Comments from Stone Federation Great Britain’s Stone Heritage Group.
Stone Federation Great Britain’s Stone Heritage Group gives its opinion on issues relating to this sector of the stone industry.
Much of the continuation of Britain’s built heritage relies on the conservation and restoration of natural stone. Cathedrals and churches, monuments, town halls, urban streetscapes, mills, mansions and cottages depend on the supply of stone from indigenous quarries and the skills and expertise of the natural stone industry’s restoration and conservation sector in order to be handed on to future generations in good order.
The most common challenge faced by those looking to care for these historic structures is selecting the right professional for the work. The question most often asked is: “How can I be sure 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.
It has a vetted membership of more than 240 firms offering clients excellence in all areas of business, from technical support and expertise through to ethical sourcing and sustainability.
Within the broad membership of the Federation, almost 50% work in conservation and restoration. To reflect and emphasise that, the Federation established the Stone Heritage Group. It reinforces the vital significance 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 built heritage of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
As a large proportion of heritage buildings were constructed using natural stone, Stone Heritage aims to make people more aware of the stones, the skills used to work and maintain them, and the benefits of preserving both for future generations.
The professionals – architects, surveyors and structural engineers – need to understand natural stone from quarrying to its incorporation into buildings.
The Stone Federation works hard to help establish an understanding of the yawning gap between today’s methods of construction and those of yesteryear, and to raise awareness of the aesthetic and practical considerations involved in the decision-making processes of conservation and restoration.
Stone Heritage Group will help ensure the correct training is given both to professionals and to the stonemasons who carry out the work. The Group endorses the need for specialist training of masons who work in the heritage field.
There are specialist apprenticeship programmes (SAPs) and NVQ courses, as well as management and business improvement programmes, some of which are available online.
There is a SAP in Façade Preservation and a SAP in Heritage Masonry. Both are eligible for ConstructionSkills grants.
The one year SAP Heritage Masonry programme is particularly popular. It involves four week-long residential sessions at Fountains Abbey, covering conservation, repair and maintenance of stonework.
Jane Buxey, Stone Federation’s Chief Executive, spells 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.”