Natural stones are important raw materials required for construction but also for maintenance and repair of historically, archaeologically and culturally important structures to prevent deterioration due to weathering and use. Sometimes severely damaged buildings may require extensive or complete restoration. The choice of stone should be appropriate in physical and aesthetic terms, ideally from the original quarry. Access to reference materials such as manuscripts, publications and collections of samples is often limited. Easier access is needed by researchers, constructors, funding organizations, architects and other stakeholders when planning and commissioning works that require the use of natural stone for new construction or restoration. To be effective on a European scale, national organizations representing different sectors should work together to make important information about natural stones and their quarry source more widely available and promote awareness of the need to maintain adequate supplies of natural stone of suitable quality. NATUREUROSTONES seeks to compile and make available the information on stones and source quarries that remains in currently closed databases at national level, with data on mineralogy, geochemistry, natural radioactivity, physical and mechanical characteristics and also the bibliographic references dealing with individual stones in a harmonized and standardized way to promote the construction and restoration industry sectors, and widening the network of researchers working on this issue. Several attempts have taken place so far aiming this general objective in different contexts, but to the knowledge of the applicants no similar deliverables and/or milestones have been achieved.
As an added value, focused on outreach, this proposal also aims at giving publicity to stone collections that some institutions are maintaining, and to join the collections digitally so the information is shared and for transmission of knowledge.
NATUREUROSTONES will cover the following actions:
1. Development of the appropriate conditions to provide a diffusion service at European level
2. Organization of relevant data input and establishment of relevant EU standards in a way that the knowledge base can be interoperable with national databases and other existing databases produced through European projects. Our databases will incorporate data on natural stones, which are very important raw materials for construction and restoration.
3. Incorporation of expert advise on the use of the natural stones as raw materials, taking into account the existing policy, regulations, and trade issues.
4. NATUREUROSTONES will publish regularly the results through international meetings, special publications and national and international web pages. Reports will be presented at professional meetings and regular contact with stakeholders will be encouraged through the coordinator.
5. The network will collaborate with international groups working on natural stones taking advantage of the already established collaborations through the link of some of the partners with the Heritage Stone Task Group (HSTG), a working group within the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS).
6. The generation of a common database will improve data collection of natural stones at national and regional level in the EU and subsequent access to data.
The main objective of NATUREUROSTONES is to build an inter-disciplinary network to provide a range of information on natural stones as raw materials from different sources, in a harmonized and standardized way, in the form of a Europe-wide database of natural stones - the NATUREUROSTONES Database. This will encourage activities of the natural stone sector in recovering after the economic crisis affecting this sector. Exploration, extraction, processing and recycling, trading, development, skills and education are the different areas that will benefit from this consortium. The goal is to strengthen Europe´s position on the forefront of natural stone research, within the European Union Raw Materials Knowledge Base. The final, specific objective is to develop a database to supply the information to the interested parties in a harmonized and interoperable way.
Natural stones have been used as raw material in construction for centuries. However, even today, in many instances natural stones are not used properly, in either construction or restoration, due to lack of knowledge or lack of access to relevant information concerning the range, character and availability of commercially supplied stones. It is important to know the sources of natural stones available in Europe to select these in preference to those stones imported from non-European countries, which usually are not accompanied by proper information on their nature and even a lack of information on specifications following standards. All the partners involved in this commitment are experts in one or various fields related to stones, producing an interdisciplinary consortium involving academics from the universities (Salamanca in Spain, Torino and Genova in Italy and Coimbra in Portugal); geological surveys (British Geological Survey and Spanish Geological Survey); museums (Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris, France, and the Museo Regionale Di Scienze Naturali in Turin, Italy); laboratories (INTROMAC in Spain, laboratory of natural radioactivity in Portugal, and the Slovenian National Building and Civil Engineering Institute in Slovenia); quarrying-related industries (Minas y Geología in Spain, Pierres et Marbres de Wallonie in Belgium) and a consultant.
The main activity will be to assemble as much of the relevant but currently scattered information as possible from the countries involved, with the idea that the network will widen during the time that the commitment will last. For this reason, the first activity will be to list the databases on natural stones available at national and regional level. Also, we will seek possible ways to fund complete characterization of natural stones that are lacking important information (e.g. through national and European project calls). At present, the IUGS working group HSTG (Heritage Stone Task Group) is working on the compilation of data of important natural stones that have been used for centuries in the construction of the built heritage. This information should be part of the common database.
Another important activity will be to give light to the natural stone collections that are maintained by some institutions. These are important not only for knowledge about the different stones at national and international level, but also as an outreach activity for general public to learn to appreciate the value of individual natural stones. Therefore, a list of collections of natural stones around Europe will be established to give appropriate diffusion, as important complement of the final database.
The evolution of the activities will be reported regularly in the national and international meetings where the partners coordinate sessions frequently or in those specific sessions for construction and building materials, where we will contribute (e.g. IGC 2016, EMC 2016, EGU 2017), publishing our results regularly with the objective of engaging more partners into our project, including European Standardization Bodies.
If funding is available through research budget, a major activity will be to organize a meeting with all the partners involved in the commitment, with the objective of canalizing synergies and elaborate common research proposals to advance in the characterization of stones, increase the information available, and the diffusion of the database for its public use. Otherwise, ICTs will be used to maintain the contact and evolve in the commitment to reach its objectives.
The implementation of this commitment should bring substantial benefits to the European Union Raw Materials Knowledge Base area, and other areas of the Knowledge, skills and raw materials flow priority area, such as Health, Safety and Environment, through the information on e.g. natural radioactivity in natural stones, their quarrying and their use, and Skills, Education and Knowledge, increasing the expertise levels of Europe by making available wide information on natural stones as raw materials for construction and restoration. The availability of all this information will also add to the transparency of EU natural stones for trading, including specific and valuable information to compete with other products lacking such detailed information, increasing therefore the knowledge of EU natural stone for different stakeholders.
Our commitment will be materialized in a most important deliverable: a common standardized database of European natural stones that will contribute to the use of European resources (i.e. natural stones) reducing imports of low quality raw materials and promotion of exports by improving information available as added value of our products. At the same time, it will assist to support any possible European Union initiative to give protected designation of origin status for important types of European stone, contributing towards putting Europe at the forefront in the natural stone sectors by making Europe a leader in the capabilities related to the use of appropriate material both in construction and restoration.
The university of Salamanca (USAL), through its research group “Characterization of Geomaterials” (CHARROCK) will coordinate the action to gather the information on Spanish natural stones but also the stones from around Europe that have been subjects of our research (e.g. through the HSTG). USAL will also seek for funding sources to complement the necessary data on all aspects that can be analyzed either at its own labs or partners´s equipments.