce the urban heat island effect. Roofing tiles, landscape elements, decorative building envelopes, and paving may inhibit energy absorption. Stones with high SRI (solar reflectance index) are advantageous in regions with short periods of cold weather. Particularly in urban areas use of stone is environmentally-preferable for reduced energy consumption and mitigation of the heat island effect.
Recycled stone : Natural stone is a sustainable and recyclable material. Over its lifetime, the stone has the potentiality to serve different purposes. Recycled stone reduces the consumption of energy, water, and other resources required to produce virgin products. Recycled and salvaged stone has many potential uses and applications. For instance, stones from an old building can be refinished as paving materials, retaining walls, or could be used in building envelopes. Stone fragments can be repurposed to create a mosaic floor. The project Apartment No. 1 by AbCT architects in Mahallat, Iran, is Built Completely Out of Recycled Stone. It was completed in 2010 and was shortlisted for the 2013 Aga Khan Architecture Award. Mahallat is the center of treating and cutting stone business. However, this stone tile cutting process is incredibly energy-intensive and produces scraps that are considered waste and sent to the dump. This apartment building in the town of Mahallat is a landmark that shows the people that “scraps” could still be used. Stone scrapes were collected from surrounding mines and combined them to construct a building of multicolored texture. To slow the heat, transfer throughout the day, stones provide thermal mass.
Stone landscaping : Stones in landscape design establishes a framework for movement and defines different use areas. It also gives a visual combination of hard (stone) and soft (plants) elements to create a more organic landscape. Stone is familiar to construct structural and formal hardscape features like outdoor fireplaces, patio and pool decks, retaining walls, stepping stone paths, and walkways, garden waterfalls, etc. It also protects plants from heat and cold. In summer, stones prevent direct heat from reaching the roots of the plant and keep the roots and soil cooler as water evaporates off more slowly. During the winter, stone works as an insulator by keeping the cold away. Landscaping with stone can control erosion and facilitates drainage.