An In-Depth Look at Manufactured Stone Veneer and Biophilic Design

An In-Depth Look at Manufactured Stone Veneer and Biophilic Design

Words and Photos: Jeff Tew, Director of Technical & Training, Westlake Royal Stone Solutions

Stone is one of the world’s most enduring building materials, and it’s never offered as much versatility as it does today. Manufactured stone, in particular, offers lighter, thinner, and more diverse interpretations of natural materials than almost any other material. As manufacturing methods have continually improved over the years, manufactured stone veneer has become incredibly popular in today’s building market for a variety of reasons.

No other product offers the depth, complexity of color, pattern, and tactile distinction of manufactured stone. The nature-inspired textures and authentic color palettes of quality manufactured profiles are virtually indistinguishable from stone and other natural materials. This makes it easy to create a desired aesthetic, particularly when you are looking to enhance a space through the application of Biophilic Design solutions.

What is Manufactured Stone Veneer? 

Manufactured stone veneer, also known as MSV, is a lightweight building material used as a decorative wall covering for exterior and interior surfaces. It is made of concrete and replicates the textures and colors of natural stone. The best manufacturers create molds from natural stones to capture and recreate the most authentic textures. The end result is a durable, lightweight stone veneer a few inches thick which creates the illusion of a structural stone wall.

Common interior applications of manufactured stone veneer include living rooms, fireplaces, kitchens, bathrooms, stairways, wine cellars, and other unique spaces. On the exterior, popular applications include full façades, entryways, landscape walls, outdoor kitchens, fire pits, and more.

Advantages of Manufactured Stone Veneer

Through ongoing research and development, manufactured stone products are innovative and beautiful and often engineered to solve design and installation challenges. From a design perspective, many collections have expanded beyond stone to include modern profiles that resemble other popular materials such as tile, brick and wood. Also, with respect to installation efficiencies, many manufacturers now offer panelized products to enable a more rapid application without sacrificing the desired aesthetic.

Design-Friendly  

As the market continues to evolve, interior and exterior stone applications move in new directions, expanding beyond traditional stone and brick textures and incorporating a variety of contemporary shapes. While earth tones have traditionally been king in the manufactured stone veneer industry, there is an increasing demand for veneer profiles that utilize clean, linear formats and give specifiers a solution for elevating the stark simplicity of a modern aesthetic with nuances of color, depth and shadow. 

There’s also been a recent surge in interior applications when looking to dress up an accent wall with evocative textures and hues. Installing these products as fireplace surrounds, accent walls, or even as a backsplash in the kitchen creates a rich atmosphere that helps to define spaces in a new way.

Cost-Effective 

Manufactured stone veneer is the perfect solution for specifiers who want to incorporate the authentic character of stone or brick without a lengthy installation process. Natural stone may require wall ties and footings, which can increase installation cost and difficulty, whereas manufactured stone veneer is designed to adhere easily to a variety of structurally sound surfaces. At roughly one-third the weight and half the cost of full-bed-depth natural stone, MSV requires fewer structural modifications during a remodel and lower labor costs upon installation, making installations less difficult and less costly to achieve.

Not only does the best manufactured stone veneer endure years of weathering, including freezing, thawing, and heating without chipping or fading, but quality manufactured stone veneer companies also provide extended warranty coverage for up to 50 years.

Biophilic Design: Designing with Nature in Mind

The design/build community continues to embrace biophilic design—which prioritizes the use of natural materials to reinforce our connections to the natural world—as a necessary approach for new projects and renovations. And rightfully so. There are a variety of health benefits that overall help reduce stress and lower blood pressure and heart rates when we connect with nature, even when we’re indoors.

The landmark Terrapin Bright Green report, “14 Patterns of Biophilic Design,” cites various studies that confirm a connection between people’s experiences of natural environments and “greater emotional restoration,” yielding fewer instances of tension, anxiety, anger, fatigue, confusion and total mood disturbance compared to environments with limited natural characteristics.

Manufactured stone veneer can play a key role when implementing biophilic design for a project. Commercial spaces such as luxury spas often incorporate stone and wood on the walls because of the calming effect of natural textures on the human psyche. This principle can be just as easily translated into someone’s home or office.

Natural light is crucial to any space, and choosing a suitably bright colorway and texture for the walls can have a huge impact on the way that space feels once it’s fully finished. Manufactured stone veneer offers a simple solution for projects that require a lighter color palette without the need to recolor or overgrout, with numerous light-balancing options readily available. The tactile nature of the textured surface also interacts remarkably well with some of the smaller features of a space, such as greenery, nature-derived furniture pieces and fabrics. 

Maintenance 

Manufactured stone veneer requires little maintenance after installation and can stand up to years of weathering, with little change to the color, just like natural stone. Other environmental factors, such as freezing and thawing, are also not an issue, and MSV products can withstand hot environments as well. In terms of day-to-day or seasonal cleaning, MSV is easy to clean with a water rinse and a soft bristle brush to remove any debris.

When it comes to selecting the right materials for any project, it’s important to streamline your specification process and consider every detail. Given the intense attention to detail that goes into the development and evolution of MSV, manufactured profiles remain the preferred choice for interior and exterior spaces among a growing selection of options in both residential and commercial projects.


About the Author
As the Director of Technical and Training for Westlake Royal Stone Solutions, Jeff Tew is an invaluable thought leader and resource for trade professionals. With more than 25 years of career experience in Manufactured Stone Veneer (MSV), he works with masons, builders, architects and others in the construction industry to help design and build beautiful projects.

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