As the economy slowly improves, we wanted a snapshot of the manufactured stone industry. Masonry spoke to two industry experts, Mary Alice Bracken, president of Architectural Facades Unlimited Inc., and Todd Gluski, brand manager for Boral Industries.
Masonry: Tell us about your products and your location(s).
Mary Alice Bracken: We have produced cast stone products since 1986. Architectural Facades Unlimited Inc. (AFU) has an extensive mold inventory of cast stone columns, balustrades, moldings, pool and edge copings, window and wall trims, pier and wall caps, pavers, fence and entry piers, and cast stone mantels. Our areas of expertise include custom design, restoration, and manufacturing and consulting capabilities for commercial, residential and restoration architectural precast projects.
AFU’s architectural cast stone is created in Standard Precast, GFRG/GRG, GFRC and our proprietary LCS Stone (Lightweight Cast Superior Stone). Located in Gilroy, Calif., our Plant is 35,000 square feet on a 4.5-acre parcel.
Todd Gluski: Cultured Stone products from Boral are on the cutting edge of design trends and technology advances. The company takes pride in creating superior products that are made from sustainable materials and manufactured in eco-friendly plants located in the United States, thus benefiting the environment and giving regional economies a boost. Boral operates two stone plants in the United States, but has location and availability throughout the country. Headquartered in Roswell, Ga., Boral USA is one of the nation’s largest building material manufacturers and includes four divisions: Stone, Roofing, Bricks and Trim.
Boral USA’s subsidiaries include Boral Bricks, manufacturer of clay brick in the United States; Boral Roofing, manufacturer of clay and concrete roof tiles; Boral Stone Products, manufacturer of Cultured Stone manufactured stone veneer; and Boral Composites Inc, manufacturer of Boral TruExterior Trim poly-ash exterior trim products.
Masonry: How strong is the manufactured stone industry currently?
Bracken: We are experiencing a very competitive market in a slow-growing economy. We have seen growth in our immediate area, Silicon Valley, especially, and we are beginning to receive more requests throughout the nation for commercial and restoration projects.
Gluski: Overall, we have seen growth, year over year, in the manufactured stone veneer industry. As construction of new homes continues to grow, the opportunity greatly increases for manufactured stone veneer usage. Many of the traditional stone shapes and textures continue to be in demand when choosing manufactured stone veneer. Growth in both single-family homes and multifamily home construction continues to give a boost to the manufactured stone veneer industry.
Masonry: In a world where being green is important, how does manufactured stone fit in?
Bracken: Ninety-five percent of Architectural Facades’ products are created using White Portland Limestone Cement (PLC), an environmentally responsible choice. Production of this earth-friendly cement generates about 10 percent less CO2 than other Portland Cements, while still delivering the consistency, versatility and performance Lehigh customers like us come to expect.
Lehigh White Portland Cement allows for the production of a more sustainable concrete product for owners and designers who want a green option in architectural concrete products. Lehigh White Portland Cement also makes concrete brighter, better looking and environmentally friendly – without sacrificing the quality and special attributes you expect.
Gluski: Sustainability is at the heart of how Boral Stone Products does business. All Cultured Stone veneers contain a minimum of 54 percent pre-consumer, recycled content as validated by UL Environmental and are NAHB Green Approved. In addition, they are GREENGUARD GOLD Certified, demonstrating that they meet stringent emissions standards based on established chemical exposure criteria.
The company's dedication to sustainability also includes its manufacturing processes, as Boral Stone Products places a priority on producing its veneers using eco-friendly means. It operates lean manufacturing facilities that reduce the amount of waste put into the landfill by about 80 percent per ton of veneer produced, with features such as a closed-loop water system that cuts water consumption by about 50 percent per ton of product manufactured. The decision to base its plants in Napa, Calif., and Chester, S.C., has given Boral Stone Products the ability to provide materials that are sourced and manufactured within a 500-mile radius of project locations in many areas of the country, thus contributing to resource savings and creating a dramatically smaller carbon footprint than manufacturers outside of the United States.
Masonry: Is manufactured stone/masonry an option for rehabbing/restoring natural masonry structures?
Bracken: Architectural precast is the perfect material to use for restoration projects, since it is durable for any climate and perfect for an earthquake-prone environment. With the proper expertise, GFRC can replicate brick, terracotta, wood, shingles and natural stone. By manufacturing cast stone GFRC, AFU can restore a façade to its original state without compromising the architect's creation. The benefit of using GFRC used in this restorative manner is three fold.
First, financially: To attempt to restore the elements involved in its natural material would have been cost prohibitive. Second, the weight of our product is one-third the weight of the natural stone materials. Third, AFU's expertise facilitates every phase of this project from beginning to end – the recreation of ornate elements either from the original structure or from photographs.
We work as a team with the architects, designers, contractors, project managers and installers to work out every aspect of the project – the drawings, patterns, textures, colors and attachment details to meet all requirements including installation thus insuring the best possible flow of the overall project. The general process consisted of the design making the original patterns, making the molds, and reproducing the elements in GFRC with integral steel frames that will then be lifted and hung on structural steel framing.
Gluski: Stone veneer can be used almost anywhere, even in architectural features such as cornices, copings, wall brackets or door surrounds. It works well for both new construction and rehabilitation. Boral Stone Products offers a variety of styles, colors and textures so we can match all designs.
We also do custom jobs where we create exact replicas. Accents can be any other feature not integral to the construction of the house that is added to increase aesthetics, or simply used to add an aesthetic value to an otherwise ordinary functional feature, such as a door or window. Using veneers is a great way to add Old World charm and character to a space. Applying a stone veneer finish to interior walls can be one way to bring the drama of the outdoors indoors.
Others uses are for exterior facades, fireplaces, door and windows, columns, bathrooms and kitchens, and outdoor projects.
Masonry: How has the industry addressed past issues with manufactured stone, such as durability, color fading/changing, etc.?
Bracken: Manufactured stone will weather similar to natural stone. To reduce the effects of weathering, sealing of the stone with a breathable, non-film-forming masonry sealer in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations is highly recommended.
Architectural Facades Unlimited is an APA-certified plant. The APA Plant Certification Program was developed more than 20 years ago to provide architects and contractors added assurance that their chosen architectural precast facility had in place an independently monitored quality control system. Plant Certification is mandatory for APA Producer Members who undergo two unannounced inspection per year.
Architects, engineers and governmental agencies have welcomed it as a standard of quality precast concrete production and as an equivalent to PCI certification since the program’s inception. We are proud to report that the American Institute of Architects’ Master Spec, Speclink, 4-Specs contain APA Certification, and the program is included in the Unified Facility Guide Specification, used by all the armed forces and NASA.
Technological advancements in pattern making, mold materials, mix designs, lightweight GFRC, LCS Stone, additives, colors, attachment/embedment details and sealants have all contributed to further advanced the propensity of cast stone to replicate shapes, textures and colors. Thereby, the versatility, durability and sophistication of design, texture and color are increased to an astounding level of quality in the architectural precast industry.
The advantages of choosing cast stone as an alternative to natural bricks, stone veneer, etc., are many – the capability to form nearly any shape and control color consistency; and the ability to match an original or specified material is often more cost effective. Attachment details/embedments are all planned and orchestrated from the beginning of the project to ensure the installation goes as planned. Weight and seismic considerations also make lightweight cast stone the clear choice.
Gluski: Cast from more than 1,000 natural stone molds and colored by hand, Cultured Stone products emulate the depth, complexity of color, pattern and unique texture of stone. Yet, their lighter weight offers a significant advantage over natural stone, as Cultured Stone products are easier to lift and install on a broad array of surfaces. The versatility of these veneers allows for seamless blending with other building materials, such as brick, timber and glass. Once installed, they are virtually maintenance-free, requiring no painting, coating or sealing.
Cultured Stone products are backed by a 50-year warranty. Boral Stone Products uses extensive research and input from architects, builders and designers to shape the creation of cutting-edge products that anticipate and respond to changing tastes and architectural trends. They’re not only versatile, but they also have the advantage of being low maintenance and can tolerate a wide variety of climate conditions. In some cases, recycled materials can be used to reduce the environmental impact.
Cultured Stone is a manufacturer that meets the high standards of the some of the strictest requirements in the industry – AC-51. Architects, builders and developers need predictable strength, quality and consistency with their stone veneer products, especially when it comes to weight, moisture absorption and strength. To comply with building codes, stone veneers cannot exceed 15 pounds per square foot, which is key, because this allows for greater design flexibility. Concrete mix used to make stone must withstand at least 1,800 psi without damage, which ensures its durability and 50-plus years of service.
Originally published in Masonry magazine.
About the Author
Masonry, the official publication of the Mason Contractors Association of America, covers every aspect of the mason contractor profession - equipment and techniques, building codes and standards, business planning, promoting your business, legal issues and more. Read or subscribe to Masonry magazine at www.masonrymagazine.com.