Building Materials

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Natural Stone May Be More Cost-Effective Than You Think

Do you or your clients love natural stone, but think it’s out of your budget? Think again! When considering the project’s life cycle, stone may be more affordable than you imagine.

Natural stone draws many admirers due to its beauty and distinctive appearance. No two pieces are exactly the same. It’s often viewed as a luxury material, and a mistaken assumption is that natural stone is too expensive for many projects.

Because natural is often viewed as cost-prohibitive, one of the most common mistakes we hear is, “We love using stone, but we don’t have a lot of projects that have the budget for it.”

When we hear a statement like this, we dig a little deeper: “What kind of projects are you working on?” We ask this because natural stone can easily align with the owner’s budget whenever a project is designed for long-term use.

Mark Dawson, Managing Principal at Sasaki Associates, has found natural stone to be ideal for projects with long intended lifespans.

“We use granite frequently in our projects because it lasts forever,” said Dawson. “The short-term incremental cost in year one will be offset in year 10 by the durability and the lack of maintenance and repair needed. If a repair is needed, you can lift off the stone and repair it or even get a new piece that could match very closely. Additionally, stairs are hugely important in public spaces. When you use concrete in a cold climate and need to put salt down, the concrete can deteriorate over time. It will take hundreds of years for granite to wear down.”

The first step in determining whether granite fits in the budget is to understand your project’s goal. A good rule of thumb is: for projects intended to last 20 or more years, natural stone is an efficient material due to its low life-cycle cost.

Next, consider the space’s intended use. What’s your goal with the space in relation to the surrounding area? Will it have a lot of pedestrian use or serve as a gathering area for people? A resilient surface is a must for walkways and other heavily trafficked spaces. Granite is one of the most durable of all the natural stone varieties and makes an excellent surface for walkways.

Granite’s durability and low maintenance also enhances its efficient life cycle cost. In Northern climates, material choice is especially important for withstanding freeze-thaw cycles. Granite and certain other natural stones perform well in harsh climates. Carefully consider how long the surface will last in a harsh environment and how the material will be maintained. If a material other than natural stone is used, what will the cost be in 10 years to replace it?

Durability also comes into play in large urban environments where a building’s base course receives a lot of wear and tear. In cities like New York and Chicago, the base course of buildings receives a lot of abuse due to dirt and grime from vehicles and pedestrians. In these environments, granite is often used as a 5- to 6-foot band around the bottom of a building to protect it from the elements.

Before eliminating granite or other natural stone as a possible building element, be sure to consider the project’s goals. When you consider all the appropriate factors, you may realize natural stone isn’t as far out of reach as you had imagined. Contact us for more information on assessing the life cycle of your project.

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