Stone Federation are passionate about promoting the use of natural stone as the sustainable, versatile building material of choice. This page will be regularly updated with articles from our Members on some of the key questions surrounding natural stone.
If you have any questions or would like more information on any of the issues covered in these articles, email email@example.com or call 01303 856123.
British Stone in Heritage Projects
2016 saw the start of a series of articles for this column looking at the use of British stone across the wide range of applications it finds itself in and on. British stone in landscaping was where we started, and British stone in heritage projects is where we shall begin this New Year.
Great Britain has a fantastic tradition, especially within the heritage building sector, of using stone local to a project. Hundreds of churches, cathedrals and historic monuments up and down the British Isles were created from stone quarried close to the site, helping to create a unique local aesthetic, something commented on by The Right Honourable Michael Portillo in his address at the 2016 Natural Stone Awards. This tradition is one that has been continued as these building begin to require repair or maintenance work and the heritage architects endeavour to use the original stone or an alternative quarried close by.
Stone Federation’s technical helpline receives a large number of enquiries from architects and clients looking to source stone similar to the original as, in some cases, the quarries are no longer in operation. What is encouraging is that in almost all cases, these queries lead to the use of an alternative British stone, thus continuing the tradition and supporting our indigenous quarries. Through a well-established network of industry experts, the British stone industry has, on the whole, manage to avoid losing these projects to imported, and arguably, unsuitable alternative stones.
It was encouraging to see Historic England as one of the main sponsors for the 2016 Natural Stone Awards, an indication of the strong working relationship between our two organisations. Clara Willett, Senior Architectural Conservator at Historic England commented at the Awards that “Historic England feel its really important to support events like The Natural Stone Awards because the quality of craftsmanship, the care in selecting natural, indigenous stones and selecting suitable replacement stone is so important in supporting and looking after our historic buildings. “
The Natural Stone Award are also a good indicator of the state of the industry and it was incredibly encouraging to see that in the 2016 awards, 100% of the stone used on the winning, highly commended and commended projects in the Repair and Restoration category was British stone. The winning project, the Wimpole Gothic Tower project in Cambridgeshire saw the structure repaired and stabilised for the next 200 years while maintaining the weathered beauty of the tower. The choice of stone, namely Barrington Clunch, came as a result of research undertaken by the principal stone contactor and English Heritage. The Awards judges felt that this was “…an exemplary way to carry out this kind of restoration.”
Looking forward, 2017 will see one of the Federation’s other sector focussed initiatives, Stone Heritage launched to the sector. This group will have strong links with the Quarry Forum thanks to the significant part British stone has to play in the repair, restoration and conservation of our island’s historic buildings and monuments.
If you’re undertaking a heritage project and want to explore the options that British stone can provide you with, take a look at our stone sourcing tool on the Stone federation website: http://bit.ly/BritStone.
British Stone in Interiors
We are now into the third part of our series of articles looking at the use of British stone across the different sectors of the industry. Last month we looked at the use of indigenous stone on external cladding and before that, landscaping. This month we are moving from the outside to the inside and taking a look at the use of British stone for interior projects.
Britain is home to a fantastic array of indigenous stones that come in a wide range of colours and textures. There is sometimes a misconception that British stone is monotonous and only good for limited applications, but this is most definitely a misplaced and ill-informed presumption.
One of the key steps in correct stone selection for any application is visiting the quarry and viewing the range sample panels. This provides the architect, designer or client with a true understanding of the material and the natural intricacies found across the quarry face. By making use of the range of British stone available to the interiors sector, you can take advantage of the close proximity of quarries to the project, as opposed to flying great distances to view the stone in situ.
The Natural Stone Awards are open to anyone involved in the natural stone project, and therefore provide a good gauge of both the state of the industry, and industry trends. In the 2014 Natural Stone Awards, 75% of the winning, highly commended and commended projects in the Interiors category involved British stone from a Stone Federation Quarry Forum member.
It was incredibly encouraging for the Stone Federation Quarry Forum to see a high percentage of successful projects in the Interiors category utilising British Stone. Portland stone, Baycliff Lord, Baycliff Caulfield, Purbeck Jurassic Grub and Purbeck Grub were just some of the indigenous stones used in the winning and highly commended projects.
La Maison de la Valette, a new Georgian house located on the island of Jersey was the award winner in the 2014 Natural Stone Awards Interiors category. The project made use of Portland stone across a range of applications including the impressive cantilevered staircase and cladding to the rear staircase.
The Awards judges were particularly impressed with this project and commented:
“Simplicity, coupled with the beautiful quality of natural stone laid to such a high standard, cannot but help to ensure an outstanding interior.”
Stone Federation have produced a number of publications looking at the use of natural stone in interiors including wet rooms, counter tops and swimming pools. These guides are ideal for any architect, designer or client looking to use natural stone for interiors, including those found here on the British Isles.
So, the message is simple, British stone offers the interiors sector a great choice of colours and textures so why not consider it for your next project?
To view the range of British stones available from Stone Federation member quarries, go to bit.ly/BritStone.
British Stone in Landscaping
“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi”
The likelihood is that when speaking these words, Gandhi most probably did not have the use of the British stone in landscaping in mind. Nevertheless, this mantra is one that perfectly summarises the move towards using British stone in British landscaping.
Whether the client be a local authority or a homeowner, the ideal product would combine durability and attractive aesthetics with a minimal impact on the environment. This is exactly what British stone provides the landscape sector.
Rewind some three hundred years and you would need only look at the streets around you to know what the local stone was. Britain has a fantastic heritage of using stone from a region for a region, giving these towns and cities a unique regional identity and aesthetic. This can be seen from Cotswolds villages through to the ‘granite city’ of Aberdeen, and from the Portland clad buildings of London to the prevalence of Sandstone across Edinburgh.
Speak to any landscape architect and they would, in all likelihood, extol the virtues of using local stone for local projects, to have a town’s landscape shaped by the very material it is built upon.
What is most encouraging is when this moves from sentiment to practice, something the Stone Federation’s Quarry Forum is seeing more and more.
The Natural Stone Awards are open to anyone involved in the natural stone project, and therefore provide a good gauge of both the state of the industry, and industry trends. In the 2016 Natural Stone Awards, 80% of entries in the Landscape category used British stone and of those projects, 62% used stone that was no more than 75 miles from the project.
More and more local authorities, landscape and streetscape architects and clients are realising that using local stone can be more than a whimsical desire, but a financially wise and environmentally friendly option. The durability of natural stone lend itself extremely in landscaping applications of all description.
One great example of British stone used in a commercial landscaping project is the Brewer Street Project at Pembroke College, Oxford. This saw a large extension made to a congested city site which included the use of both Bath stone and Crosland Hill Yorkstone. The project was entered into the 2014 Natural Stone Awards, and was one of the highly commended projects in the Landscape category.
The Awards judges noted that the use of the British stones created “…great harmony between the building and landscape.”
This project is just one of the many examples of British stone proving itself of choice for landscape projects across the UK. If you want to start searching for which British stone quarries are close to your next project, go to bit.ly/BritStone.
Stone Federation on…Conservation & Heritage
Much of the continuation of Britain’s built heritage relies upon the conservation and restoration of natural stone buildings. Churches, monuments, town halls and residential properties across the length and breadth of the British Isles all depend upon the skills and expertise of the natural stone industry’s restoration and conservation sector.
The most common challenge faced by those looking to care for these historic structures is selecting the correct professional to undertake the work.
The question that most often arises is: “How can I be sure that the job will be done properly?
This is where Stone Federation Great Britain can help.
Stone Federation is the trade association for the natural stone industry with over a century’s experience in connecting architects, local authorities and clients with the finest stone professionals. We have a vetted membership of over 240 firms that offer clients excellence in all areas of business, from technical support and expertise through to ethical sourcing and sustainability.
Within the overall membership, almost 50% work in the conservation and restoration sector, and as a result, we have established the Stone Heritage Group to reinforce the importance of natural stone in the heritage market.
The remit of the Stone Heritage Group is to highlight and champion all matters pertaining to the use of repair, restoration, conservation, cleaning and maintenance of natural stone in the heritage/historic/ecclesiastical sector.
As a large proportion of heritage buildings are constructed using natural stone, Stone Heritage aims to make people more aware of this fact and the need to have available supplies of stone for future repairs.
The professionals; architects, surveyors and structural engineers, need to fully understand natural stone from quarrying to its incorporation in the building. We work hard to help establish an understanding that there are large differences between today’s methods of construction and those of yesteryear, and to be aware of the circumstances leading to the decision making process of when to conserve and/or clean or to do neither.
Stone Heritage aims to ensure that the correct training is given to both professionals and stonemasons to carry out the work. The group endorses the need for further training for stonemasons who work in the heritage field beyond the normal banker skills and general site fixing.
There are specialist apprenticeship programmes and NVQ courses as well as management and business improvement programmes, some of which are available online.
These training courses include the SAP Façade Preservation and SAP Heritage Masonry, both of which are eligible for ConstructionSkills grants. The one year SAP Heritage Masonry programme is perhaps the most popular of the courses, providing candidates with four one-week long residential held at Fountains Abbey, courses covering conservation, repair and maintenance of stonework.
Jane Buxey, the Federation’s Chief Executive, spelled out some of the many reasons for using a Federation member firm when undertaking any project involving natural stone.
“When you use a Stone Federation member you can rest assured that the firm is operating to the highest standards of workmanship, in accordance with the latest in industry standards and codes of best practice as well as having a fully trained workforce.”
3 Steps to Correct Stone Selection
Selecting the correct stone is arguably one of the most important elements in any successful natural stone project. Its benefits include the longevity of the project, ease of maintenance and a beautiful aesthetic.
One of the key aims of Stone Federation’s Quarry Forum is to work with architects, designers and specifiers to ensure that they are well educated as to how to go about selecting the correct stone for their project. This may sound like an obvious concern, however, there are far too many cases of ill-informed stone selection leading to complications further down the road. Remember – get your stone professional involved at the conceptual stage of any project; it pays dividends in the end.
In our opinion, there are three key steps that, if taken, can make the path from design through to project completion a much smoother process, at least for all parts involving natural stone.
Ensure that your samples are up to the task in hand – namely giving you a true representation of what the final product will look like. One key factor in this is looking at range/control samples. These will show the range of geological characteristics typically found within the bed of stone as opposed to the small snapshot you would find in a single indicative sample piece. This helps avoid any confusion as to what the end product will look like, however, it is worth bearing in mind that this is a natural product, and therefore each stone will have its own unique features.
Quarry or mine visits. Stone Federation strongly advises that a visit is made so that the stone proposed for the project can be carefully inspected. This is also the ideal stage to involve an independent stone consultant to come and provide you with an expert opinion. Here in lies one of the major advantages of using a local, British stone as you won’t need your passport and a wallet full of Euros to view your product, and because this is their local market, they will be experienced in the typical applications for their stone and will have a vested interest in ensuring that the stone is used appropriately.
Technical assessment of the stone. All natural stones will weather, but in most instances this will be so small it will not affect the selection of a known stone, but it important to make an initial assessment of the stone’s technical strength before it is added to the project short list. There are various tests that help build a picture of stone’s potential suitability for a particular application and whilst past projects are a good indicator, recent test data on the CE certificate and declaration of Performance should be examined.
It is the responsibility of the natural stone sector to ensure that there is the right stone selection advice and guidance available. This creates for the client a seamless transition between the project design stages and an end product that performs as it should. Stone is the ideal choice of material for so many projects, we just have to ensure that the right stone ends up fulfilling the right application.
2016 Natural Stone Awards - Entry Review
Stone Federation were delighted to receive the highest number of Natural Stone Awards entries since the pre-recession years. The Natural Stone Awards are open to entry from anyone involved in natural stone projects and therefore provides a good gauge of both the state of the industry and industry trends.
We have taken a look at some of the statistics surrounding the entries and analysed what these figures tell us about the climate of the natural stone industry.
52% increase in entries from 2014. The financial crash hit the construction industry hard and it was a challenging time for the natural stone industry. It is incredibly encouraging to see that Awards entry numbers have returned to pre-recession figures, indicating a strong rise in the number of projects being undertaken.
71% of projects involved a Stone Federation member firm. We strongly believe that our members are the leading players within the natural stone industry, and this figure confirms that the majority of contractors, architects and clients feel the same way.
88% of projects involved British Stone. This is encouraging news for the Federation’s quarrying members as it shows that architects are choosing to incorporate British stone on British projects, helping to reduce carbon footprint figures.
90% increase in entries for the New Build Modern Style Stone Cladding category. This was the highest increase seen across the eight categories and indicates a rise in the use of natural stone for commercial cladding projects.
Stone Federation’s Chief Executive, Jane Buxey said of the statistics,
“It has been very interesting to look through the entry statistics from this year’s Natural Stone Awards. The overall increase in entry numbers is without doubt the most exciting as it shows that the natural stone industry is continuing on a strong path out of recession. However, it is not just the number, but the consistent quality of workmanship and stone selection seen across the entries that is equally as encouraging.”
Visiting the Quarry – Make it a priority
An article by the Stone Federation Quarry Forum
Quarries are fascinating places. This may sound a little biased coming from a group of quarry men and women, but thankfully, we’re not the only ones that agree. Stone Federation’s Quarry Forum members are reporting increasing numbers of architects requesting quarry visits to come and see the material up close and personal.
In one of our previous Working Face columns (see Natural Stone Specialist Magazine) we focussed on the importance of viewing range/control panels to ensure you have a full understanding of the natural variations that will occur in the stone. These panel assessments can be a part of quarry visits, as many quarry operators have large scale range samples on display on site. As we explained in last month’s article, this is vital to effective management of client expectations as stone is a natural material and therefore every piece won’t look the same. If this is understood then the unique aesthetic that natural stone provides can be celebrated and built into the design rather than cause tensions between the quarry and the architect.
Another benefit of visiting the quarry is that it will enable you to establish the rate of extraction from the quarry or mine and the quantity of blocks in stock, and compare this to the stone required and programme for your project. If your requirement for the project is a large percentage of the overall stock or the production from the site, then alterations to the programme could have a big impact on the company’s ability to supply the stone and perhaps a block pre-purchase should be considered.
It is also worth noting the size of the blocks compared to the stone sizes required for the project. Obviously the finished stone sizes cannot be bigger than the quarried block but if the stone sizes are larger than the average size of the blocks, then this will impact on the amount of block that the site produces and that can be used for the project. Again, to ensure there is sufficient block, a block pre-purchase should be considered. This can be shown to an architect visiting a quarry who can then understand how the stone spears in its raw state.
There is another benefit of quarry visits that is slightly less technical and more about your peace of mind; you get to form a relationship with your supplier. Many of the Quarry Forum’s members own quarries that have been within their families for a number of generations, and they are genuinely passionate about the product that they supply. In an age of click and collect and faceless customer service, the opportunity for you and your client to meet the team that will be quarrying, processing and finishing the material for the project is a rare luxury; a unique selling point.
Stone Federation work with architectural practices, interior designers and specifiers up and down the country, connecting them with best quarries for their projects. They can help to arrange the quarry visit as well as providing one of the Federation’s CPD presentations on site. These visits provide you and your team with the opportunity to get an in-depth understanding of not just the material in question, but of the processes, practices and people behind the finished product.
To book a quarry visit for your practice, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Stone Sample Panels – What You Should Be Looking For
An article by the Stone Federation Quarry Forum
Selecting the correct stone is arguably the most important part of a project and the best way to avoid issues a few years down the line. In one of the earlier ‘Working Face’ pieces, we looked, in a general way, at some key steps to ensure correct stone selection. This time round we will hone in on one specific aspect of this process – what to look for in a stone sample panel. While this may seem like a very niche topic it affects so much of the selection process and deserves a more in depth discussion.
The mine or quarry you source your stone from should have range/control panels showing the geological characteristics typically found in the various beds available (shown below). This provides the architect or specifier with the truest indication of the variation they can expect to find in stone from the bed they are using. This is vital to effective management of client expectations as stone is a natural material and therefore every piece won’t look the same. If this is understood then the unique aesthetic that natural stone provides can be celebrated and built into the design rather than cause tensions between the quarry and the architect.
It is ultimately the quarry or mine’s responsibility to select a suitable number of samples from various blocks from the chosen bed to show the typical range of geological variations that are present in the stone or the bed of stone, but if the production company has already been and selected the stones and the blocks are all in stock and available for a pre‐purchase, then this can be completed at their works instead. Invariably this inspection should take place at the extraction site but if in exceptional circumstances this is not possible, then confirmation that the quarry has been closely consulted in the sample selection must be sought.
The range/control panels from the different quarries and different beds should be carefully inspected and then the final selection should be made and high resolution photographs taken for future reference. There is a fantastic range of indigenous British stone available in a wide variety of colours and textures that offers architects with a unique aesthetic. By following these steps and understanding the expected variations on your material of choice, you will be able to make full use of these natural nuances and in so doing, encourage the client to embrace this uniqueness. The rejection of geological characteristics naturally found in the stone will typically result in increased costs and prolonged procurement through abortive cutting and will increase the wastage thereby impacting on the carbon footprint and the overall sustainability of the supply.
Any comparison between the range/control samples and the actual production should be conducted in normal daylight for external stone work or perhaps similar light conditions to the project for internal works. Wherever possible, samples should be viewed from a distance of 2m as stated in all the relevant British Standards and in the orientation in which the stone will be used.
For more information on this subject we suggest you get hold of Stone Federation’s ‘Selecting the Correct Stone’ publication that explains the process in greater depth. To request a copy, email email@example.com
British Stones - More than expected
An article by the Stone Federation Quarry Forum
One of the most common place misconceptions associated with indigenous British natural stone is that there is only a small range available. From this presumption, specifiers will often look abroad for a wider selection.
The reality is that British quarries can offer clients a wide range of textures and colours for almost all applications required. As the Stone Federation Quarry Forum, we are passionate about promoting the use of indigenous British Stone from all corners of our Island.
The most obvious questions that arises from this new found revelation is, “where do I start”?
A very good place to start would be the Stone Federation’s ‘Welcome to British Stones’ sourcing tool. In essence, this is a map based tool that allows the user to look through over 80 different stone types, all found within the British Isles. For each stone there is a sample image as well an explanation of the stone’s application, colour and geology. Rather than trawling through website after website looking for the right stone, this tool allows the user to access over 80 stone types on the one page.
The Quarry Forum have a samples display board created from the stones listed on the British Stones online tool, and this has always proved a hugely popular feature with architects and designers at a number of trade shows, including the Natural Stone Show and EcoBuild. The most common reaction was surprise at the variety in terms of both colour and texture of British Stones available. This is a perfect example of how the Quarry Forum is working to educate architects, designers and specifiers as just how much choice they have in stones found right on their doorstep.
It was hugely encouraging for the Quarry Forum and the Federation itself to see that 97% of all project entered into the Natural Stone Awards 2014 involved indigenous British stone. This goes to show that British materials are competing well with, and outperforming the foreign alternatives.
It’s also important to note that there are not the same ethical sourcing issues with British Stones that can sometimes occur with foreign alternatives. Furthermore, as carbon footprints and environmentally friendly building solutions become an ever-increasing concern, ‘locally sourced’ stone will prove itself as the best choice. Britain has a fantastic heritage in using stone from a region for a region, giving the buildings that unique regional identity which is seen from Cotswolds villages through to the ‘granite city’ of Aberdeen. What’s more, much of London is clad in Portland stone quarried just over 100 miles away in Dorset while large sections of Oxford are built from Clipsham stone taken from the quarries just an hour away and the stone found in the city of Bath comes from its local mines.
Britain is home to such a range of stone that from ecclesiastical and traditional buildings and bathrooms to flooring, from domestic interiors to commercial cladding, there is no need to look abroad.
Government Trebles Church Roof fund to £40 Million
As a trade association representing almost one hundreds firms involved in the ecclesiastical sector, we were delighted to hear that the Government have trebled the church roof fund.
The increase was announced part of the George Osborne’s 2015 Budget, and will see the church roof fund increase from £15 million to £40 million.
St Catharine's Church, Wigan - Commended, Repair & Restoration Category
Natural Stone Awards 2014 (Architect - Anthony Grimshaw Associates, Main
and Principal Stone Contractor - Mather & Ellis.)
This boost will enable many of our nation’s historic churches to carry out the essential repairs their continued existence requires.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby responded to the news on twitter:
“Trebling of money for church repairs will create local skilled jobs, improve community facilities and protect heritage, most welcome.”
Stone Federation’s Chief Executive, Jane Buxey commented:
“This is fantastic news for both the Federation and the large number of our members that are involved with the repair and restoration of churches up and down the country. Our hope is that this funding will also help the continued growth of the craft of stonemasonry which has a rich history entrenched in the upkeep of our nation’s churches.”
The Budget news comes just a few months after the Federation’s 2014 Natural Stone Awards in which a large percentage of the projects entered into the Repair & Restoration category involved repairs to church roofs. It is clear that this type of repair work plays a larger part within the wider Ecclesiastical and Repair & Restoration sectors which one of the reasons why this announcement has such significance for the Federation and our members.
For those involved with repair and restoration projects, local churches looking to have their church roofs repaired, or architectural professionals looking to learn more, we have the perfect publication. Our Guide to Repair & Maintenance of Internal & External Masonry Surfaces covers wide range of topics, including:
Why Natural Stone Facades Should be Cleaned
Natural stone is a fantastically versatile and durable material, delivering incredible results on everything from kitchen worktops to exterior cladding. As with most materials, the experts advise that, to ensure the best results, natural stone is periodically cleaned.
The key to cleaning natural stone facades is a combination of minimum impact and care and attention. Advances in understanding stone and cleaning technologies along with the greater ease of access, means that there are now a wide range of solutions available. Building owners should therefore be considering a regular cleaning maintenance programme to keep their buildings in prestige condition.
The Merchant Hotel, Belfast (Architect - Consarc Design Group Ltd,
Stone Contractor - S McConnell & Sons, Stone Supplier - The Bath Stone Group.)
The primary concern is to prevent dirt build-up, principally from airborne particulates that may, over time, affect the appearance of the stone. Regular cleaning will help to identify areas where there is above normal build-up of dirt and salts that may be indicative of more far-reaching problems which if rectified at an early stage, may have considerable cost benefits in the longer term.
As with the cleaning of all materials, the sooner action is taken, the less the chance of long-term damage to the stone.
Stone Federation suggest that clients involve a natural stone cleaning professional to help find the best solution for your particular requirements. Our website lists over one hundred Members firms that provide natural stone cleaning services, and, because all our Members are vetted, you can have total peace of mind that you are enjoying the services of a top level industry professional. To start searching for the right Member for your project, click here.
Thanks go to Federation Members Thomann-Hanry for their contribution to this blog piece.