For the past several years, many industry leaders have been promoting the specification and installation of ventilated ceramic tile facades for exterior vertical applications. Already a prevalent trend in Asia, Brazil and Europe, some experts felt these systems would naturally grow in popularity in the United States.

Innovative countries in Asia, South America and Europe (Spain installation pictured here) have already embraced polished porcelain tiles for exterior cladding installations.


There is a market for both direct bonded exterior tile installations and ventilated facade systems that can be exploited in the United States.

For the past several years, many industry leaders have been promoting the specification and installation of ventilated ceramic tile facades for exterior vertical applications. Already a prevalent trend in Asia, Brazil and Europe, some experts felt these systems would naturally grow in popularity in the United States. Others were not so sure the trend would catch on here, with concerns ranging from cost of the system to climactic conditions, such as hurricanes and earthquakes. In reality, the level of knowledge of ventilated facades was so limited, for both the architectural and tile community, that rapid growth of the systems was improbable. Enter the Green Movement sweeping our country today, and we perhaps have the catalyst we need to propel our products into demand for exterior facades.

Many of our leaders in the tile industry are working diligently to understand the requirements of LEED certification, and the impact our products can contribute to the environment and sustainability. We know that ventilated facades can provide many benefits that center on energy savings by reducing energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. We also know that there are long-term benefits in relation to a lengthy life cycle of a ceramic tile ventilated façade installation. Polished porcelain tile is especially attractive as a product selection, as it is lighter in weight than natural stone, and they reflect the surroundings of the structure and are visually stunning.

Ventilated Facades are generally attached to aluminum grids with visible clips (pictured here) or a blind system of grooved tiles or anchors that connect to holes drilled into the back of the tile.

An excellent seminar on ventilated facades and their aesthetic and sustainable benefits was offered at Coverings 2008 this past April in Orlando, Florida. A copy of the presentation, with PowerPoint and audio, is available on the Coverings Website at www.coverings.com. Successful Arizona architect Michael Johnson, who is one of the first to embrace the systems in the United States, led the informative session, and was joined by Paul Shahriari of GreenMind and EcoScorecard and Dan Emmel, of leading Minneapolis distributor Tile X Design. If you want to learn more about the benefits and opportunities that exist in this arena, I strongly suggest you order the seminar series, available on CD ROM.

An exterior cladding system can contribute to LEED certification in a variety of ways. This may apply to commercial or residential construction. Credit could be available in the category of Energy and Atmosphere and also Materials and Resources. Additional credits could potentially be obtained by utilizing recycled material or offering products that meet regional criteria.

In order to successfully sell these systems to the architectural and design community, it is necessary to become knowledgeable in both the product and the entire cladding system. The design and performance benefits are numerous, and must be explained to the specifier and general contractor. A company partner should be selected to install the cladding system. This could be a ceramic tile installation company, but in some instances it may be the glass/storefront subcontracting community. I urge tile-contracting companies to explore these opportunities if they exist in your respective state. The supplier of the ventilated façade system should be encouraged to provide all engineering test data to address any skepticism from the architect or designer. The way the product is designed makes the installation of a cladding system easy to embrace and perfect. The opportunity is there for the company willing to embrace change.

As the green building movement continues to encompass more and more of the overall construction in the United States, the opportunities for exterior façade sales and installation will increase.