Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Gone are the days when your only tile choices were 4"x4" solid colors or the hexagon black and white floor tile. I am like a kid in a candy store when I visit a tile showroom because there are so many great looks available today. Tile design is becoming more uncluttered and elegant.
There are four basic material choices in tile; ceramic, porcelain, stone, and glass. Ceramic is a mixture of clays and other natural materials mined from the earth, shaped, colored and kiln fired. Ceramic tile can be left natural such as a quarry tile or glazed. Ceramic tile is typically softer than other tiles and usually has larger grout joints. Porcelain tile has through body color and is made of fine porcelain clays that are fired at a high temperature for a hard finish. Porcelain tile is easier to maintain and often has rectified edges with minimal grout joints. Stone tile is a natural material that can be cut to a variety of shapes and sizes and finished either smooth or tumbled. Glass tile has become popular recently due to its natural beauty. It is easy to clean, resists stains and discourages mold growth. Not all tile is appropriate for all applications so make certain that a tile is designed for your use.
One trend that is gaining a lot of traction is contemporary water-jet cut mosaics. Traditionally, mosaics were laid out by hand with hand cut stone, beautiful yet very labor intensive and therefore expensive. The new mosaics are cut with high pressure water jets directed by a computer. These mosaics can have very intricate detail of any stone and are more cost effective than hand cut tile. The water-jet method is ideal for custom designed projects from floor medallions to kitchen backsplashes. New Ravenna Mosaics' Flight is one of my favorites
Almost every tile manufacturer now has a line of textured and three dimensional tile. There are leather finishes, crocodile finishes, and abstract designs. Artistic Tile has a sinuous wave pattern in Ambra.
There is an explosion of shapes and sizes with everything from micro mosaics of 5/8" x 5/8" to oversized 24"x48". There are endless possibilities in combining the larger format tiles with smaller tiles. Mixing different finishes is also very popular. AKNO has a great line where glass tiles are mixed with stone. The combination of glossy and matte glass tiles is also very alluring.
Tile by its very nature is a green building material. It is made from clay or sand and is a low-emitting material that contributes to a good in-door air quality. Glass tile usually has both pre-consumer and post consumer recycled content. The availability of ceramic tile with recycled content is growing due to consumer demands.
Bella Ceramics Tiramola Mosaics photo by Dickson Dunlap
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Many of South Carolina's workers are hurting due to our average unemployment rate of 12.6% with some counties reporting up to 23.6%. MSNBC.com recently covered the hardest hit professions; it was no surprise to my colleagues that architecture was number one with 17.8% in job losses. Construction workers are right on our heels; the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS)reported that South Carolina construction jobs are down 16.3% in the last year. These numbers do not account for the self employed who have been under-employed for the past two years or the companies who have kept their employees but cut their wages.
In order for South Carolina to move out of this recession we need to put our large construction industry back to work. In reviewing Governor Sanford's 2010-2011 proposed budget, I could only find one capital improvement project for $15 million while there were over $ 900 million of requested funds for building projects. Our universities and public agencies have put new construction on hold and deferred maintenance for far too long. There has not been a Capital Bond Bill passed since 2001. Our legislators need to invest in our future by passing a Capital Bond Bill in 2010; we cannot afford not to have a Bond Bill passed.
Architects, landscape architects, planners, surveyors, civil engineers, geo-technical engineers, mechanical engineers, structural engineers, acoustical engineers, interior designers, general contractors, carpenters, mechanical contractors, roofers, masons, painters, cabinet makers, electricians, plumbers, insulators, laborers, building material manufacturers and suppliers, city planners, city building code reviewers and inspectors are some of the 24,000 jobs with $720 million in personal income that are created or sustained with each $1 billion in nonresidential construction spending. The state's Gross Domestic Product would increase by almost $2.3 billion.
At first glance, we can understand why our legislators are reluctant take on an ambitious spending program when our state economy is so weak and the current state budget is in deficit. Below there are four reasons we cannot wait to go to bond in 2011, 2012 or beyond.
1. Interest rates are at an all-time low
2. Construction companies are eager to work at very competitive prices
3. Our state economy badly needs a stimulus and
4. Fully employing our construction industry workers will boost state income tax receipts.
In good times, we can pay for capital projects in cash. In fact, we should. However, when the cash is not on hand, it makes sense to approve a bond. We can use our excellent "AAA" credit rating which gives us access to cash at low cost. Plus we can use the lull in the construction market to find qualified contractors at competitive prices. Construction projects will pump money into our economy. Finally, many of my colleagues' income has been so reduced in the past two years that they have paid almost nothing in state income tax. We all look forward to being busy and generating taxable income.
This is not an invitation to waste money. The bonds will be paid off with real dollars, when the recovery is realized. So each procurement dollar saved now is a tax dollar saved later.
But these projects, especially the deferred maintenance projects , need to be under construction sooner rather than later. An investment in infrastructure will be good for our economy now and good for the South Carolinians for many years to come.