Stone Federation GB

I have now completed my 2 years (and a month !) as Stone Federation President. I have been very lucky to serve my industry in such a position and am very proud to have done so. The last two years have been tough for all concerned in the construction industry and the UK has fared better than most so if you are reading this in Southern Europe you have my sympathy.

The Stone Federation has supported our members in many ways over the last 2 years. We now have support from the UK Contractors Group; have moved CE Marking way up on the agenda; Managed to get our heads around the new Part -L Building regulations; imparted knowlege where it didn’t exist to many architectural firms in the form of CPD’s; moved Sustainability to the forefront of many members thinking and supported members in Health & Safety and the legalities of our country where appropriate.

We have also had a 15% increase in membership over the last 2 years and Stonetrain have started many new courses especially the ‘Stone Industry Professional Practice’ which does exactly what it says.

Much done and more still to do. Graeme Hadden from Land Engineering has taken over as President and I am sure will make great strides.

Handing Over

However, as with all organisations, the real work is done by those behind the scenes and not by the ones in the limelight. Our CEO and her team work tirelessly and selflessly to achieve all that the members and the executive ask for and they should be held in high esteem for doing so on a tight budget…who doesnt have one of those. Thank you Jane and your team.

The Stone awards that followed the AGM last week were also nothing short of fantastic. Very professional and a superb headline speaker in Lord Digby Jones. However the limelight was stolen, and quite rightly by members of Bomber Command who flew on our behalf in WWII. A standing ovation and an honour to meet such brave airmen.

It was good to see a plethora of absolute top quality stone projects on display and winning awards. It does make you proud of our industry and the place it has cemented (pardon the pun) in our nations heritage

Although my time as President is over and I now have the grand title of ‘Immediate Past President’…and thank you for the cufflinks…I will be around still and able to help where needed.

Onwards and out of the recession in construction. Confidence is returning and more of those top quality projects to supply and build for the next awards in 2016

Life in the Rainscreen lane

Well with 2013 now firmly behind us and after a very wet start to 2014 things seem to be improving. We are even getting sunshine on our Bank holidays…Well in some areas of UK at least.!

Natural stone is still a firm favourite with top end developers and the sustainability building material of choice. No massive kilns needed for stone production ! Thinner and thinner stone is being used and Rainscreen cladding is having a significant effect on our production with 20; 30 and 40mm material forming more of the cladding going through our factory than we did 5 years ago let alone 25 years ago. Realstone has always been a cladding supplier at 75mm and the more traditional 100mm thick but our Rainscreen system..Genesis.. has had a fantastic few years. We have now developed, tested and introduced an improved clip on Genesis Rainscreen that we think is one of the best systems on the market. Most recent is the new Westfield Shopping Centre in Bradford. This uses a local UK stone, UK clips and rails sourced locally. All great for the UK economy and further proof of Natural Stones Green Credentials. Of course there are imported stones to give a natural stone range to be proud of and one on the most experienced companies in sourcing stone in UK.

P1010269

Some of our projects to date are available on our Rainscreen website and if your next project needs to be super thin..!!  We would be pleased to help !

www.realstone-facades.com

 

 

 

Natural Stone World of 2013

Well its now 2013. In my world it has to be the ‘Year of Stone’. This will be the year that stone is recognised as the most economic cladding and paving material there is. Cost to life-expectancy ratio is very small compared to many other building and landscaping products out there. It needs very little maintenance and looks stunning for decades.

As a previous blog states it is also the most sustainable material on the planet…….. Another reason to use Stone.

The overall cost of stone in comparison to other materials has, if my sales people are to be believed, fallen dramatically over the last 10-20 years with very little increase in cost in what politicians and economists call ‘real terms’. Walling stone can be purchased now at the same price as when I first joined the industry in nineteen eighty-something.

It follows that a pick-up in the high end side of the building market, if it ever stopped. requires stone. Surely no high end project can justifiably call itself so, if no stone is involved??

I have the privilege of being the Stone Federation GB President for 2013/14 and for the ‘millions’ who read this from UK stone industry I am keen to help all our industry where-ever possible to make this the ‘Year of Stone’. C.E Marking in UK, Sustainability and the odd Stone consultant or geologist will give us all challenges that we can rise to. if we can educate more of ‘the market’ about stone and its advantages we would have a much larger market. So please do get in touch with the Stone Federation if you have any ideas we can help you with.

If you are reading this in January I hope your year is a successful ‘stone’ one but if you are late to the party I hope your summer holiday was a good one !!

Stone Federation

It is time to step up to the plate, as they say. David Ellis from Sandberg has done an excellent job as President of the Stone Federation GB over the last two years. He very kindly steped up when I asked if I could be excused for two years having been voted in to succeed as President in November 2010. This was all because I had taken part in an MBO of the Realstone Group a year earlier and it would have been too much to do both. My time was (and still is !!) needed at Realstone.

However, David would not be a happy bunny if I asked the same thing again……or?. no seriously not an option. I therefore need to ‘step up to the plate’ and do my best to help Jane and the team progress the Stone Federation over the next 2 years.

For all those in the Federation please do consider my door open and email me or call with any suggestions for any side of the stone industry that we can improve our services and advice on. for those not in the Federation I can only implore you to join and take advantage of all the positives of membership and almost as importantly add your voice to the future of ‘our’ industry.

Natural Stone Sustainability

I think that Natural Stone must be the most sustainable cladding product available in the world. According to one illustrious member of the British Stone Federation (or in Olympic year maybe it should read Team Stone GB ! ); the rate at which stone is produced in the earth’s crust, far outstrips the rate of use by mankind. In addition there is so much stone that we as a species will be long gone before the dimensional stone gets close to running out. How is this justified?

Using data and research from the University of British Columbia and USGS, the area of the world’s land is 149 million km and the oceans is 361 million km. The average depth of the Earth’s crust on land is approximately 45 km and the oceans is 7.5 km, this give a total volume of about 9 billion km3. The world extraction according to the USGS in 2007 was 1.39 million tonnes, which at an average mass of 2.6 tonnes per m3 gives 0.53 km3. Assuming that 95% of the earth’s crust is unsuitable for dimension stone, at the current rate of extraction we have enough dimension stone to last for about 850 million years. This figure ignores the new stone which is being continuously made, probably at a much faster rate than the industry is extracting it. As a footnote the Earth’s increasing surface temperature from the rising luminosity of the Sun will accelerate the inorganic CO2 cycle, reducing its concentration to levels lethally low for plants in approximately 500 million to 900 million years. The lack of vegetation will result in the loss of oxygen in the atmosphere, so animal life will become extinct within several million more years.

Certainly something to think about.

UK Natural Stone-State of the Industry Address !

The Stone Federation recently carried out a survey into the state of the stone industry in UK today. The rather muted response was ‘its tough but we will survive.’

I don’t know about you but I would like to do more than survive. We seem to be intent on underpricing each other resulting in a cracking deal for the customer but with less and less stone companies in business, a few new starters who think this is an easy way to earn a buck and still prices are no better than they were in the late 1980s’ !!.

Only the other day Stancliffe closed one of their works. This resulted in at least 50 people loosing their jobs. I am sure that Marshalls (the parent company) have a good reason for this but it is just symptomatic of low prices. Yes, lack of work and other factors come into play but fundamentally over the last 20 years prices have been too low.

Quarries are harder to find, (although we at Realstone/Blockstone are fortunate to have 9 UK operational quarries supplying the market); resources scarcer and planning more difficult.

Why then with an ever diminishing resource do we, as an industry, under-price, trying to get every contract under the sun.

Margins are being squeezed everywhere in this recession and most of us still going have looked at costs more often over the last 4 years than we care to mention.

There are 3 things we treasure when buying or selling;

Good Quality
Low Price
Great Service

You cannot have all 3 over an extended time. Low prices means one of the other two will eventually suffer and probably the business with it. There have been too many good (and bad) stone companies shut up shop in the last 5 years resulting in far too many good people being lost to the industry. Its a great shame

How do we stop it?
Answers on a postcard to……………….UK Govt !!

Real Stone – Or Not

There are many Natural Stones, that is stone made by nature, out there. Virtually every country in the world will have a deposit or operating supply of stone for their local and possibly international markets. Granites with fancy names from unpronounceable places hundreds of miles from nowhere. Small quarries next to a village that has almost exclusively been built from stone from that quarry. Cities paved with Yorkstone (that is another topic. What is Yorkstone anyway?). Beautiful fireplaces made with love and care by a skilled craftsman; a mason with years of experience. Some of the names of these stones may be made up to protect a supplier’s source, although where specified on projects in Europe BS EN 12440 Natural Stone Denomination Criteria dictates that the origin and true name must be revealed. Some of the names are indeed numbers as is the case with most of the Chinese quarries.

However, in the vast majority of  times a natural stone never pretends to be something it isn’t, ie an un-natural product, one made by man.

Why is it then that virtually all the man made, concrete (or otherwise) products in the construction industry that are copying Natural Stone also call themselves something very close to or imitating stone names. Names like Portland; Bath; York and Yorkshire as well as a host of ‘abxyz stone’ that is in fact concrete. It is often the case that the, shall we say ‘confusion’,(I am being polite !) arises more from what is not said in an article or description than what is said. A well known concrete paving supplier says ‘Aesthetically pleasing newly quarried Yorkstone look that blends well in almost any setting’. Looking deeper we see that if you look hard there is a clue….. ‘Cast from genuine split stone flags with mason fettled edges reminiscent of newly quarried Yorkstone.’ What does all this mean? Is it concrete or is it stone? I will leave you to make your own mind up. But clear it certainly isn’t.

Should there be more clarity in the law as to what constitutes miss-selling or deception? Or am I being ridiculous in expecting advertising to be clear? The Stone Federation is wrestling with this same dilemma and will I hope be taking a more direct approach to this subject in the next couple of years.

The Nature of Real Stones

Stones, or rocks, are the most important product of nature and are the most essential thing on Earth. Some stones are natural, with a course texture but others are synthetic and purposefully changed giving them a flawless and smooth texture and feel. Stones ware classified in categories according to its type and composition, as well as its etiology and history.
Natural limestone, granite, and sandstones are some of the many natural stones used for architectural building, paving and masonry. They are most common types of stone used by industrial companies in building homes and infrastructures. They are not only used in the manufacture and structure of a building but they are also used a lot in landscaping gardens and parks.

Natural limestones are highly durable and are usually obtained through quarrying the stone. It is a sedimentary rock which is highly composed of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are differing crystal forms of calcium carbonate. It’s harmonious seamless appearance makes it ideal for paving. But being a heavy material, natural limestone is impractical for use in large buildings and is highly expensive as a building material.

granite

Granite is an igneous rock,  which has a medium to coarse-grained texture, and is sometimes known by the larger ‘crystals’ that are embedded in its structure. It is hard and tough, and is widely used for construction. It is formed from magma and sits in the Earth’s crust. Due to the depth at which it lies it can only be extracted through mining and quarrying.

Sandstones   is a clastic sedimentary rock which is made of mainly sand sized minerals or rock grains. It is composed of feldspar and quartz, as these are the most common minerals found within the Earth’s crust. It can be found in many colours but it most commonly ranges from tan, red and brown. Because of its hardness  durability, sandstone serves as a common material for building and paving.
Natural stones play a very important part of everyday life, providing homes and habitats not only for the human race, it helps to build and develop society whilst providing many livelihoods through its use.

Natural Stone – The Oldest Sustainable Material

Why is that almost everyone consider natural stone as the oldest sustainable material? One of the reasons behind is that natural stone have already proves its existence on the earth surface billions of years ago. Also with the addition of precious landmarks and earth structures such as Taj Mahal, Coliseum in Italy, and some of the Victorian houses, natural stone has proved it stand a test of time.

Natural stone comes is a wide array of styles, colors, and composition. They offer durability yet they require low maintenance. They could go with whatever theme you may have especially if its natural. Natural stone also varies in texture. Even though we expect that natural stone as being natural are irregular in shape and coarse in texture, some natural stones are smooth and shiny.

Natural Stone

The use of natural stone as natural building material also reduces the emission of carbon dioxide which is because the only energy consumed is upon quarrying and processing. In the operation and maintenance of natural stone buildings, any kind of energy can be used. Also the visual appearance of any natural stone building even remains almost unchanged over a decade. That’s the reason why maintenance and cleaning cost remains low.

Natural stones cannot be compare to any other man-made stone even though man-made stone are finer and smoother. Manufacturers have tried over and over to make stone like that of the effects of natural stone, but with no success. Yes, they could produce products which is good but it is not real stone.

Natural stone flooring need not to be shiny. In fact, more people stay away from shiny flooring because it can easily get scratches. However, some wants to have a more aged looking floor and natural limestone which is one of the most in demand types of natural stone could be used because natural limestone can be scratched, brushed or blasted.

Natural stone is a sustainable and the best choice building material for everyone.  It could last a lifetime as you wish.

Naturally Beautiful Natural Stones

Natural stones have been used for more than a century and it is the timeless choice of many experts and could last a lifetime once correctly installed and fabricated. Believe it or not, natural stone is the experts choice in every household projects. It is really suitable in every household application, thus it can provide lifelong service.

Natural stones comes in different types, colors, shape, texture and composition. It varies from where it originates and its composition and characteristics. Granite, limestone, sandstone, and slate are the most common natural stone that was utilized and incorporated inside and outside of the house. They differ in their durability, color, pattern as well as of texture. These natural stones could be used for centuries to create beautiful roofs, floors and walls. Below are some types of natural stone, its classification and purpose.


Sandstone

Sandstone is rock mainly composed of sand sized rocks or grains. Most sandstone is composed of quartz and/or feldspar because these are the most common minerals in the Earth’s crust. Like sand, sandstone may be any colour, but the most common colours are tan, brown, yellow, red, gray and white. Since sandstone beds often form highly visible cliffs and other topographic features, certain colours of sandstone have been strongly identified with certain regions. Sandstone are resistant to weathering and this makes sandstone a common building and paving material. The cement of sandstone may be rich in various materials; Silica, Iron, Calcium Carbonate, all of which contribute to the final color and characteristics of the sandstone.


Limestone

Limestone is a sedimentary rocks composed of mineral calcite. It is an important stone for masonry and architecture vying with only granite and sandstone to be the most commonly used architectural stone. Limestone is used as a facade on some skyscrapers, but only in thin plates for covering rather than solid blocks.



Granite Stone

Granite is a common and widely occurring type of intrusive, felsic, igneous rock. It is usually have a medium to coarse grained texture. Granite is nearly always massive (lacking internal structures), hard and tough, and therefore it has gained widespread use as a construction stone. Granite is an igneous rock and is formed from magma. Granitic magma has many potential origins but it must intrude other rocks. Granite has been extensively used as a dimension stone and as flooring tiles in public and commercial buildings and monuments. Granite can be worked to achieve every type of finish from traditional hand tooled, flame textured, shot blasted, acid washed, or honed to highly polished mirror finishes.


Silver Slate

Slate is a fine-grained, foliated, homogeneous metamorphic rock derived from an original shale-type sedimentary rock composed of clay or volcanic ash through low grade regional metamorphism. Slate can be made into roofing slates, also called roofing shingles, installed by a slater. Slate has two lines of breakability: cleavage and grain, which make it possible to split the stone into thin sheets. When broken, slate retains a natural appearance while remaining relatively flat and easily stackable. Slate tiles are often used for interior and exterior flooring, stairs, walkways, and wall cladding.

 

The above mentioned were few of the naturally beautiful occurring natural stones. Natural stone is the so called natural superior surface material. It have proved its superiority among man-made materials and could withstand daily use indoors and extreme weather outdoors without diminishing its natural beauty. It really brings the natural world into your home.