Sustainable Stonework Case Study

sustainable stonework

A case study on sustainable stonework by Asheville stone mason Marc Archambault. A version of this case study appeared in Stonexus X.

The front yard at the Melrose Residence features drystone walls, flagging and steps, as well as a mortared structural stone stoop. The planting scheme showcases native and edible plants but no grasses that require mowing. Finished last summer, it’s already become a focal gathering point for the family and the neighborhood. It was designed by Tony Hauser of Ambient Design Group in Asheville, North Carolina to be warm, inviting entrance for neighbors and guests and a utilitarian living space for an active family.


The Green Target is a tool I developed to help assess the environmental impact of a stone project. It is not a technical tool, so much as a guide to help my thinking and to prompt me to ask questions about what I can do better. It has helped me many times, to produce more sustainable stonework.

sustainable stonework


This project created an extra room for a family of five. They eat meals and visit with friends and neighbors on the patio and roast marshmallows in their portable fireplace. It welcomes people to the family home and steps provides access down a slope to the driveway. Stone was a good choice for this location because of its beauty and durability.


The primary stone is a sandstone brought in from Tennessee, which is not the closest source of usable material. Given a chance to do it over though, I would still use sandstone because of it’s workability, attractiveness and walkability. The local stones are primarily gneiss and not that friendly on bare feet. The front walk uses reclaimed bricks and throughout the project I tried to use leftover stones they had from a previous walkway. The only concrete is under the front stoop- a heavy duty slab resting on the house’s brick ledge. The only mortar is used in the stoop. Junk wall stone was used as in-fill for the stoop, which is all stone. There’s no block anywhere in the project.


The slab under the stoop is bomber and tied to the foundation in such a way to eliminate the risk of the stoop settling away from the house. The drystone walls are backed with geotextile fabric and in-filled with rubble stone and some gravel. They should drain effectively for many, many years. All the flatwork is laid dry in a bed of pea gravel and screenings, which should withstand the onslaught of sun and rain; there’s no grout to crack out of the joints and no risk of efflorescence. All the flat surfaces slope away from the house foundation and run off is caught by an extensive underground drainage system. It was designed and built to last.


This is a private residence, but in a tightly knit community. While building it I had numerous visitors everyday, including kids playing along the street and people taking walks or running. It presented a lot of great opportunities to introduce people to drystone building and explain why it didn’t need cement to remain standing. A true neighborhood feature, it is a focal point for neighborly visits and all the kids along the street come by to play with the family’s three boys. I live just down the street and sourced all my materials locally, except for the stone as mentioned above.


Hammerhead links

Granite Seedlings: A Green Essay.

Melrose Portfolio: More info and images of this project.

External Links

The Stone Foundation: Publishers of Stonexus