Each building material comes with a package of comforts and complaints, although the modern flooring options have an edge as smart marketing does the trick, feels architect SATHYA PRAKASH VARANASHI
Theoretically speaking, every construction material discovered has a role and place in the construction industry, otherwise it would not have been introduced at all.
Yet, analytically speaking, each material would come with a package of comforts and complaints, which together should decide its appropriateness for a given context and accordingly its usage. Unfortunately, such an analytical method does not get applied in all cases and nowadays we can notice advertising and marketing becoming the yardstick in majority of material selection.
Once again, marketing too has its role and place; otherwise one would not know the availability of materials at all. So, the problem does not lie with the idea of marketing, but with the materials which the market promotes. How often have we seen a red oxide floor, Athangudi tiles or Bethamcherla marble being advertised? Are there any executives for Kota floors or web sites for tandoor stones? Marble and granite have witnessed some aggressive marketing, primarily to win over the increased competition that picked up during the last decade, rather than to promote the material. If so, what is the focus of marketing, especially in the flooring business?
The two materials that have become commonly known thanks to advertising and marketing are ceramic tiles and vitrified flooring, elevating the unknowns to virtual market leaders. The slow supply of local materials, unpredictable quality thereof, increased pace of construction in urban areas, skilled human resource required to work with natural materials and many such other factors directly or indirectly promoted the option for manufactured materials. This promotion is also enabled by a chain of players – raw material suppliers, manufacturers, carrying & forwarding agents, wholesalers, transporters, advertising agencies, retailers – wherein each player has to financially benefit. Naturally, everyone strives to ensure that the material gets accepted and popularised.
To that end, ceramic and vitrified tiles come with many attractive features, not possible in natural materials. Finished at high temperature kilns, they have a level surface and good glaze. The top layer is actually a high density skin, to take wear and tear for long time. Enabled by latest research and development, these tiles are becoming thinner by the day and are available as thin as 4 mm nowadays. Though dimensional variations happen to thinner tiles, the top brand materials are fairly perfect in their sizes. Easy to clean, neat to look at and sophisticated in their finish, these modern manufactured materials rule a large market share of flooring today.
Most of these characteristics have been enabled by industrial manufacturing. While manufacturing heralded the industrial revolution and created the idea of “development”, many questions have been raised nowadays about the unchecked growth in manufacturing and consumption of Earth’s resources.
Debates on sustainability are concerned about such apparently ‘better’ options, wondering if they are better for the Earth also. Floor tiles could be a good example to test this concern, before we blindly buy them.
(The writer is an architect working for eco-friendly designs and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)