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Sustainable construction with ceramic tiles

The Spanish ceramic tile industry has a very important role to play in terms of sustainable construction. The natural characteristics of ceramic tiles and the latest advances in manufacturing technology, together with the innovative products and solutions that have been developed, make this material an ideal component to  contribute towards ensuring a balance between buildings and the environment.


In general terms, ‘sustainability’ as a concept refers to satisfying a number of specific requirements without compromising supplies for societies in the future. This concept involves taking advantage of local environmental conditions in order to reduce energy consumption. Applied to architecture and the materials it uses, this definition calls to mind current projects where the construction model requires care to be taken over the balance between the building and its surroundings, minimizing its environmental impact so as to not compromise the wellbeing of future generations.


To help minimise the impact of construction, the ceramic tile industry has spent more than ten years researching environmentally friendly production systems and innovative solutions to improve the habitability of buildings with sustainable criteria.


Spain’s ceramic tile industry has been focusing its efforts in R&D on the development of products and solutions in the field of sustainable construction for over a decade now, as well as on the pursuit of manufacturing processes that have less of an impact on the environment. To this end it has reduced the levels of waste and carbon dioxide emissions it generates and slashed its energy and water consumption as much as possible. Equally, waste materials generated in the manufacture of ceramic tiles are being re-used more and more and Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) of the products is gradually being introduced.


This research provides real, transparent information about the material, its impact upon the environment and the advantages of using it in construction as a way of creating a more sustainable living environment. The more sustainable the products used in a build, the more sustainable the architecture will be.


There is a multitude of applications for ceramic in sustainable architecture, given that its main features. A long-lasting product consumes fewer resources and has a lesser impact on the environment. In this context, Tile of Spain is launching www.spaintiles.info/eco, a site which explains the features of ceramic tiles, including examples of sustainable designs and details of R+D practices and presenting the latest innovations in ceramic tiles.

Here we can learn how ceramic tiles provide innovative solutions for bioclimatic architecture thanks to their intrinsic properties and versatility. Its high level of thermal inertia means that it is a very efficient heat regulator, which in turn means that the building’s energy requirement will be lower. Besides, it makes a positive contribution to the health of a building because it is aseptic, hygienic and easy to clean.


There are thousands of projects at the moment that are environmentally aware and use ceramic tile. Several were entered for the eleventh ASCER Ceramic Tile Awards, proving that ceramic tiles offer huge potential as a material that can improve the performance of facades, particularly ventilated facades. Ventilated facades promote the retention of heat from the sun during the cold seasons and perform the opposite function of cooling the building when it is warmer, particularly in the summer.


Ceramic tiles do not stop there. Some projects stand out because they have used devices with tiles that make the very most of the building’s setting. Some of these types of device are traditional, such as screens and louvres that can be used to regulate the amount of sunlight entering the interior spaces and facilitating ventilation.
A good example of this is the design of the New Banco Popular Headquarters in Madrid (Spain).


Ceramic tiles take different shapes and perform different functions, providing protection from the sun as well as cladding. It uses cylinders made of extruded ceramic creating the building’s external skin. The cylinders have been glazed in several shades of white, which softens and reflects the light changing the building’s overall appearance across the day. The double skin construction system is simple and the random placing of the  different colours gives the building its unusual

Whether flat or three-dimensional, ceramic tiles provide innovative solutions for bioclimatic design. Combining them with other natural resources can produce architectural features that have great bioclimatic and even social value as a result of improved energy performance.


A prime example is the Children’s Education Centre in Valencia (Spain). The building seeks to create a relationship with the children, approaching the structure as an emotional component of education with its rounded shapes and its variety of colours. The tiles used are glazed porcelain made by extrusion in a process where the firing cycles were carefully calculated to produce the right degree of curvature for the project. This design really does show the possibilities ceramic tiles offer with all the various treatments, colours and thicknesses that are available. Ceramic tiles have become one of the ideal materials when it comes to turning an architectural design into a reality. In both design and sustainability, art and craftsmanship are being linked together through ceramic.


Author: ASCER (Spanish Ceramic Tile Manufacturer’s Association). Ecoconstruction India 1st issue: February 2013.

2013/01/08 by Gloria Llopis