We must address the two questions as they affect the choice of materials for public space use. Environmentally‚ what are the relevant points concerning the choice of material? Ethically‚ how should we view the moral issues of importing from developing countries?
In order to provide a street surface acceptable for use‚ we have no option but to use some of the earth’s resources. We do have a duty to reduce that usage in all circumstances‚ but particularly so if the raw materials are limited. Consideration has to be over the whole aspect of raw material use including the fossil fuel energy used in manufacturing and transport.
The calculations that could be done to demonstrate in a particular situation that one solution is better than another are potentially extensive‚ but the principles are relatively simple and one can draw conclusions of a general nature from an understanding of the logic involved.
The paved environment is the most severe test of any material‚ technically more demanding than that for a building stone. Not only does it have to remain looking good and deal with the vagaries of weather‚ freezing and thawing‚ wind and rain‚ but it has to withstand the wear and tear from many feet and/or vehicular traffic. The pavement alone has to bear stiletto heels‚ skaters‚ skateboarders and the general use and abuse from delivery vehicles and others who may drive on it. In some circumstances‚ the surface must also resist oil from vehicles and fat from fast food shops. The choice of material is not just dependent upon the appearance‚ but also which of these quality attributes are the most important.
To assess the optimum solution‚ we need to assess the matter over the lifetime of the project or‚ if the use of the space will outlast the longest-lasting materials‚ over the life of the longest-lasting material. We have to choose the solution that will both stay looking good and remain technically competent throughout this period.
Many man-made products have a relatively finite life from a technical viewpoint and an even shorter one from an aesthetic viewpoint.
Natural stone of a competent type will last for an immense length of time providing it is competently designed and laid. Furthermore‚ it has a fortunate tendency to improve in appearance with use and time.
It would not be unreasonable to suggest that many town centre improvements with man-made products look so down-at-heel after 10-15 years that replacement cannot be avoided.
There are many examples of granite setts and kerbs and York‚ Caithness or Pennant flags in Britain that look better now than when new 100 or more years ago and which will continue to do so almost indefinitely.
If the intention is to design a permanent paving/streetscape‚ then it is quite reasonable to assume that in the life of the stone‚ the man-made products will need replacing five times. Furthermore‚ it is then necessary‚ to undertake a lot of work beyond just the re-supply of the materials.
All concrete‚ tarmac and clay products come from the earth. They also use major amounts of fossil fuel energy in their manufacture. Stone may use some energy when sawn‚ but none if hand-worked.
Generally‚ the most economical stone paving comes from far afield but the large distances are covered by sea. The use of energy in shipping is tiny compared with road or rail transport and it is why international trade is possible. It has been so from time immemorial and remains the same today. The energy consumption for sea transport is insignificant compared to the other energy considerations and can be ignored. It is intelligent to use the most suitable stone and to utilise the most efficient means of transport to place that stone where it can be most effectively utilised. Such a course of action represents the most efficient use of the Earth’s resources in every respect.
Without any doubt‚ the natural stone under consideration will utilise considerably less fossil fuel energy and less volume dug from the Earth than the equivalent manufactured products. Stone will‚ however‚ typically last five times as long so uses less than 20% of the earth’s resources to achieve the same end. It is in paving the streetscape that this issue is most important for it is here that the relative virtues of stone are most obvious. All those with the aim of achieving sustainability should use it whenever possible. The world is not covered with stone of ideal formation for easy cutting‚ though there is plenty of it in certain places. It should‚ however‚ be used for paving even over and above any other application‚ as this is where the greatest savings in the use of the earth’s resources can be made.
Ethical trade means that retailers‚ merchants and their suppliers take responsibility for ensuring that working conditions are provided to an acceptable level‚ as well as‚ when necessary improving these conditions for the people who make the products they sell. In our case these workers are employed by supplier companies around the world‚ many of them based in poorer countries where laws designed to protect workers’ are not always adhered too.
We insist that any supplier that we deal with is able to legitimately sign up to the Ethical Base code in full. This base code has been drawn up by The Ethical Trading Initiative. Some of the main criteria of the Ethical Base Code are as follows:
To find out more about the work of the Ethical Trading Initiative and to view a copy of the Base Code please visit www.ethicaltrade.org
CED LTD and all our staff take the need to trade ethically and in a fair and responsible manner very seriously
Our suppliers’ performance and code of conduct impacts massively on our reputation; they form an integral part of our business and most have worked with us for many years. There is a mutual trust and understanding in the way that we work together. Over the years we have helped to improve the conditions and abilities of our suppliers. If there is anything noticeable that we think can be improved we try and help find the solution.
Our pricing policy has always been one of giving a "fair price" to our customers. We do not have a policy of always buying goods at the cheapest possible price‚ as this would be counter productive both with regards to quality and ethical fairness. We encourage our suppliers to ensure they are making a reasonable profit which in turn will benefit their workers. Sometimes this means that we are not the cheapest company tendering for material supply and this can lead to a loss of business. However‚ we believe that this is the correct way to trade.
Several of the key projects we have supplied have required CED to take clients to China to visit our suppliers. As well as quality checks on materials it is also to allow them to see that the conditions are acceptable and that ethical requirements are being met.
We have the responsibility here at CED to ensure that we conduct ourselves properly and always consider ethical issues when dealing with and purchasing from our suppliers. We treat our suppliers as we would wish to be treated. We have travelled to see many of the organisations where the work forces are clearly very happy‚ treated fairly and work effectively and in recent years there have been clear visible improvements‚ some dramatic‚ in both infrastructure and working conditions.
The best possible way to assist those developing peoples in their lives is to provide them with export opportunities on every practical occasion. Natural stone provides that opportunity.
Considered over the life of the project‚ natural stone will use far less of the earth’s resources than a comparable manufactured product. Public paving is the area where this is the most extreme situation and where stone should be used as a first priority.