Clay plaster wall finishes are an environmentally friendly approach to interior design. They're not paint; they're mud, and there's nothing "greener" than mud, says Julie Du Brow, American Clay spokeswoman.
"It's the most 'green' wall covering you can have, period," she says of the all-natural wall finish.
To prove clients' testimonials that American Clay reduces energy costs, the company conducted a 12-month energy savings experiment. American Clay Enterprises recently announced its findings — that earth plasters appear to provide greater temperature stability, compared to paint.
The company conducted the experiment — called Dynamic Solar — in Albuquerque, N.M. Five identical frame construction units, measuring seven feet high, eight feet wide and five feet deep, with R-13 fiberglass bat insulation and one door, employed different exteriors and interiors. One cement stucco exterior structure used interior paint, the other used American Clay interior plaster. One vinyl sided exterior unit used interior paint; the other, American Clay. The company measured the temperature and humidity of each one.
"I expected a 2 percent variation," says Croft Elsaesser, American Clay co-founder. "Instead we seem to be leveling off at 6 percent. This has the ability to really make a difference when considering the potential impact (of energy savings) on a large scale."
Specifically, American Clay reported the following:
- During the hottest hours of the day, the test unit with clay interior was cooler on average than the unit with paint.
- During the coldest times of the day, the unit with clay interior remained warmer than a unit with a painted interior.
- Test structures with clay interiors maintain a more stable indoor temperature than units with interior paint.
- To ensure the results weren't skewed due to unit locations, the test structures were shifted to change exposure positions in August. Despite the shift, the results did not change.
More on Clay
American Clay, a California manufacturer, produces and sources its clay product from the United States, and according to the company, the product has the lowest carbon footprint per pound, compared to any commercially available wall finish.
"Colorado is one of our best markets," Du Brow says, noting that the clay wall finish is used all over the country and even in China. "You can create any texture that you want."
There are 43 standard colors available, but customers can mix to match hundreds of custom colors. "It's a non-toxic wall finish," says Silverthorne's BigHorn Design Center owner Don Sather. "It can be finished to have different appearances, [and] it's growing in popularity. It's a more expensive finish, but popular."
Though American Clay necessitates a longer application process on walls, if it gets marred, "you can just spray a little water on and rework it, and you're back to normal," Sather says, as opposed to a faux finish, which would need artistic retouching, or even paint.
During Sather's own Frisco home remodel, he installed the clay wall finish in his bathrooms and his media room. Because it's a porous product, Sather says it absorbs humidity in the air, and then slowly releases it.
"We have it installed in our den where the sound system is," Sather says. "Because it's porous, it absorbs sound."
Clay and LEED certification
According to Carol Baumgartel, co-owner of American Clay, a building project can earn up to 10 points using American Clay in the LEED-certified review process. "Products aren't certified, projects are," Baumgartel says.
The clay has been used in thousands of Colorado projects. Why? Colorado is a state that, overall, strives to try new things — "even more so than California now," she says.
"People in the state are interested in new building materials," Baumgartel continues. "I think that Colorado has a measured response to 'green' materials, insofar as they want the real McCoy ... They want products that really are sustainable and 'green.'"
To keep American Clay environmentally friendly, the company uses recyclable packaging, and regional distribution points ensure that shipping the product remains in line with sustainability practices.
"The building industry came to a screeching halt a year and a half ago," Baumgartel says. "What we know is that the 'green-building' products industry is the only sector of the building industry that has grown, which is exciting for everyone involved."
What makes American Clay 'green'
- Zero VOCs, non-chemical, non-toxic
- Inhibits mold growth (tested and proven)
- Humidity buffering and temperature moderating
- No inherent waste on-site; you can reuse the product by adding a bit of water
- Made in, and from, elements found in the United States
- Combination of clays, aggregates (post-mining reclaimed waste), and natural pigments, as well as reclaimed shells in one formulation
- The manufacturing uses low inherent energy to produce their products. (i.e. 250 tons of material costs $45 in electricity)
- No water used in manufacturing, and is shipped dry (saving on energy costs)
- All packaging is biodegradable, recyclable or reusable
- Clay naturally produces ions, which repel dirt and grime that normally build up on walls and counteracts the heavily positive ions produced by electrical outlets and electronics