Architects Are Swapping Out Italian Marble for American Granite

Museum Reinhard Ernst, Wiesbaden, Germany – Bethel White granite facade

In the natural stone industry where white marble architecture is prized above all else, Carrara marble has been the leading choice for architects projects. But maybe not for long.

Where exterior projects face the relentless weathering elements of sun, rain, wind and pollution, architects are choosing white American granite over Italian marble for its ability to stay white, no matter the weather.

Quarried in Bethel, Vermont, Bethel White® granite is the only granite on the planet that sustains its true white color over time. This American granite won’t develop the rusty hue found on other weathered granites, caused by the oxidation of a high iron content. Granite is also a more durable natural stone in general compared to marble. Marble wears much more quickly due to the stone’s calcite content which reacts to the acidity in the atmosphere (think acid rain). In an outdoor installation stone facade cladding material must be able to withstand time in the environment and Bethel White is always going to be superior in that case. Take New York city’s buildings for example, where Polycor materials have been included in historic building stone project for centuries.

In one notable projectarchitects are swapping out deteriorating Carrara marble for the more durable white granite, on a building completed less than 30 years ago.

The Grand Arch of La Defense designed by Johann Otto von Spreckelsen was constructed to celebrate the bicentennial of the French Revolution. The concrete, granite, marble and glass arch is also a modern workplace containing 35 floors of office space. It’s also gigantic, being large enough to fit the Notre-Dame Cathedral inside its 348 foot span and 361 foot high rooftop terrace.

Recently principals on the project noticed that the Carrara marble on the arch was deteriorating at an accelerated rate. In France, the drastic changes in temperature were causing extensive cracking and spalling. Replacement of the marble architecture with the American granite is expected to take some years. Half of the project is now complete and comparisons can be made between the marble and the granite where new meets old, but at this distance it’s impossible to tell the difference.

How white is it?

Up close granite and marble are clearly two different stones, granite having a more variegatedinterlocking crystalline structure and marble a milkier composition usually with more veining.A detail photo of a Bethel White installation at a New England waterfront home shows how the pinhead taupe grains are slightly visible up close, but from a distance visual blending registers the surface as a pure white to the eye.

This luxury home includes a variety of Bethel White products including cut to size blocks, pool coping, wall caps and solid stair treads – all with a flamed finish. Paul Adalja of Paul’s Marble Depot in Stamford, CT fabricated the project.

See here how the Bethel White surfaces appear like amonochromatic white, just as bright as the stucco exterior of the home itself. Bethel White is the best white natural stone in terms of color and strength and there’s no substitute for this American granite in exterior applications where consistency and longevity are a must in a light granite. Anyone who lives, or has vacationed, in New England knows what this scene looks like in the winter with several feet of snow piled on the patio and riverbanks. Ice, salt and feeze / thaw cycles won’t take their toll as they would on other materials.

Consistent for large scale projects

It took four years and 3,500 cubic meters (that’s about 1,000 raw blocks) of Bethel White to clad the home of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, known for its simple elegance on the United Arab Emirates skyline.

StoneWorld featured the project recentlywith interviews from the team including stone quarrier, Rock of Ages. Polycor recently merged with Rock of Ages and Swenson Granite Works to become North America’s largest natural stone company.

According to the team, the true white color and a purity of appearance were key to selecting the stone. So was the quarrier’s ability to supply the large quantities of granite required over the course of three years while maintaining consistency.

Italian stone supplier Nikolaus Bagnara S.p.A., based in Verona, Italy traveled to Barre, VT, to visit the team and choose the blocks himself for the 74 story building, which incorporated a non-standard panel size, 220 x 108 cm. Rock of Ages wire sawed narrow lines before cutting the blocks to reduce wastage. Blocks were shipped from Vermont to Italy where they were slabbed and flamed before being sent on to Dubai for cut to size and installation. Global design, architecture, engineering and planning firm HOK was the architect of the project.

Here’s Bob Campo, sales director of European, Middle Eastern and Asian markets, quoted in the Stone World article:

“While white granite was specified by HOK, it wasn’t until we had a site visit at the Bethel White quarry in Vermont with the architect, stone consultant (Swenson Stone Consultants) and senior management from the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company that Bethel White was specified,” Campo said.

“The customer was really looking for the high-end of the Bethel White quality and was very particular about that quality. They didn’t want very many inclusions or any waves in the stone. They were very careful to make sure that all of the blocks came from the same general area of the quarry to insure color match.”

Bagnara said it was the whiteness of the stone, among other qualities, that made the American granite a must for the project.

“There are many white granites in the world, but not many are as even and valuable, in terms of structure, grain, color and technical properties, as Bethel White granite,” he said. “It’s the whitest granite currently on the market.”