Getting to know the BSI

December 1, 2005
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Through publications, study tours, seminars, architectural awards, meetings and conventions, Building Stone Institute (BSI) has met several objectives: promoting the use of natural stone; educating designers and masons and the clients they serve; and providing an environment for members to share ideas and profit from the experiences of other members and to form lasting friendships.

For over 85 years, Building Stone Institute has worked on behalf of the quarriers, fabricators, dealers, importers, exporters, carvers, restorers, designers and installers that comprise its membership. The organization takes a multi-faceted approach to achieving its goals: educating the architectural and design communities to ensure that they are well-versed on all applications of natural stone; publishing magazines and brochures to exhibit projects in natural stone; developing and supporting programs and resources that enable member companies to offer the highest level of quality products and services to their customers; and providing the arena for members to enjoy the camaraderie of working and socializing with others in the same business, those who share common problems and common goals.

Education: Seminars and Study Tours

The variety of stone available in today's market is infinite, and each type of stone has different properties. Architects and designers must consider these properties when they choose stone for a project and then be specific when they delineate installation. Unfortunately, if designers were to seek advice in choosing stone from three different people in the business, they might come away with three different answers. Adding to the confusion, all of these answers may be correct to a degree.

Ordering stone for a project can also seem difficult at first. Shop drawings, fabrication, delivery and installation are important components of the process; until a designer has gained experience, the procedure may appear overwhelming. For example, the shop drawings needed to determine timeframe, and price may reveal problems with the design. Thus, plans may have to be altered slightly to accommodate these unforeseen problems. The delivery of stone to a jobsite - along with its shop drawings and setting instructions - is another step that becomes smooth and uncomplicated through education and experience.

The Building Stone Institute is attempting to address these concerns and more through its education programs. “We need to increase the awareness and comfort level of young architects and designers who have had little experience using stone,” said Joe Dellacroce, past BSI president and now chairman of the Education Committee. “And we should also be able to explain and eliminate any previous adverse experience they may have had.

Just take limestone, for example. Certain limestone types may require special treatment in certain applications. As a case in point, some limestone, when used at or below grade, should be damped-proofed to prevent major staining.

“Another example is stone chipping on a jobsite,” Dellacroce continued. “Chips, while not common, can occur; proper handling will effectively reduce or even eliminate this problem. If chipping does occur, knowledge of proper techniques to repair a chip with no consequence to appearance or strength will avoid any delays that might be experienced while waiting for replacement stones. These and other problems can be overcome with proper education.”

The BSI's answer to issues such as this is the Designer Education Series, day-long seminars hosted by well-versed professionals that focus on one specific type of stone. Covering topics from the quarry to the final seal, the seminars give a comprehensive understanding of the properties of the stone and also engender a close collaboration between the designer and stone professionals. The series will take to the road in 2006, holding seminars in several cities across the country.

The Education Committee also organizes annual study tours for BSI membership. These tours afford the opportunity to visit other member firms and learn, first-hand, how they operate, giving members new ideas to implement in their own business.

Publications

Building Stone Magazine
A quarterly publication of the BSI, Building Stone Magazine focuses on the interests of the architectural and design communities. According to John Mattke, chairman of the Editorial Committee, “The purpose of Building Stone Magazine is to inform and educate readers about the virtues of the many types and applications of natural stone. The primary audience includes the architectural and design community, architectural and design schools, universities and others associated with design and construction. In all respects, the publication communicates a consistent message of design and construction excellence, permanence and credibility for the natural stone industry.”

Analogous to the seminars and study tours, education is a major goal of the magazine. It provides information on available products and instills innovative ideas on the use of these products. Teaching architects and designers how to specify stone for different applications is one of the primary objectives of the magazine as it continues to expand and develop. “In order to help them realize their creative vision, we must teach architects and designers to understand a project through the eyes of stone engineers and stone setters,” Mattke said.

The magazine will continue to improve its focus on great projects and have a healthy collection of photography, an important component because stone is a visual product.

Showroom Brochures
When a customer enters a stone showroom, they are commonly looking for kitchens and baths, patios and walks, fireplaces and chimneys. BSI publishes eye-catching, four-page, full-color brochures for members to display in their retail space to guide the customer through the design, selection and installation process of these familiar applications. But the possibilities for the use of natural stone in residential applications are much more extensive. To encourage customers to consider these options, the series covers many more subjects. Covering areas such as rock gardens, garden ponds, natural landscaping and retaining walls, the list of topics continues to expand.

Buyer's Guide and Stone Information Manual
An annual publication of BSI, the Buyer's Guide is a directory for all aspects of the stone industry. Quarriers, fabricators, distributors, installers, importers, exporters, restorers, carvers, consultants and industry associations are listed in this publication, along with company descriptions and complete contact information. An insert to the Buyer's Guide, the Stone Information Manual, contains comprehensive technical information on various types of stone. Both resources are available online at the BSI Web site.

Who's Who in the Stone Business
An alphabetical directory of firms and individuals in the stone business, this annual publication also includes professional members of the BSI, technical consultants and firms that manufacture and supply the natural stone industry.

Monthly Newsletter
The membership newsletter focuses on features of interest to members. Articles include industry news, a calendar of events such as shows and meetings, interviews with prominent members and personal updates.

Books
“Recommended Practices for the Use of Natural Stone in Construction,” currently in its third edition, provides “basic guidelines for the architect, engineer, stone contractor, stone fabricator, anchoring device fabricator and others associated with the stone industry for the safe and economical use of building stone.” Written by the late Alex S. Gere, a mining engineer who worked in design, estimating and erecting stone projects, this book is a comprehensive guide to the selection and installation of natural stone.

Tucker Architectural Awards and the James Daniel Bybee Prize

Recognized as one of the most prestigious architectural design awards in the country, the bi-annual Tucker Awards honor those who have achieved design excellence in incorporating the use of natural stone. The scope of the awards includes every use of natural stone. To review the hundreds of submissions and make the final selection of recipients, a panel of impartial judges is drawn from members of the architectural community.

Named for the late James Daniel Bybee, the Bybee Prize honors an individual architect for a body of work executed over time and distinguished by outstanding design incorporating the use of natural stone. Past recipients include Malcolm Holzman, M. Paul Friedberg and Cesar Pelli.

Annual conventions

With locales ranging from San Antonio to San Juan to San Diego, the BSI annual convention offers an opportunity to learn from others in the same business, to socialize with friends and to enjoy the sights and spice of each new destination.

Working sessions are just that, with topics selected by the entire membership and presentations by member firms, so members learn first hand how similar companies solve problems. But the convention is more than just work; it's the venue to renew old acquaintances and form new ones. The schedule includes side trips, tours, social gatherings and even free time to relax, when members can visit a spa, play a round of golf or enjoy dinner with friends. Most importantly, they learn by sharing experiences with other members.

Long-range plan

The BSI is developing a strategic plan that will determine its future as an organization, a plan that will give direction to the staff and to future Boards of Directors. Laying the foundation for the next decades, establishing goals and organizing the structure needed to attain those goals is the work of the Long Range Planning Committee, but all members have been invited to participate in the setting of these objectives.

The organization

BSI was founded in 1919 as an organization for quarriers, but over the years expanded to include representatives of every segment of the natural stone business - including retailers, masons and architects. It now counts over 350 members.

A governing board elected by the membership reflects the association it serves. The current board, composed of 16 members, includes 13 representatives of the building stone industry, one from the equipment manufacturing industry and two architects. The architects, who serve two-year terms, and the representatives of the equipment manufacturing industry, who serve three years, are non-voting members. All other members are elected for three-year terms. Officers, serving one year, are the Immediate Past President (currently a mason contractor), President (at this time a quarry owner), Vice President, Treasurer and Secretary. The board employs an Executive Vice President responsible for the day-to-day operations of running the organization.

The membership is governed by a Code of Ethics, which charges each to maintain the highest possible standards of business and craftsmanship and to give freely of their time and knowledge to architects, engineers, builders, contractors and the public whenever information and help are needed concerning the use, availability, installation, cost or delivery of natural stone.

The Building Stone Institute is defined as “a not-for-profit trade association dedicated to serving its member firms while at the same time educating the consumers on the uses and benefits of natural stone,” but this doesn't begin to convey its energy or enthusiasm. “As president, I am so excited about the BSI. We have so much happening this year,” said current BSI President Brenda Edwards. “We've completely re-branded the BSI with new graphics. For the first time in our long history, we have an editorial committee working on magazine issues. The education programs have gotten off to a good start with 122 attending our first seminar.”

Edwards also spoke about the collaboration of associations throughout the stone industry. “BSI is now working with other organizations and serving on their boards,” she said. “We've re-vamped the By-Laws, and we're holding Long Range Planning Sessions. The annual convention in Puerto Rico was terrific, and we're looking forward to a great Study Tour in Salt Lake City. I believe the BSI is moving in the right direction for the first time in quite a long time. It's exciting to be a part of that direction.”

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