When we conceive an architectural project, it is crucial to transcend mere aesthetics and consider all aspects of our material decisions. The spaces where we live, work, and interact should not only be visually pleasing but also contribute to our safety and comfort. What if, in addition, they could improve air quality and reduce the amount of pathogens on surfaces? This is why the selection of materials plays a fundamental role, and architects and specifiers need to strive to acquire as much knowledge as possible about the materials and systems they incorporate into their projects.
Iris Ceramica Group, an Italian company with more than 60 years of history, has introduced a ceramic material known as Active Surfaces® that seeks to revolutionize the way we approach surfaces. These ceramic slabs, designed and produced in Italy, offer innovation, sustainability, and beauty. The technology incorporates four exceptional properties that are essential for creating healthy, clean, and safe spaces:
- Antibacterial and antiviral: these surfaces can eliminate up to 99% of bacteria, including common strains such as Escherichia coli and even antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus MRSA. They also demonstrate significant antiviral efficacy, including against the H1N1 and H3N2 pandemic flu strains, enterovirus 71 and even the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which is responsible for COVID-19.
- Anti-pollution: volatile molecules of dangerous pollutants such as nitrogen oxides (NOX) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are converted into harmless substances. This action benefits human well-being both indoors and outdoors. The innovative technology makes this a photocatalytic ceramic material that works with any type of lighting: natural or artificial, including low-energy LED lamps.
- Anti-odor: the technology effectively degrades the molecules responsible for bad odors, making any environment more pleasant by keeping the air clean and fresh.
- Self-cleaning: not only does the technology prevent dirt from adhering to the material, but also makes it easier to clean surfaces, reducing the need for aggressive detergents and minimizing maintenance costs. Surfaces can be cleaned simply with water and light detergents and, on external façades, for example, the contact of rain on porcelain slabs is enough to keep them clean, considerably reducing the usual maintenance.
Transforming the Cattolica Waterfront with Integration, Eco-sustainability and Innovation
The project to renovate the Rasi Spinelli waterfront in Cattolica, Italy, led by Studio Medaarch, aimed to integrate the sea, the beach and the city, incorporating green spaces and areas for socializing while respecting the local historical and architectural identity. Spanning approximately 800 meters with a width of 20 meters, a unified view of the horizon was sought thanks to coordinated materials and a level layout for roads, trails and cycle paths. Covering around 10,000 m2, the use of Active Surfaces® technology not only contributes to its aesthetic continuity but also guarantees eco-sustainability and health benefits for this outdoor environment.
As we have already seen, the material, when exposed to light (natural or artificial) and the humidity present in the air, is capable of eliminating bacteria and viruses, fungi and mold, and bad odors, preventing the formation of polluting particles and stopping dirt. In addition to these four main long-lasting actions, the ceramics are also environmentally friendly: made from 40% recycled materials, they are also 100% recyclable and produced in plants with zero VOC emissions.
In harmony with the local characteristics, Quarzite was chosen in Sabbia and Ghiaccio shades, with a textured finish with an R11 friction coefficient and anti-slip factor to ensure safe use for outdoor users. In addition to the waterfront, eco-active Active Surfaces® extended its impact to the Palazzo Mancini in Cattolica, where the Council Chamber underwent energy efficiency and seismic performance improvements. In this case, 380 m2 of Urban Dove Active was used, highlighting the versatility of the material.
The Science Behind Active Surfaces®
The innovation is rooted in photo-catalysis, a process that harnesses the power of light to initiate chemical reactions. These surfaces were developed in partnership with the Chemistry Department at the University of Milan and work even in the absence of direct light.
The surfaces come in a variety of colors, thicknesses and formats, ensuring that they meet all design requirements. They come in a variety of colors and thicknesses from 6 mm to 12 mm, as well as a variety of formats, from the most classic slabs to large ones measuring 100×300 cm, 150×300 cm and 328×154 cm.
By combining innovation, science and creativity, these Italian-made ceramic surfaces have redefined the concept of surface materials. As we navigate an ever-changing world, they stand as a shining example of how design and technology can work together to serve humanity while preserving our natural environment.