Greener by design

By Peter Brown, Director, Bedrock Tiles

In our current marketplace and certainly if we look into the future, we ought to recognise that sustainability is very important. The longer time goes on, the more important it will become, as leading scientists tell us that the atmosphere is in a delicate situation and it is our duty to begin making inroads to do our bit for the environment.

For all the years I have worked with tiles I have always tried to promote the advantages of using products that have recycled content but I found that the construction market place is very 50/50 about its perception on whether it felt sustainability was important or not.

During the recession the projects were driven by cost and everything else was sacrificed. This was a shame because, with the right education and knowledge, those projects could have benefited from having sustainable products and saved money while doing so.


The long debate from sustainably-focused clients to date has been whether tiles would be able to perform sustainably against materials such as wood which, by default, is a natural material and, if sourced correctly, has been replaced by a few baby trees somewhere.

There are several areas in which floor and wall tiles have an advantage from a sustainability approach.  The first, and perhaps most obvious, is the longevity of the tiles themselves, because they are so dense and ruthlessly tough.  A good quality porcelain tile from Bedrock Tiles will last up to 15 years (Cradle to Grave) and, because of the length of time over which they can be used, tiles will save money on any five year refurbishments that would have taken place in that period as the floor would remain completely usable and not in need of replacement.  I mentioned five years there as I’ve noticed that this is the average time people tend to keep a particular interior design scheme, before refurbishing to keep their brands and surroundings current.

In the manufacturing of ceramic and porcelain tiles, the product is considered for sustainability by assessing the embodied energy used to create it.  The term ‘Cradle to Grave’ incorporates the overall output of carbon during the product’s entire lifespan which is measured against the primary energy consumed and that which is omitted through its life cycle, including mineral extraction, manufacturing, transport and then disposal.


The ‘Cradle to Grave’ is now being separated into boundaries which break down the full cycle, allowing us to see the true amount of energy used in each part of the product’s life.  The example I can give would be that if you consider the mineral extraction, manufacture including the heat from the kilns, water usage in the cutting phase and packaging ready for distribution of floor and wall tiles, you might note that like any other factory making such material, there is a high amount of energy used and CO2 dispensed, which all happens before the product leaves the factory. This early stage of the products life is now referred to as Cradle to Gate.

Once the porcelain or ceramic tiles are installed, the omitting of carbon is relatively low and they will last, as mentioned previously, on average, 15 years.

Recycled Content
Porcelain and ceramic tiles are sustainable both in their manufacturing process and the actual volume of content contained in the product itself.  Let us take a look at the three main areas of how recycled content is used within tiles.

This is where the manufacturer takes the material that is chipped, scratched or not aesthetically or technically suitable from any stage before the tile goes into the kiln firing process. The material is then recycled and milled into re-usable material to be included in the production process.

This is where the tile has gone through the firing process but isn’t at the required quality levels for distribution. The material is milled down into re-usable products to be used in making new products.


This is where the material has been used or consumed after production. The best example we can offer is that the glass from cathode screens in old television sets is now being crushed and used in porcelain and ceramic tile production. Glass Mosaic Tiles are also reclaimed, melted and re-blown into fresh mosaics.

The factories, in addition to using recycled content in their collections, also take measures to be more energy efficient during their operational process. This goes in the favour of a high sustainable accreditation. Examples of the means they achieve this are by channelling heat from the kilns and directing it through to drying rooms and other areas within the factory in order to save on the amount of heating required in the those areas by traditional methods of heating a building.

They also recycle 100% of the water from the cutting process by filtering and removing the silt (residues left from cutting tiles) followed by the reuse of water in further cutting schedules.
The distribution aspect of the production run would command recycled cardboard and minimum use packaging policies when designing tile boxes. You would notice that good factories strive to use the bare minimum packaging without compromising the safety of the tiles.

The Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) is a leading design and assessment method for sustainable ‘new’ buildings.  It sets the benchmark and high standard for the best practice in sustainable design.  The assessment measures the buildings performance against established criteria.  There are a spectrum of relevant topics that the assessment is made over, ranging from materials right through to ecology and energy. The areas that are titled consist of waste, ecology, pollution, transport, materials, the environmental health (health and well-being), energy & water use and management systems.

As a client, by achieving a BREEAM rating you can benefit from the following:

  • Market recognition for low environmental impact buildings
  • Confidence that tried and tested environmental practice is incorporated in the building
  • Inspiration to find innovative solutions that minimise the environmental impact
  • A benchmark that is higher than regulation
  • A system to help reduce running costs, improve working and living environments
  • A standard that demonstrates progress towards corporate and organisational environmental objectives

SKA Rating
SKA Rating is measured in Bronze, Silver or Gold achievements for ‘Commercial Refurbishments and Fit-Out’.

It is said that the UK Green Building Council estimates that non-domestic buildings account for 18% of UK carbon emissions and, on top of that, the waste from fitting out offices goes straight to landfill.  Therefore it is by adopting good practice when fitting out or refurbishing offices you can dramatically reduce their environmental impact.

The SKA Rating is the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors’ (RICS) environmental assessment method.  It was launched in 2009 in regard to non-domestic fit-outs. The rating helps landlords and tenants evaluate and rate a project against sustainable criteria.

It is estimated that the spending in UK construction on fit-out, accounts for 11%, and buildings may have 30 to 40 fit-outs during their lifecycle.  It differs from other categorising systems in that it is project-driven: it labels fit-out projects irrespective of base building.

SKA consists of 104 good practice measures which cover waste, transport, water, materials, pollution, wellbeing, energy, and CO2 emissions. The scheme currently has 1,200 users.

The 2011 version of SKA allows owners and landlords to measure and understand the performance in both commercial and environmental capacities of water and energy consumption for the following 12 months. The 12 months occupancy assessment completes the design and handover assessments allowing the occupiers to manage their working environment or limit their sustainability measures introduced as a part of the green fit-out.

Companies that adopt a more sustainable design and become SKA Rated will engage their employees whilst strengthening their brand, energy cost savings will be up to 31%. The actual amount of product saved from being sent to landfill could be as high as 99% and with the cost of landfill being approximately £56 per ton, it is possible that this scheme could save the project money.
The criteria are being revised and updated continually but, at time of writing, there are a number of means that you could include in the design of the project to achieve SKA Rating. These products must achieve or be rated with sustainable accreditation and that all hard floor surface coverings meet at least one of the following.

They are reused
Containing 25% recycled content    or higher
Have an A or A+ rating in BRE’s Green Book Live database for the retail scheme
Cradle to Cradle Gold or Platinum certificate
Achieves A or A+ in the Green Guide to Specification for the retail scheme
The products are supplied with an environmental product declaration which is written in accordance with ISO 14025 standards

Bedrock Tiles are leading suppliers of sustainable and innovative commercial tiles. Working closely with architects, interior designers and construction professionals we specialise in commercial projects spanning across all sectors.

With a motivated team and exceptional service, Bedrock would be happy to help you find the most suitable ceramic, porcelain, natural stone or glass tiles for your project.

Bedrock Tiles
Unit B, 4 Pond Wood Close,
Moulton Park,
Northampton, NN3 6RT.
T:  01604 330003
M:  07582 929995