On April 12, 2013, TexaStone Quarries hosted students from Texas Tech University and members of the West Texas Chapter of AIA. This event was part of the Building Stone Institute (BSI) Designer Education Series, featuring four AIA Continuing Education Units. The event also drew stone companies from Colorado, Idaho and Indiana.

The event was a blend of classroom instruction, coupled with the opportunity to see fabrication and quarrying facilities and hands-on installation demonstrations. TexaStone Quarries’ Owner, Brenda Edwards, summed up the motivation for hosting the event when she said, “Our stone company is not unique in that we find design professionals with little knowledge about natural stone. The net result is that competing products are being sourced, but educational events like this one can make the difference and open the eyes of design professionals to the use of stone.”

“If we can introduce natural stone to design students before they land their first full-time job, then the likelihood of stone being sourced increases dramatically,” added Jane Bennett, BSI’s Executive Vice President.

Edwards was especially excited to have students from Texas Tech attend the event. Christian Pongratz, Professor of Architecture for Texas Tech’s Digital Design and Fabrication Program, brought over 20 students to join the members of the AIA West Texas Chapter. Stone professionals will recognize the “Pongratz” name, as he is an accomplished architect from Italy, as well as a member of the Marble Institute of America’s judging panel for the Pinnacle Awards program.

In addition to presentations on both quarrying and fabrication, industry veteran Fred Jackson of The Estudio Group was on hand to provide a presentation on basic stone care. Meanwhile, Mike Blackburn and his team from DMG Masonry of Arlington, TX, provided hands-on demonstrations of stone installation.

The value of education

Shane Danley of Parkhill Smith & Cooper highlighted the value of educating students about natural stone. As a student at Texas Tech University, he was in many of Pongrantz’s classes, attended study tours and even traveled to Italy to learn more about natural stone. Throughout his days at Texas Tech, he gained a passion for natural stone that has continued beyond graduation. As a registered architect and member of the AIA West Texas Chapter, he now looks to include natural stone in his projects. By attending the TexaStone Quarries’ Stone Extravaganza, he was able to further illustrate to his employer that natural stone is an easy product to use when you have the proper education about material selection, installation and care and maintenance.

Indiana Limestone Co.’s Tevin Norman attended the event to see first-hand how this event might be duplicated at the company’s quarries in Indiana. Greg Osterhout of Northern Stone Supply also used the event as an opportunity to learn how he can provide similar events in Idaho, as well as to see “best practices” at another quarry that he could take back to his company. BSI president Bernard Buster, Lyons Sandstone, echoed the point that as an industry, every stone company has an opportunity to educate and host similar events in their marketplace.

The MIA’s Jim Hieb attended the event to support Edwards, who is not only a past BSI President and two-time recipient of the BSI “Person of the Year” award, but also serves on the MIA Board of Directors. “It doesn’t matter which stone association is hosting the event, if there is an opportunity for a stone company to get behind designer education, take it,” Hieb said. “The entire industry benefits.”

For more information about the BSI designer education series, visit www.buildingstoneinstitute.org.