Surfacing Materials: Design Materials: Rock, Paper, Squak Mountain StoneMost designers agree that we all share an inherent, subconscious appreciation for design, but according to Seattle-based Tiger Mountain Innovations, LLC CEO Ameé Quiriconi, there’s one other common element that really unites us—our trash. This was the concept that birthed Squak Mountain Stone, a fibrous material composed of recycled paper, glass, and low-carbon cement that can be used as a more sustainable alternative to quarried stone slabs.
Quiriconi, a green building consultant, first came upon the idea seven years ago as the result of an economics paper for one of her master’s courses in Environment and Community at Seattle’s Antioch University. The idea was to create a building material that could be manufactured anywhere in the United States using raw materials readily available. “Considering that there are a lot of different geographical differences around the country, the common element is usually our trash,” she says. “Originally I’m from a small town in Kansas, and they have the same trash as we have here in Seattle.”
Quiriconi started experimenting in her garage, creating slabs from mixtures of reclaimed paper, cement, glass, and granite dust. The result was a light-weight, natural-looking material with the same versatility of stone. Soon, the concept that started out as an economics paper steadily grew over the next year, getting local press and expanding into a full-fledged business—with additional Tiger Mountain Innovations warehouses in Seattle, northern California, Salt Lake City, and Vancouver—that manufacturers Squak for big name clients like Starbucks, Nike, and Whole Foods to use in countertops, bathtubs, stairs, and even furniture.
While there aren’t any apparent benefits to using Squak over natural stone, both have similar costs and specification qualities and feature hand-finished aesthetics, the real difference is an added genuine environmental and social benefit. “The paper we use for this material actually comes from a non-profit in Washington that provides jobs to people with disabilities. Every time we’re successful in making a sale, we’re supporting an organization that is doing more for its community, in addition to keeping crushed glass out of landfills,” says Quiriconi.
She continues, “Mother Nature creates everything that’s beautiful in natural stone; likewise, everything that’s great about Squak is created by the people here making it, and that I think is pretty fundamental, as well.”