Federation seeks to establish its own green credentials for stone

Next month (on 6 June) the BRE\'s Green Guide that rates building materials by their environmental standing will be published on the internet (a printed version will follow). And concern is growing that stone will not come out of the comparison as well as had been hoped.

It had been anticipated that a lifetime costing of stone would show it in a good light - after all, it requires a relatively small amount of energy to extract and process and is eminently recyclable.

However, add in some of the other criteria included in the Green Guide calculations and on the face of it stone does not look quite so green. There can be a high proportion of waste involved in producing a finished product, a lot of water is used, sources of stone are exhaustible, the product is thick and heavy and imported stone can travel a long way to get to the UK.

Stone Federation is concerned enough to have instigated its own research in order to be able to present stone\'s green credentials in their true light.

The move has been led by the Federation\'s Quarry Group, but the whole industry would benefit from being able to present stone in an environmentally friendly way. And there could also be a coincidental benefit of Federation members getting cheaper electricity as a result because there are moves to act together to negotiate better prices with the utilities.

Iain Kennedy from Realstone and Michael Poultney from Albion, who are respectively chairman and vice-chairman of the Quarries Group, have met with Andrew Cottam from energy consultants CRM. He is preparing a way of calculating the green credentials of stone and is attempting to get funding from the Carbon Trust to pay for it.

It is not just that the stone companies do not like all the results they believe are going to be in the Green Guide, they do not believe they will represent the true environmental picture of using stone.

Iain Kennedy told NSS: " The research we are currently undertaking is not simply an alternative to the Green Guide, but an attempt at unravelling the complex issue of the environmental effect that stone has on the planet and putting it into a clear and concise way, understandable by all our customers and specifiers. At the same making the calculation of the various areas of concern more transparent.

"The Green Guide attempts to reduce all the various factors to a single score system of ecopoints. This is not easily able to be interpreted and therefore acted upon."

Stone Federation President David Richardson, who is also Director of Construction Consultancy at BRE, has made the issue of the environment the theme of his presidency.

He said when he took over as president in November 2006 that the environment had come to the top of the agenda and stone was in danger of not having the answers when environmental questions were asked.

The Green Guide is possibly not going to help the industry answer those questions, although David denies it puts him in an embarrassing position. He says the Green Guide compares materials and that stone is not going to come out as well as a hedge in the boundary wall section, for example.

"I think the most important thing is that the stone industry is now engaging with sustainability as an issue," he told NSS.

He was glad the industry was preparing its own research, which he described as complementary to the work on the Green Guide. "We have to know as an industry where our impact might be. Once you have that understanding it\'s easier to get involved with something like the Green Guide."

To see the Green Guide for yourself, it should be online on the BRE website from 6 June.