Kitchen and bathroom renovations are always giving me mixed feelings. I’m happy when my clients get a fresh, functional, and clean space. On the other hand, after every such renovation in my mind’s eye I can already see the mountains of debris where, eventually, the newly installed materials end their life after the owner decides that they can no longer serve their purpose.
The most popular hard surface material is natural stone: granite, marble, limestone, travertine, soapstone, you name it. Almost all of them are imported from remote locations. Because of this, they have increased levels of embedded energy (embedded or embodied energy is energy required to extract raw materials, manufacture the product, and supply it to the point of use), meaning that there is a significant amount of carbon dioxide emitted not only during the manufacturing process but also while getting those products into our homes.
There are multiple alternatives to natural stone in kitchen and bath design: ceramic, glass, concrete, metal, solid surface, and many more. Recently I researched a hard surface material that I find particularly interesting, not only because the versatility of the design, but also because its content is up to 70% recycled, and the majority of the materials used are sourced within 500 miles of the manufacturing location. This recycled glass and concrete composite material is called EcoX, and it is manufactured by Meld USA in Raleigh, North Carolina.
EcoX is manufactured in slabs as well as tile. Its surface can be lightly polished to get a smooth finish or honed to reveal colorful recycled materials embedded in the concrete. The tiles are available pre-sealed with a low VOC penetrating sealer and can be used in indoor and outdoor applications. Additionally, EcoX can be used for table tops, wall panels, backsplashes, bathtub, and shower surrounds, sinks, bathtubs, furniture, and accessories.
EcoX can qualify for LEED credits in Materials & Resources and Indoor Environmental Quality categories. The manufacturer calls this product “an eco-sensitive concrete with personality”, and I must say that I totally agree!