Breathing Buildings

A ventilated-wall system, popular in Europe, holds great promise for existing buildings here.

They’re an all too common problem in cities: older, structurally sound buildings with ratty facades and poor thermal properties. New York, for example, is littered with underperforming towers in need of an update. But tearing them down is costly, wasteful, and time-consuming. That’s why the Italian manufacturer Marazzi hopes its ventilated-wall system with porcelain stoneware—a kind of designer coat for architecture—catches on here the way it has in Europe.

The system works by attaching an aluminum sub-structure to an existing building, followed by a layer of insulation, and then porcelain cladding, which can be specified in virtually any texture or color. The finished facade dampens outside sounds 10 to 15 decibels, and because porcelain is an impervious material, rain washes dirt from the surface. Most impressive of all, the product improves a building’s energy performance by as much as 30 percent. “With older buildings that weren’t designed well, you’ve got bad windows and poor insulation,” says Jerry Joyce, the commercial-sales manager for American Marazzi. “In a lot of those cases, they’ve also got to put new windows in, and that makes it easy to retrofit. You can get all of your glazing and flashing tied in to make it look like it was designed from scratch. Then you’ve got the whole package—good windows, good insulation, and a good-looking exterior cladding that’s durable and easy to maintain.”

The ventilated-wall system also works for new construction and is, Joyce says, extremely popular for sustainable designs: “It’s basically an organic material that contributes to LEED points. Then, with the energy conservation the system contributes—this is where we’re getting some serious interest.”


The porcelain in Marazzi’s watertight ventilated-wall system makes it resistant to abrasion, freezing, and thawing. Porcelain is also less expensive and lighter than natural stone. As a backup against moisture, insulation installed on the outside of the building prevents condensation from forming inside.

Porcelain slabs; concealed stainless-steel anchors; bearing frame of aluminum vertical risers and horizontal runners (substructure); and insulation material

Suitable for external brick or concrete walls, new or existing buildings, and vertical, sloping, or curved surfaces

American Marazzi Tile
359 Clay Rd.
Sunnyvale, TX 75182
(877) 832-8324

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