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Natural Stone Pavements: The Tangible Benefits

12 December 2020
Natural stone pavements

For more information about the Stone Federation Landscape Forum, email Matt Robb: [email protected]

The Landscape Forum is one of the sector focus groups of Stone Federation Great Britain. It includes British and international quarry operators and other stone and mortar suppliers working in this sector, bringing to bear a wide range of expertise. 

This is an extract of an architect’s viewpoint on the benefits of using natural stone when designing pavements.

The treatment of the surface of streets and squares makes a huge impact on the identity of any town or city.

Since Georgian times natural stone has been a favoured material in successful cities of the UK, including the magnificent streets of London, The Crescent in Bath and the elegant cities of Edinburgh and Liverpool.

Stone was chosen to express prosperity and create places of worth.

Today, natural stone is still chosen by designers and clients for its aesthetic properties, its inherent good looks and natural beauty and its ability to retain these looks in the long term. Stone appearance might actually improve with age.

By comparison, man-made alternatives can start to lose their visual appearance and be in need of renewal much sooner, often long before they have lost their structural integrity.

The wide variety of natural colours and the natural variations within any stone allow the creation of unique solutions that enhance local distinctiveness.

Stone can be successfully used as a simple mono-colour or by mixing a rich pattern with different hues, either bright or muted. The permanence of colour and its ability to resist fading in sunlight is a great asset.

Designing with natural stone allows flexibility. It is possible to use an infinite number of sizes and shapes, making it easy to design a pavement compatible with standard street furniture, kerbs and drainage.    

The stone can be cut to exacting tolerances, allowing the creation of intricate designs.

A good example of this is the creation of the complex granite seating walls at Pier Head, Liverpool.

The design of the individual units was computer modelled and the cutting schedules for the stone prepared in the UK. They were cut and dry assembled like a giant jigsaw puzzle to check on accurate buildability before being transported. On site, the construction went smoothly with only minor on-site cutting required.

The versatility of stone is favoured by craftsmen and stonemasons. For generations natural stone has been used for masonry, traditional carving and etching. Now, with modern developments in both computer-aided design (CAD) and manufacturing (CAM), designers can embrace other aspects of art in the landscape, such as text and illustrations, as well as being able to inlay other materials, such as stainless steel.

Stone also allows the achievement of a high-quality finish to contrasting step nosings and the creation of co-ordinating tactile paving needed to help with Disability Discrimination Act compliance.

On steps and walls, ribbing can be cut into the natural stone to provide a subtle but effective deterrent to skateboarders, avoiding the need for metal studs that can detract from the intent of the design.

The natural durability and inherent strength of good quality natural stone make it ideal for townscape work where long scheme life is important.

But it is important to select good quality stone. CE (or, from next year, UKCA) marking should be applied to all natural stone products, providing assurance of both quality and performance.

With appropriate design and construction techniques stone can withstand vehicular traffic as well as heavy pedestrian usage. And many stones used for paving have inherently good skid and slip resistance.

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