Sourcing the right stone for a project

May 27, 2019

by Dan Rea

Photos © Tom Clark Photography[1]
Photos © Tom Clark Photography

In today’s business climate, the focus on domestic-manufactured products has reached an all-time high. While the discussion of the tariffs for imported goods still remains in progress, decision-makers are faced with carefully weighing all the options. Yet, the process for navigating the choices often proves challenging, as both domestic and imported natural stone are readily available for building projects. Is a North American stone, or an imported one, the right choice for the project? Many times, an international stone is selected based on price, but there are many other factors to consider.

 Timeframe and color considerations

A project’s schedule is one of the first factors to consider when weighing domestic and imported stone options. Although the actual fabrication times for natural stone are similar for both domestic and international product sources, transportation from the factory to the project site can be significant with an international quarry or fabrication facility. Ocean voyages can range from three to five weeks, not including delays occurring at the point of origin, or customs at the port of entry.

Keeping these potential delays in mind, a safe timeframe for standard stonework from an international source is 16 to 24 weeks from release of the order. For complex stonework or large pieces, additional time should be allowed. It is important to be cautious on tight timeframes, as it is difficult to expedite any of the process steps if the schedule begins to slip.

On the other hand, a domestic supplier seldom requires more than five to seven days for transport from the factory to the project site. When the project schedule is critical, a North American stone source is essential to ensuring a successful outcome. The supply chain is almost always shorter with a North American source, allowing for better control from the quarry to fabrication facility, or in a best-case scenario, completely controlled by the manufacturer with quarry ownership.

In addition to timeframe, color must be evaluated carefully. Is it a legacy project? Does the stone need to match or complement existing buildings and nearby structures? Then, a domestic stone may be the best source. The stone industry in the United States expanded during the 1980s, when natural stone surged in popularity as a cladding material. In response, many cities established legacy colors around key domestic stones. Today, many projects return to these domestic stone colors to provide continuity in design.

Legacy color

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) building achieves a neo-classical design with granite.[2]
The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) building achieves a neo-classical design with granite.

Perhaps one of the best examples of a city with a legacy color is San Francisco. Since the late 1880s, granite quarried from Raymond, California, has been used throughout the city. In downtown San Francisco, many of the classical, historic buildings are clad in pure white granite, and as people walk around the city, many of the curbs are still the original Sierra White granite.

When the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) needed a new building, the design team wanted to use Sierra White granite to complement the existing architecture. Building the structure called for a combination of styles.

“What we tried to do is to create architecture that appeal to the neo-classical Civic Center Plaza but also is clearly a building that looks to the future—aesthetically and technologically,” said Michael Rossetto, senior associate, KMD Architects. “Additionally, one of the primary goals we had was to build something sustainable—to build something durable and beautiful so you are not compelled to tear it down in 20 years.”

Specifically, the goal was to create a 100-year building, so the materials’ durability was important. Granite was a suitable transitional material between the newer innovations and the civic center’s original design. Additionally, the design called for tremendous use of glass in the building, and the granite provided a good anchor and balance with the glass.

“Our granite fabricator helped us when we were focusing on the technological aspects of the stone,” said Rossetto. “We spent a lot of time studying the different corner joints, the pros and cons on how the stone would meet at the corners, the ability of the stone to be cut and beveled, and anchoring to a curtain wall system. The most rewarding sensation is to look at this monument and know it will be around for another 100 years.”

Veterans’ memorials and iconic American projects

American landscape architect Lawrence Halprin selected Carnelian granite for the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D.C., because of its similarity in color to the reddish gray fieldstone used on the Roosevelt estate at Hyde Park in New York. Photos courtesy Coldspring[3]
American landscape architect Lawrence Halprin selected Carnelian granite for the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D.C., because of its similarity in color to the reddish gray fieldstone used on the Roosevelt estate at Hyde Park in New York.
Photos courtesy Coldspring

For veterans’ memorials and other iconic American projects, a domestic stone can be a high priority for stakeholders desiring to demonstrate patriotism. However, certain situations may arise when the decision-making committee does not realize the stone comes from another country. This sticky situation can occur when the fabrication facility does not own the quarry. The fabricator may be domestic, but it may import the stone from a foreign source. Good communication and asking the right questions can help decision-makers ensure their values for the project line up with the stone source.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt memorial

Domestic stone was a high priority for the Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. For this project, nothing but stone from an American quarry could symbolize the patriotism of one of the country’s greatest leaders. The memorial consists of 4-m (12-ft) high walls of rugged, split granite from a Milbank, South Dakota, quarry. The walls encompass four outdoor ‘rooms’, signifying the four terms of Roosevelt’s presidency. Dedication of the FDR Memorial in 1997 marked the culmination of a 20-year effort and building project of massive scope.

American landscape architect Lawrence Halprin selected Carnelian granite because of its similarity in color to the reddish gray fieldstone used on the Roosevelt estate at Hyde Park in New York. Of the 3 ha (7.5 acre) comprising the Roosevelt Memorial, 12,542 m2 (135,000 sf) of surface area is covered with granite.

Korean War Memorial

Granite from Clovis, California, was used for the Korean War Memorial’s wall in Washington, D.C. Bands of polished granite accross the memorial’s ground suggest the tilled terrain in parts of Korea.[4]
Granite from Clovis, California, was used for the Korean War Memorial’s wall in Washington, D.C. Bands of polished granite accross the memorial’s ground suggest the tilled terrain in parts of Korea.

The Korean War Memorial is also located on the National Mall and incorporates domestic stone as a symbol of patriotism. Dedicated in 1995, the Korean War Memorial honors Americans who served in the war. Granite from Clovis, California, was used for the memorial’s wall. Etched with a symbolic mural, the wall stands 50 m (165 ft) long and ranges in height from 3 to 1 m (11 to 4.5 ft) as the terrain rises. The sandblasted mural incorporates more than 24,000 faces, computer-copied from anonymous photographs at the National Archives. Bands of polished granite across the memorial’s ground suggest the tilled terrain in parts of Korea.

Victory Memorial Drive

More than 418 m2 (4500 sf) of granite was used for the Victory Memorial Drive project in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo courtesy Landmark Photography and Design[5]
More than 418 m2 (4500 sf) of granite was used for the Victory Memorial Drive project in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Photo courtesy Landmark Photography and Design

Like the Korean War Memorial, the Victory Memorial Drive in Minneapolis is a tribute to the men and women who gave up their lives in service to the country. The landscaped, tree-lined boulevard is part of the Grand Rounds, an 80-km (50-mi) tour of parkways and parks around Minneapolis. The names of 568 men and women from Hennepin County, who died in the war, are also inscribed on bronze crosses and stars.

The flag plaza includes balustrade walls, a flag base, benches, and large gateway monuments at the entrances to Victory Memorial Drive, all in granite. For the memorial, more than 418 m2 (4500 sf) of granite was used.

“We knew granite would be the main material from the beginning because of its longevity,” said Jason Aune, landscape architect at LHB. “The Lake Superior Green granite was quarried in Isabella, Minnesota, meeting the project’s native material requirement.” More than 427 m2 (4600 sf) of Carnelian was used to pave the 24-m (80-ft) diameter plaza. Additionally, over 14 m2 (150 sf) of Sierra White from Raymond was incorporated into the plaza surface to create contrast. Radiant Red from Fredericksburg, Texas, was used on the service banners on the gateway monuments.

Collier County Freedom Memorial

Mesabi Black pavers and treads create a base shaped as the United States, and Kasota Valley Limestone pavers surround the front of the base of the Collier County Freedom Memorial in Naples, Florida. Domestic fabrication and material was specified for this project. Photo © Albert Mountcastle[6]
Mesabi Black pavers and treads create a base shaped as the United States, and Kasota Valley Limestone pavers surround the front of the base of the Collier County Freedom Memorial in Naples, Florida. Domestic fabrication and material was specified for this project.
Photo © Albert Mountcastle

Plans for the Collier County Freedom Memorial in Naples, Florida, began in 2004 when the Board of Commissioners declared September as Freedom Month in the county. They wanted to create a memorial to pay tribute to members of the armed forces, law enforcement, firefighters, and emergency medical personnel who died during the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

County officials also determined they wanted domestic fabrication and material for the project.

After years of planning and fundraising, the memorial was finally dedicated in September 2016. As visitors approach the memorial, set in the northeast corner of the 20-ha (50-acre) Fred W. Coyle Freedom Park, a bronze plaque contains a description sitting on Lake Superior Green and Sunset Red granite. At the center of the memorial stands a 4-m (13-ft) tall x 12-m (40-ft) wide waving flag. Carnelian granite creates the stars of the flag, and Sunset Red in two finishes was utilized for the stripes. Mesabi Black pavers and treads create a base shaped as the United States, and Kasota Valley Limestone pavers surround the front of the base. An eagle, rough shaped on a five-axis milling machine and then meticulously hand-carved in limestone, sits on the column next to the flag. Visitors can walk up and touch two steel slabs from the World Trade Center or admire the flag and three granite benches memorializing the three attacks of that day. In total, nearly 1493 m2 (4900 sf) of natural stone was used to bring this design to life. Precise fabrication was necessary to create the stars in the waving flag, as well as the curved granite pieces for the stripes. Three-dimensional (3D) modeling and computer-aided design (CAD) drawings were created to confirm an exact fit for the various intricate pieces on the memorial, thereby assuring a smooth installation.

Sustainability

Sustainability is also an important concern for many project owners today. With minimal processing, natural stone contains a lower embodied energy than almost any material it replaces and is durable. This longevity results in conserving the energy and resources of not demolishing and rebuilding.

As design teams and building owners have focused more on specifying sustainable products in recent years, many were left wondering how to know for certain their stone is produced in an environmentally responsible manner. In response, the stone industry developed a certification program in order to demonstrate environmental stewardship.

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI)/National Stone Council (NSC) 373, Natural Dimension Stone Standard Certification, was created to drive sustainability practices in the natural stone industry. Stone certification provides a layer of transparency and authentication to the production process, which was previously only self-reported by companies.

While the third-party-verified ANSI/NSC 373[7] is an international standard and available for stone producers around the world, only stone companies in the United States have presently chosen to seek and achieve certification.

As the standard gains acceptance around the globe, certified products will be one of the key differentiators among stone companies.

Whether working with a domestic or international stone supplier, it is important to source a certified stone supplier for project owners with sustainability goals. Now that many project owners are seeking certification with green building programs, they can know with certainty which stone suppliers align with their goals of minimizing waste, maintaining a small environmental footprint, and optimizing water and energy use. Since ANSI/NSC 373 is accepted by green building programs, such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) v.4 and the Living Building Challenge (LBC) v. 3.1, a clear path exists to help projects achieve sustainability goals.

Conclusion

No matter the type of project, the goal remains the same—a beautiful accolade to stand the test of time. Natural stone meets these requirements as one of the most striking, durable material to use for building projects.

Dan Rea is senior vice-president of sales and marketing for Coldspring. He is also a member of the Natural Stone Institute (NSI) and served as president of the Marble Institute of America (MIA) in 2015. He can be reached via email at drea@coldspringusa.com[8].

Endnotes:
  1. [Image]: https://www.constructionspecifier.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/110725_220.jpg
  2. [Image]: https://www.constructionspecifier.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/33C3971.jpg
  3. [Image]: https://www.constructionspecifier.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/fdr2.jpg
  4. [Image]: https://www.constructionspecifier.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/korean-memorial2.jpg
  5. [Image]: https://www.constructionspecifier.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/110725_244.jpg
  6. [Image]: https://www.constructionspecifier.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/IMG_1969.jpg
  7. ANSI/NSC 373: http://www.info.nsf.org/Certified/Suustain/Listings.asp?ProdCat=NSC373&
  8. drea@coldspringusa.com: mailto:drea@coldspringusa.com

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