10 Questions With ....

Valentin Tijeras

Global Director of Product and R&D

Cosentino Group

At the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show in Orlando this February, Cosentino Group announced all of its Silestone® product is now being produced with its HybriQ technology with a high focus on sustainability. Late last month, the Spanish surfacing maker began a new marketing campaign – Changing the World from the Kitchen – with the intent of shifting Silestone® from its quartz-surface roots to a new product category of a “mineral blend.” Those are pretty bold moves, but the genesis is anything but overnight. With HybriQ and HybriQ+, its newest companion in sustainability, it’s a concept that needs some explanation and magnification. Stone Update put the questions to Valentin Tijeras, global director of Product and R&D for Cosentino in company HQ in Cantoria, Spain. He’s been in product development at the company for 16 years (and holds degrees in physics and electrical engineering).

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Take us through a timeline of HybriQ's development.

TIJERAS: HybriQ® is the brainchild of four years of research and development, an investment of over €12 million and 1,200 hours of laboratory and facility testing — plus trial and error. In 2009, we introduced Eco by Cosentino®, a surfacing material manufactured from 75% recycled materials such as mirror, glass, porcelain, earthenware and vitrified ash, with bio-resin and 94% recycled water. Though Eco represented Cosentino’s commitment to bring more-sustainable materials to the market and received tremendous industry acclaim, the cost didn’t align with our customers’ budgets. There just wasn’t the demand or willingness to pay for eco-friendly materials. Fast forward to 2012, we started to test the viability of HybriQ by manufacturing some Silestone colors with the technology; however, we didn’t communicate it to the market since our goal was to prepare for implementation across the whole Silestone portfolio. These additional years allowed us to identify the necessary improvements and develop the raw material composition and sourcing network to achieve 100% Silestone production with HybriQ technology. In the summer of 2021, we did a market prelaunch of our first products with HybriQ, introducing the Silestone Sunlit Days collection in June 2021 – which also marked Silestone’s first carbon-neutral offering – followed by Silestone Ethereal in August 2021. At KBIS in February 2022, we announced that 100% of Silestone colors manufactured by Cosentino are made with HybriQ technology - a tremendous milestone and complete overhaul of our manufacturing process. As of March 2022, HybriQ also achieved certification from DNV-GL - Business Assurance and the renewal and improvements of its Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) for the entire portfolio of Silestone, following an assessment of the environmental impact of its entire lifecycle.

What are the major differences in ingredients between HybriQ and the average engineered stone?

TIJERAS: HybriQ introduces a new product category for surfaces — the Ultimate Mineral HybriQ® Surface — reimagining the product composition and manufacturing process without sacrificing design or performance. Currently, there is no other product with a comparable formulation, and we hope it will set the benchmark for a new level of sustainable, high-impact design. Silestone with HybriQ starts with a high-performance blend of premium minerals, quartz and recycled materials, using 99% recycled water and 100% renewable energy, with zero water waste. Beyond HybriQ there’s also HybriQ+, which includes a minimum of 20% recycled raw materials to its composition. These unique mineral compositions enable never-before-seen effects in color depth, texture and tone while maintaining the technical features that homeowners and design professionals expect from Silestone, including stain-, acid-, shock-, and scratch-resistance. HybriQ technology also allows Silestone to have a lower concentration of crystalline silica without altering the properties of the quartz agglomerate. As a result, all Silestone materials now have a maximum presence of 10% or 50%, compared to 80-100% for other quartz engineered materials.

Are there any differences in material performance between pre-HybriQ Silestone® and HybriQ-produced Silestone®?

TIJERAS: No, not at all. Products made with HybriQ technology benefit from the same mechanical and technical performance that made Silestone a trusted, go-to surfacing solution for industry professionals and consumers alike. It just has a more-sustainable focus and opens the door to new design possibilities as the new formulation improves depth and translucency.

What are the sources of renewable energy used to produce HybriQ? Please break them down by type and source location/collection.

TIJERAS: We have a solar power plant within our industrial park in Almeria, which we are currently expanding in two phases. Once completed, it will be the largest photovoltaic self-consumption installation put into operation in Spain and one of the largest in Europe. Currently in phase one, our solar plant will soon have the capacity to generate more than 20 megawatts of electricity, equating to one-third of Cosentino’s annual electric consumption. In phase two, we have planned for more solar panel installations on our factories' rooftops for an additional 12 megawatts, and eolic energy from windmills will add 7+ megawatts more. This project not only contributes to reducing Cosentino’s carbon footprint but also to our biodiversity recovery initiative — roughly 37 acres are annexed to the solar platform, preserving and planting flora and autochthonous species.

Is there more a difference with HybriQ+ surfaces than the 20% of recycled materials?

TIJERAS: No, HybriQ+ is the HybriQ variant to which we also add a minimum of 20% recycled materials in its composition - but it too maintains the style and performance that consumers expect from Silestone.

Is the recycled material in HybriQ+ mainly pre-consumer or post-consumer? Will there be a move to put more post-consumer material in the mix in the future?

TIJERAS: It’s a mix of post-consumer and pre-consumer. Our preference is always for post-consumer, but sometimes the quality of the source or the availability is not enough and we choose pre-consumer.

Will all HybriQ production eventually become HybriQ+, or do recycled materials affect some of the colors or finishes in the current Silestone lineup?

TIJERAS: This is an ongoing project related to raw material availability and performance. Cosentino will continue to invest in research and development so we can increase the content of recycled materials, but more than focusing on the number of colors, our commitment is to increase the total amount of recycled raw materials used to produce our products by 5% each year.

Where in the market is HybriQ filling an essential need today?

TIJERAS: HybriQ by Silestone is Cosentino's strategic response to the residential and commercial markets' increased demands for corporate transparency and environmental responsibility from its suppliers. It’s a product concept that works on sustainability under two approaches simultaneously: the end-user’s demand for more eco-conscious products and materials, and the health of fabricators with reduced crystalline silica content. While using these new mineral raw materials means an added cost, Cosentino is absorbing those added investments to ensure the price remains the same for the fabricator and consumer. Our goal in launching HybriQ isn’t to make more money; it’s to invest in the health and safety of our industry and to create a more-sustainable future.

Did the moves in carbon neutrality for Silestone® and Dekton® also cause changes in operations for Cosentino's natural-stone production?

TIJERAS: Not to the same extent that Silestone and Dekton saw sustainability-driven updates, as natural stone production makes up less than 10% of our current revenue; however, yes, some actions like water recycling and renewable energy origin are applied here too.

All of Cosentino's products come from one industrial campus in Spain. What's being done to offset worldwide transportation, and is the company looking for more ways to reduce that?

TIJERAS: We optimize our distribution network and promote the use of the lowest impact transportation (maritime transportation or railway when available). In addition, we optimize our transportation routes to minimize mileage and maximize truckload with specific fleet-management software

What else is Cosentino doing to invest in sustainable solutions?

TIJERAS: Sustainability is at the heart of everything we do and many of our policies and investments are focused on Cosentino’s impact in Almeria Spain - our headquarters - in particular, to protect the environment in our hometown and maximize natural resources Water is vital to the stone industry’s manufacturing processes, and we’ve reached “zero waste” for the production process at our industrial factory in Cantoria. 100% of the electrical energy consumed in the Cantoria Industrial Park is certified with a renewable origin guarantee, thanks to a blend of new projects and investments. One of these initiatives is our Sustainable Mobility Strategy, which takes internal and external mobility into account with initiatives like offering bicycles onsite, providing bus service to help employees get to work, and using energy-efficient machinery. Also, In 2018, Cosentino evaluated the Industrial Park’s carbon footprint and developed and implemented improved air purification systems, which significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions below the established environmental requirements. Each year, Cosentino conducts maintenance inspections with government agency inspections. We control the emissions in new sources linked to the expansion of the industrial park’s facilities as well as those that are included in the Integrated Environmental Authorization (IEA). We’re committed to protecting biodiversity and flora, providing value for our workers and the communities we operate in, and launched a “Green Belt” initiative within our Cantoria industrial park. This is a landscaping preservation project involving the planting of low-maintenance plants to create a natural barrier and mitigate the effect of wind - minimizing dust and improving the response to any possible fires. Cosentino launched its own Waste Management Plant (WMP), in 2018, which was created to treat, dispose of and recover the waste generated by our production processes. This waste is now being reused in a variety of applications including construction and civil engineering materials, technosol, and materials used by the ceramic industry.