The place: ExCeL London
The dates: 28-30 April
A lot has changed since the Natural Stone Show was launched in 1995. Stone in interiors, hard landscaping, for cladding, building of domestic as well as commercial property… it has all become mainstream. One thing that has not changed is that the Natural Stone Show in London remains the major platform in the UK for national and international suppliers of stone and the products and services associated with it to lay out their offers to trade customers, developers, clients and construction professionals.
It can be hard to believe now, but when the first Natural Stone Show was held in 1995 at Wembley exhibition centre many stone companies were still shying away from processing granite and baulking at the price of diamond tooling. That was before the new national football stadium had been built at Wembley and the ExCeL exhibition centre, where the Stone Show is now held, was not even an idea. The first CNC saws and workcentres were only just beginning to be installed and concrete was the preferred material for paving. Few houses were built with stone walls and hardly any had granite worktops in the kitchens or limestone floors. Although stone fireplaces were more often seen, they were usually built of rubble stone rather than being dimensional fire surrounds.
The stone industry in the UK has come a long way since then. Stone has always been desirable but in 1995 it was summarily ruled out of many projects because it was considered too difficult to use and too expensive. Now, fewer major projects reach fruition without at least some element of stone in them.
Stone often joins steel and glass to add solidity and depth to façades of office developments. Inside, stone tops on reception desks, stone floors and wall linings, along with marble and limestone in the toilets, are almost expected. Hotel refurbishments do not have to be so upmarket these days to include stone on the floors, walls and vanity units in the bathrooms. Housebuilders know stone walls are a major selling point and will add greater value to the property than they cost to include, especially now that the stone industry supplies stone that is easier to use. Granite worktops, stone tiles on the floors, polished stone in the bathrooms, stone fire surrounds… they are seen as minimum requirements by many housebuyers these days. And there is hardly a self-respecting hard landscaping or urban renewal scheme that would not now consider sandstone or granite paving, granite kerbs and setts, and appropriate (often local) stone walling and street furniture.
Natural stone has proved over millennia to be the most durable and enduring of building materials as well as being highly desirable and exceptionally sustainable – after all, we live on a planet of rock and while much of that used for construction can be easily recycled, any that does go back into the ground does so without causing the slightest amount of pollution, not even gases as a result of decay.
But there are literally thousands of different kinds of stone available to choose from, not to mention all the various ways it can be processed, used and treated, which can be confusing for clients and their architects and designers.
That is probably one of the reasons for the enduring success of the Natural Stone Show in London. Not only does it allow stone producers to show their products to the industry that processes them, it also enables the stone industry in general to show developers and other clients, architects and designers, engineers and the broader spectrum of the construction industry, just what the stone industry can offer it.
As much as three-quarters of the stone used in the UK is imported. Most of the stone used for interiors comes from overseas and stone from China and India now dominates the hard landscaping market.
It is hardly surprising, then, that there will be a lot of imported stone at the Natural Stone Show, although there will also be more stone from the British Isles than ever – Portland stone from Albion Stone and Portland Stone Firms, Bath Stone from the Bath Stone Group, Doulting from Doulting Stone, Caithness from Scotland, Forest of Dean Pennant, Kentish Ragstone from Gallagher, Ham Hill stone from Harvey Stone, Purbeck and other limestones from Lovell Stone Group, Johnsons Wellfield’s famous Crosland Hill sandstone, the Ironstone and limestones produced in conjunction with Marshalls by Johnston Quarry Group… there are others.
Indigenous stones have generally been hit less severely by the post-2008 economic downturn than have imports. Perhaps the strength of Sterling, which has reduced the price difference between home produced stone and imports, has influenced decisions. Perhaps clients want to support businesses close to home. Perhaps a change in aesthetics has favoured local stones. Perhaps the environmental benefits of using local products has played its part. Perhaps all these reasons, and probably more besides, have been involved.
A lot of the heritage market uses British stone for repair and maintenance to match the original fabric of buildings and this market, too, has held up relatively well as protecting the built heritage of the country remains a priority and the Natural Stone Show reflects this with an area dedicated to the heritage side of the industry.
Certainly the UK’s return to growth in the past couple of years has increased the country’s level of confidence as a whole and the Natural Stone Show is 20% larger this time than it was in 2013 (it has always been held every other year) with more than 200 companies being represented – and in truth a lot more than that because of all the different producers’ stones that will be shown on the stands of wholesalers such as Stone World, Beltrami, Trade Price Stone, Global Granite, Nile Trading and Rocks Forever.
As well as what the wholesalers are showing, there are many overseas producers exhibiting on stands of their own. China and India are major suppliers of natural stone to the UK these days, and not just for hard landscaping. Both countries are blessed with huge quantities and diversities of almost every conceivable natural stone, not least (but certainly not exclusively) the polished granites that are so popular for kitchen work surfaces.
Companies from both countries will be represented at the Stone Show. From China come the likes of A Plus, Huangchang, Nanjing Ceicai, Xiamen Chitrust, Yantai Yuyi (there are more), while from India major players such as Natural Stone Concepts, RR Paving, Stone International and VJ Quarries.
Of course, when you think of stone you tend to think of Italy, for centuries the world’s largest supplier of stone and still Europe’s main stone trading country.
Marble sales are growing rapidly again now as people move on from kitchens to making features of bathrooms and bedrooms, and Italy produces some of the world’s most attractive marbles, the best known of which is probably the lightly veined white marble of Carrara (although there are many more).
While marble is not ideal for the demanding environments of kitchens with their hot pots, sharp knives and acidic foods, it comes into its own in the more intimate atmosphere of bathrooms and bedrooms.
Italy’s marbles will be among those shown on the stands of the wholesalers, but Italian marble companies, including leaders such as Ceresa Marmi and Marmi Alberti, will be at the London exhibition in their own right.
Another important stone supply country for the UK is Turkey, the source of much of the travertine laid on commercial and domestic floors, although also a producer of many other fine marbles. Companies from Turkey exhibiting include the likes of Ataymer Medencilik, Finike Marble and Naturelmar.
Spain and Portugal are traditional suppliers of stone to the UK and 18 companies from these countries are exhibiting – companies such as Pinacas and Granitos Vincios from Spain and Mocamar and Dimpomar from Portugal.
Other European countries will also be represented. From Germany, for example, best known in the UK for Jura limestone, will be Steigler and SSG Geiger. While from France, a range of limestones and marbles from various producers will be seen on the stands of Carriere Plo and MB Stone International.
Among other countries represented by their own companies is Egypt, which is starting to make inroads to the UK. Two of its stone suppliers, Alex Tiles and the Haddad Group, will be showing their products at the Stone Show.
Apart from stone itself, there will be plenty of stone treatments and fixing systems on show, as well as machinery, tools and consumables essential for the processing of stone.
There are CNC bridge saws, quarry saws and smaller bench saws, CNC workcentres, edge polishers, waterjet cutters and more. Innovations include a new machine being introduced by Pat Sharkey Engineering on behalf of Lovato Evo of Italy that cuts irregular pieces of stone into flats and corners for walling and cladding in a continuous process, which Pat and his son Neil will be happy to talk to you about on their stand.
There is handling equipment, water treatment plant, dust suppression equipment and all the tools, chemicals and consumables you need on an everyday basis in your workshop and onsite for shaping, glueing, sealing and maintaining stone.
Brands represented include Breton, Fantini, Intermac, Omag, Thibaut, Achilli, Terzago, Gilbert, Spielvogel, GMM, Pellegrini, Emmedue, MarmoMeccanica, Cobalm, Montressor, Flow, Bellinzoni, Weha… more than 50 of them altogether, making up about a quarter of the companies represented at the Natural Stone Show.
Some of the equipment makers are already represented in the UK and Ireland by agents such as LPE Group (more about them on page 34 of this issue), D Zambelis, Roccia Machinery, Stone Equipment International (National Masonry), Pat Sharkey Engineering, Waters Group and others that will be exhibiting at the Natural Stone Show.
Machinery develops continually, making it ever more productive and environmentally friendly, so there is always something new to discover on the exhibition stands of the manufacturers and their agents.
The chemicals used to clean and treat stone are also an unending source of innovation and Ardex, Dry Treat, Faber, Fila, Lithofin and others selling these products will be delighted to tell you about their latest product improvements.
Those exhibitors listed above represent just a snapshot of what you will see at the Natural Stone Show and we hope this preview has given you a feel for what you will see at ExCeL this year. Next month’s issue of Natural Stone Specialist will also be the Natural Stone Show official catalogue, where all the exhibitors will be listed with a description of what they will be showing. There is also a list of the exhibitors on the Natural Stone Show website at www.stoneshow.co.uk. Just click on ‘Exhibitor List’ on the main menu. Or you can download the Stone Show App (see page 17 for details).
Keep up-to-date with news about the Show on Twitter (#stoneshow2015), where you can join in by sharing details of your plans and report back afterwards on what you enjoyed most at the Show.
The Stone Show App
Download from bit.ly/stoneapp2015
Organise your visit to the Natural Stone Show at ExCeL London on your smartphone or tablet with the new Natural Stone Show 2015 App that you can download from bit.ly/stoneapp2015.
The App gives you the full list of exhibitors and details of all the sessions at the Natural Stone & Building Conservation Conference run in association with the exhibition.
With the ‘My Event’ feature you can create your own personal agenda for your visit and get a continual
at-a-glance update at the Show. You can use the ‘My Sessions’ portal to view and select the conference sessions you are interested in, while ‘Event News’ will give you real-time updates on what is happening at the exhibition. You can also post your own pictures and comments from the Show to your friends and followers on Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms.
Keep up with the Stone Show news and post your own comments on Twitter at #stoneshow2015
Be inspired by the projects honoured in the 2014 Natural Stone Awards
The best stone projects of the preceding two years (according to the six architects judging them) in new build, hard landscaping, interiors and conservation were honoured in December at the Natural Stone Awards.
The Awards were presented at a prestigious ceremony and lunch held at Hotel Russell in Russell Square, London. Business guru Lord John Harvey-Jones handed out the prizes and the winners were announced and introduced by the unseen ‘voice’ of TV’s Strictly Come Dancing, Alan Dedicoat, and sports commentator Jim Rosenthal.
Photographs and details of the projects honoured in the two-yearly Awards scheme run by Stone Federation Great Britain will form a gallery within a rest area at the Natural Stone Show at ExCeL. So if you need to sit down after viewing the exhibitors’ stands and want to be inspired, this is the place to head for.
THE STONE VILLAGE. The Stone Show is, as ever, supported by Stone Federation Great Britain, the body that represents the interests of the natural stone industry in the construction sector in the UK. The Federation has a ‘Village’ at the heart of the Natural Stone Show with its own stand surrounded by member companies, which include consultancies such as Harrison Goldman, Sandberg and Stewart Design, all able to offer advice and help with any specific enquiries you have relating to the choice, design and use of stone.