The manufacture and transport of ceramics uses a lot of energy. If we are going to make the most of this long-lasting and beautiful material, then we must work hard to ensure we can minimise its impact.
We have built a close relationship with the manufacturers over a series of projects and gained an understanding of the opportunities and limitations of the material - the design and depth of the profiles along with the lengths and proportions of the tiles. Working within these boundaries ensures the design is buildable but also efficient and produces minimal waste.
We explored double glazing the tiles, as this produces a spectacular visual depth to the façade. However, this involves two trips through the kiln and significantly increases the embodied carbon of the material as the process is estimated to produce up to a staggering 55% more emissions than natural or single fired finishes (1).
Substructure is a major player in terms of the amount of carbon that is embodied in the façade and can account for over half of the embodied carbon in a ceramic façade. It is therefore important to make the most efficient layout of the tiles in terms of the lengths and spans and again, this comes back to working with the manufacturer, drawing on their specialist knowledge and experience, and asking the right questions to keep making improvements.
Ceramic façade panels are large, heavy and fragile, so transport and packaging are important factors. How can the elements be efficiently stacked? Simple decisions like this can minimise the number of shipments, again reducing costs and transport-based emissions.
Finally, there is close collaboration with the contractors. In a lot of specifications, no damage is acceptable on the tiles, so subcontractors commonly order additional tiles to account for damage, and this can be as much as 10% extra. On Circle Square, we have worked towards a shift of attitude across the project team. In the first instance, it is a process of understanding if damage to a tile is structural or aesthetic. If aesthetic, can the tile be repaired or placed in a high or difficult to view area? We reached an agreement with the contractor and client that whilst no repaired tiles would be used below level 10 or in window reveals, that we could repair rather than replace where possible which made a significant reduction in tile quantities required.