Building stone and geomaterials for the built environment
The United Kingdom has been a producer of building stone for many hundreds of years. Because of our varied geology, a wide range of building stone types have been used and this has influenced architectural style throughout Britain. The importance of this local distinctiveness is becoming increasingly recognised and the maintenance of the built heritage is now a significant issue to society. New construction, including streetscape and paving schemes, are also turning to natural stone. This has led to an increase in the demand for stone and a resurgence in some parts of the stone industry.
Stone health checks for our built heritage
BGS is contributing to a project on Glasgow's Built Heritage commissioned by the Scottish Stone Liaison Group and Scottish Enterprise Glasgow to develop a methodology for assessment of stone decay in buildings.
The photo shows a rectified image of part of a building with digital overlays showing different categories of stone decay. The system was designed for a project to survey the condition of stone buildings for a range of stone types in Glasgow. The data produced is intended to provide information on mechanisms and causes of stone decay, and to quantify the amount of stone required for repairs.
Part of the project is a ‘stone health–check’ of over 200 buildings and is designed to enable the city to plan a strategy for the future maintenance and repair of the valuable built heritage. Small diameter core samples have been extracted from 100 ‘landmark’ buildings throughout the city in order to identify the most appropriate stone type for repairs. Results from the study are also being used to ensure the training of sufficient stone masons for the future.
Research carried out by BGS in collaboration with Historic Scotland and the Edinburgh World Heritage Trust has examined previous repairs to over 90 buildings in the Edinburgh New Town. This area, part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is an important commercial and residential area within the city. The study shows that the use of inappropriate materials for repairs can result in further damage, and makes recommendations for improved decision–making in the selection of stone for repairs. The work was published in 2004 by Historic Scotland as a Research Report (£20 from Historic Scotland).
Stone matching service
The BGS stone matching service and other building stone–related enquiries are part of the online BGS GeoReport system available through the BGS web site. The Building Stone Assessment GeoReport provides a service for users of stone ranging from repair and conservation of existing buildings to new–build requirement and masonry and stone artifact identification in archaeological projects. One of the most regular requests is stone matching for restoration projects where a sample of the existing masonry is characterised in order to determine the most suitable replacement stone types. Other enquiries concern analysis of stone for construction projects, assessment of a quarry resource and analysis of decay mechanisms. Stone masonry can be sampled from existing buildings using a small–diameter diamond core drill, allowing fresh stone to be obtained with minimal intervention. Most investigations involve detailed petrographic descriptions of the stone in thin section using a petrological microscope. The full BGS laboratory facilities including X–Ray Diffraction, Scanning Electron Microscope and Engineering Laboratory testing are also available on request.
Building stone database
The BGS maintains a database relating to building stone quarrying activity, both active and historic, in the UK (BritPits).
Information on current operators, stone type, product and geological classification together with quarry location are held in the database. Data on building stone is useful for strategic minerals planning and resource assessment, for example in national parks and for county or local authority areas. The information provides baseline data for assessing the potential for future quarrying activity an essential requirement for conservation repair and new build projects.
English Heritage (EH) is working with the British Geological Survey (BGS), local geologists and historic buildings experts from each county in England to undertake the Strategic Stone Study. Funded by English Heritage and DCLG, this will identify the stone used in historic buildings, ranging from castles and cathedrals to houses, walls, roofs, bridges, kerbs, paving etc; and then make this information freely available.
UK Building Stone Resources map
The UK Building Stone Resources map was published in 2001 with the support of English Heritage, Historic Scotland, CADW Welsh Heritage, The Stone Federation and British Stone. It shows the distribution of important quarries that have been involved in the production of building and decorative stone in the UK over the past millennium. The map also shows photographic examples of some of the many different stone buildings in the UK – historic and modern – with a summary of the main building stones used in their construction and any subsequent conservation work. Such attention to detail is increasingly required by planning regulations to be ‘in keeping' with traditional architectural styles and materials. The map is a valuable source of information to professionals concerned with stone and its use – stone producers, conservationists, geologists and architects. It is also of value to teachers and students in secondary and tertiary education. To purchase this map follow this link to the BGS bookshop.
Building and roofing stone downloads on www.mineralsUK.com
The BGS Building and Roofing Stone Mineral Planning Factsheet (March 2005) provides essential, up–to–date background information on Building and Roofing Stones, with particular emphasis on the UK industry. It explains the various components of the industry, provides minerals statistics on trade and consumption for different materials, and summarises the current state of the industry in the UK.
The Building and Roofing Stone Commodity Profile (November 2005) gives further information on definitions, mineralogy, deposits, extraction methods and processing, specification, statistics and the UK industry.
For up–to–date statistics on the production and trade of building and dimension stone see the United Kingdom Minerals Yearbook.
Scottish indigenous building stone
BGS in collaboration with Historic Scotland has contributed the major part of a volume on Scottish indigenous building stone and its use through many centuries. The book offers an index to Scottish stone types, their properties and distribution and describes the influence on the stone–built character of the nation. Case studies on sandstone and slate highlight the present interest on the availability of resources and the potential to revive the industry both for repair and conservation and for new build in the 21st century.
Conserving stone building
BGS has recently undertaken a pilot study aimed at defining a methodology for identifying former building stone quarry sources and assessing their potential for possible future stone production. This field and desk study was carried out jointly with the Building Research Establishment (BRE) and Jefferson Consulting (address: Unit 13/The Crown Business Pk/Station Rd, Old Dalby, Melton Mowbray, LE14 3NQ, Tel: 01664 822309) and was funded by English Heritage (EH) and the ODPM (DCLG). The project involved an assessment of distribution, condition and sources of white sandstone used in the buildings of Shropshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire. These Triassic sandstones, which were the principal source of building stone in these counties, are, like many other vernacular building stones, currently in short supply. This pilot project is part of the development by EH for a national strategy to ensure the future supply of vernacular stone for repair and new build projects.
BGS photographic archive
The BGS maintains a photographic archive of building stone quarries and stone buildings in the UK. The archive can be accessed at GeoScenic
Building stone collection
The BGS, at its Edinburgh and Keyworth offices, maintains a collection of building stone samples from current and historic quarry sources, together with the National Petrographic Thin Section collection which includes a large proportion of UK's historic building stones. The BGS also holds the National Roofing Stone collection at its Keyworth headquarters.