Natural stone is increasingly a point of reference in sustainable construction

Opernturm Building linestone

A long life cycle, easy maintenance, recycling and good practice in the quarries and the manufacturing justify the preference for this raw material.

It was in 2009 when the OpernTurm was raised in Frankfurt, Germany. The 42 storey building, 170 metres high and 66,000m² brought an entirely new aspect to the city's landscape. And a new status: The OpernTurm was one of the first European office buildings to obtain a "green" certificate from the LEED.

The limestone (from Portugal) which covers more than half the area of the facade designed by Christoph Mäckler allows for around 20 per cent savings on energy required for cooling a floor. The high performance glass and proportioned shade from the depth of the windows reduces direct solar radiation and the need for mechanic refrigeration.

These are just some of the features which led to the LEED — Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design certification for the OpernTurm, a prestigious programme instigated by the American NGO U.S. Green Building Council — USGBC dedicated to sustainable construction.

The concept is the order of the day and a demand in today's market. To be concise, for a building to be considered sustainable it is necessary that throughout the entire life cycle the structures created and the processes employed are environmentally aware and efficient, rationalizing the resources and protecting the health of the people.

The materials used in the construction must have a sustainable life cycle. From the extraction to manufacture, through to the application and recycling, all the processes must be done in an environmentally efficient manner.

In this context, natural stone is increasingly sought after as a raw material for use in sustainable construction. Contributing to this factor are its attributes, such as long life cycle, durability, easy maintenance, recycling and good practices in the quarries and manufacture.

With this article we begin a series of articles where we report in-depth on some of the matters mentioned above, as well as many others, with the objective of exploring the ever more relevant role of natural stone in sustainable construction.