Every bit of waste material at site can be used as hard aggregate, making granite ecologically meaningful. A look by architect Sathya Prakash Varanashi
Local materials play a crucial role in ensuring sustainability, but also face the danger of rejection. For many people, while the best of local material appear ordinary, the average material from elsewhere appears extraordinary! Granite is among the more commonly found hard stones in South India, which partly suffers from the above syndrome, despite being one of the most durable, cost-effective and natural materials around.
Granite is a versatile option, being applicable in a variety of modes – size stone wall, wall cladding, roof slabs, carved pillars and also durable floor. It takes fine polish and comes in a wide range of patterns and costs ranging from affordable to luxury. With a very hard surface, granite floor rarely gets scratches, hence lasts very long. Due to the hardness, it is always factory polished, saving equivalent time at site. Considering this fact, mixing granite with materials that require on site polishing can be risky.
Arguments against granite question increased quarrying that can deplete a resource, but compared to other manufactured materials, local granite has less embodied energy. Also, it can be used for kitchen counters, toilet wash basin tops, corner shelves and ledges for display.
Most such smaller pieces can be got from the larger slabs, by well-planned cutting. Every bit of waste material at site can be used as hard aggregate, making granite ecologically meaningful.
Ensuring the right quality and price of granite is dicey, as it requires expertise. Mostly available in grey, black, pink, red and yellow, either in pure shades or mixed, granite is normally supplied in polished, brushed or flame finished textures. Sometimes it comes with softer surface, which gets rough over the years or small depressions called pitting may happen.
If disfigured at site, no re-polishing is possible. Some light-coloured granites develop patches of darker shade after laying, mostly due to absorptions from sub-floors, which has no major solutions.
While laying the slabs, matching the surface grains is commonly done, if the slabs are from a single quarry. Water-cut slabs with minimum grain patterns are easier for this match, with very thin paper joints.
Pigmented mortar mixes could be used to fill the joints to achieve best results in matched patterns. If not possible, laying in a mixed manner can also be attempted.
Granite tiles, coming in smaller sizes with random textures, cost half the prices of slabs, hence are worth considering.
Once laid, precision cutting is possible only with advanced drilling machines that demand high skill. Hence, it is better to plan the sizes, holes and such others in advance.
Granite, if quarried locally, comes at lower prices, which is to our advantage. Paying double or triple of this price, just for a non-local pattern, is simply not worth it.
If we are from the granite region and seek a green material with value for money, granite is among the best choices.
(The writer is an architect working for eco-friendly designs and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)