The 2021 president of the Natural Stone Institute (NSI) sees the moment favorable to reach even internationally standardized datasheets for marble, granite etc
Michael Picco is the 2021 president of the Natural Stone Institute (NSI). He graduated from McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, CA, with a degree in Civil Engineering and soon after graduating recognized there was a gap between what creative architects were designing with stone and the services needed to fulfill their ambitions. In 1992, he founded PICCO Engineering in Toronto, well-known for special façade projects. Peter Becker from Stone-Ideas.com spoke with him about the actual demand for natural stone in North America and the markets in general.
Stone-Ideas.com: How is the demand for natural stone in North America, at the moment?
Michael Picco: From the residential market perspective, we saw an increasing demand for stone in 2020, and this seems to be continuing this year. Due to Covid, people spent their money on upgrading their homes, not on traveling or on culture. My wife and I also upgraded our kitchen with a beautiful quartzite. On the commercial and institutional side, there was a little more uncertainty and a hold put on many projects in 2020. But at the moment, they seem to be coming back.
Stone-Ideas.com: All in all, the stone sector is under intense pressure from its competitors, mainly the large format ceramics and the artificial stones. What should be done?
Michael Picco: From the aesthetic point of view, large format porcelain and sintered stone is doing a great job in marketing their products. So I believe the natural stone industry has to focus on the natural aspects of stone: its unrivaled carbon footprint, longevity, 100% naturalness etc. We have to better convey that message to the architects and the interior design community.
Stone-Ideas.com: Hasn’t this been done before?
Michael Picco: In terms of communication, there has been an effort to communicate the benefits of natural stone, but I believe we have to back it with data, e.g., Environmental Product Declarations* and Life-Cycle-Assessments**. Many of the competitors already have created datasheets for their materials. I believe that the stone sector should take this on as a global initiative.
Stone-Ideas.com: As a global initiative?
Michael Picco: Stone is Stone regardless of where it comes from, and although there are different types of stone, quarrying and processing, in essence, is very similar around the globe. So: Environmental Product Declarations can easily be done across borders – such standards would make it easy for the architect to use stone from anywhere in the world and compare similar benefits to reach green certification for a building. Factors such as transportation may have a specific impact depending on quarry location in relation to the project. Developing these standards globally will have a benefit for the industry as a whole.
Stone-Ideas.com: Hm, that is a surprising vision.
Michael Picco: At the moment, the situation is favorable for the stone industry with the International Standards Organisation ISO creating standards for stone. I am very proud to state that the Natural Stone Institute is playing a leading role in this global effort for our industry.
* Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) is defined by the International Standards Organisation as a compilation of data about the energy and resources needed to create a product, to process and transport it to the consumer, and finally to dispose of it. It aims to enable a scientific (not emotional) comparison of products that have the same function.
** Life-Cycle-Assessments (LCA) analyze the resources taken from or the emissions released to the environment during a product’s creation, usage, and disposal (or recycling and re-use, respectively). “From the cradle to the grave“ or “From the cradle to the cradle“, respectively, is the slogan to describe the comprehensive approach of an LCA. LCAs are used as tools to create an EPD.