Blending Aesthetics and Sustainable Design Through Facades

Creating balance between beauty and function
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Sponsored by 3A Composites USA, Inc., Cosentino, Endicott Clay Products, Hofmann Facades Group, Inpro, Neolith®, Vitro Architectural Glass
By Jessica Jarrard

Natural stone can be shipped as large-scale, thin, lightweight prefab panels on UHPC. Natural stone not only creates a unique facade, but it also reduces the carbon footprint in manufacturing processes, transportable weight on the roads, and the structure.

Ultracompact surface materials can be specified, manufactured, and cut into large panels for a visually appealing facade that has fewer seams that need to be sealed in the building envelope.

Glass panels can be manufactured, cut into various large panel shapes and sizes, and installed on the exterior facade. Tempering processes during manufacturing as well as glass coatings help reinforce the glass, making it more durable and aesthetically pleasing both for occupants indoors and for those viewing the structure from the outside. Coatings also can be used to reduce heat transfer and glare.


In addition to creating aesthetically pleasing and unique facades, natural and durable materials promote sustainability in a few different ways. The first is by reducing the carbon footprint through a reduction in energy usage during manufacturing as well as for the life of the material.

Manufacturing of thin brick uses significantly less energy when compared to manufacturing full-width brick. A larger number of thin bricks can be transported in a single shipment, thus reducing carbon emissions used in transit. Thin brick also can help increase efficiency by absorbing and then storing heat, slowing its movement through the wall. The thin brick veneer can hold the heat on the exterior rather than releasing it to the inside of the building, in this way helping to reduce strain on the HVAC system and lowering energy costs.

Natural materials such as natural stone do not require additional firing or processes compared to man-made materials such as glass, concrete, steel, brick, or terracotta. This ensures additional heat and carbon are not released into the atmosphere by a kilning/sintering or firing that can be 2000°F or more.

Waste created in the quarry and during fabrication, can be reused and recycled to make aggregate, calcium carbonate, and substitute recycled content. Stone sludge from sawing blocks can also be used in green brick which contains up to 60% recycled content.

High performance materials can be thinner and therefore use less carbon, not only in the incorporation of materials but also during manufacturing and transportation to job sites. The weight reduction of the large-scale thin facade natural stone panels on UHPC is light enough to be floor-loaded, leading to a tremendous reduction in weight during transportation as well as on the superstructure and foundations, all of which allows an additional reduction in carbon emissions.

Durable materials are built to withstand the elements and therefore do not regularly require extensive repairs or early replacement. Long-lasting materials like natural stone can be employed for extended periods of time. While the initial cost of some materials may be higher when specified and installed, costs can be recuperated in energy savings over time and a longer lifespan. Additionally, materials that have a longer life do not need to be replaced, and so they do not end up in the landfill or need to be recycled as frequently.

In thin brick applications, the keyback design provides a mechanical lock into the concrete for maximum durability and permanence. This design brings added strength and performance with an increased sheer value and pull-out strength. Both of these attributes lead to a longer product life and fewer replacement costs along with less material waste. When brick does reach the end of its life, it can be recycled as it is made from abundant, natural materials.1


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Originally published in Architectural Record
Originally published in December 2021


Blending Aesthetics and Sustainable Design Through Facades
Buyer's Guide
ALUCOBOND® Aluminum Composite Material (ACM)
The ALUCOBOND® PLUS name is synonymous with high-quality ACM cladding. The fire-retardant core helps wall assemblies to meet International Building Code fire performance requirements and NFPA 285 testing. The 86 stock colors and finishes, endless formability, and superior flatness help give shape to great ideas. Made in the USA.
3A Composites USA, Inc.
Cosentino Facades with Dekton
Dekton is an ultracompact surface, made up of inorganic minerals. Through a unique process of extreme heat (2300 degrees°F) and pressure (50 million pounds) the minerals bond chemically, so there is no need for resins or glues. Dekton is also manufactured in a sustainable way, making it a carbon neutral surfacing material.
Make a Bold Statement with Ravenswood Ironspot
Drawing inspiration from the iridescent feathers of a raven, the new Ravenswood Ironspot brick from Endicott Clay Products adds an enigmatic, one-of-a-kind look to any structure. With fleeting shades of black, gunmetal, silver, and indigo, Ravenswood Ironspot is a through-body black brick that exhibits a complex blend of natural colors without the drawbacks of a coating.
Endicott Clay Products
Hofmann Green Brick Using Recycled Stone Content
HOFMANN GREEN BRICK uses up to 60% recycled natural stone content in the form of sludge, which is entirely a by-product of the slabbing of natural stone blocks cut with multi-wire saws. The embodied carbon of brick is lowered from 4.95 lbs/sf for standard brick to 1.94 lbs/sf of green brick.
Hofmann Facades Group
Making exterior joints disappear
Inpro's 601 hinged, wall expansion joint system can be infilled with adjacent glazing, metal panels, stone, brick, and more to disguise the exterior expansion joint. It's ideal for high-end exterior conditions where the structural joint is located in a high profile position on the building veneer.
Neolith Skyline
Skyline is the Neolith ventilated facade line which offers efficient solutions for the most demanding of architectural projects. Neolith is manufactured with 100% natural raw materials in a carbon neutral environment. With extraordinary physical properties, Neolith has become an excellent material for exterior use.
Solarban® Acuity Glass
Solarban® Acuity glass combines the color fidelity of Acuity low-iron glass with industry-leading performance from the Solarban® family of low-emissivity (low-e) glasses. Upgrading a standard low-e coated, clear insulating glass unit (IGU) to Solarban® Acuity glass typically will increase the total installed curtain wall cost by only $1-2 per square foot.
Solarban® Acuity Glass