Marshalls has been supplying superior natural stone and innovative concrete products to the construction, home improvement and landscape markets since the 1890s, including prestigious landmarks such as Trafalgar Square. Phil Storey, National Specification Manager, explains how important working closely with architects, designers and specifiers is to the success of the company.
Q: How does Marshalls work with architects and specifiers to identify the best hard landscaping solutions?
A: There are a number of key aspects to the way we work, not least the fact we strive to create early engagement with the specification process. We will regularly be working on projects that are not scheduled for completion for five years, or even further down the line. The other critically important aspect is to fully understand the needs and aspirations of the design team from the outset, what the technical considerations for the project might be and also looking at the cost parameters. There is little point in recommending a paving system if it does not fulfil any of these key considerations.
By working closely with architects, designers and specifiers from the earliest stage, the hard landscaping features of a project is correctly recognised as equally important as other aspects. The landscaping of a project is very much the front of house for a development, it is often the first encounter people will have with a building and so getting it right is very important. The private sector recognises this and increasingly the public sector has become aware of the need for high-quality, multi-functional spaces and landscaping that not only look appealing but which are also going to stand the test of time. By engaging early with the project teams we can get this right from the start.
Q: Marshalls has an extensive product portfolio; how has this been developed and does the customer have a say?
A: Our range is characterised by products that meet aesthetic requirements, others which are purely functional and some which are a direct result of legislation or regulations and meet specific needs, or a combination of all of these. Our programme of new product development is at the heart of what Marshalls does, we invest considerably in identifying new opportunities and bringing the right systems and solutions to market. A significant part of this product development process is direct input from the people we work with – designers, specifiers and contractors. We need to understand what the industry requires and the reasons why particular products and systems are desirable. Our internal communication channels are a key part of this, but our technical team also liaises very closely with the industry as a whole in the early development process, right through our rigorous testing procedures and through to product launch. We also work to understand how a product performs once it has been installed and how it can be improved or enhanced.
Q: What technical services does Marshalls provide to help the specification process?
A: Marshalls prides itself on its technical expertise and we like to promote our capabilities. Marshalls offers a huge range of technical services and solutions; it is a true 360-degree offering as we like to look at every project we work on from the very start to finish. We have internal and external engineering design teams who provide key technical advice and knowledge.
Marshalls technical know-how stretches from detailed SUDs specification for sustainable drainage schemes, water management systems, CAD drawings, 3D representations of developments, CPD seminars and we are also fully BIM compliant. We have become the first hard landscaping manufacturer to achieve the BSI Kitemark for Building Information Modelling objects.
A lot of our work is warranted too, so we put our name to everything we do as we have confidence in the product itself and in our technical abilities to find answers to any problems, issues or challenges that might arise with a particular project.
Q: How does Marshalls meet sustainable and ethical expectations which are becoming increasingly important in hard landscaping?
A: Responsible sourcing of raw materials is something Marshalls is acutely aware of and the company has been at the forefront of campaigns to improve the industry’s reputation. For example, we look to work with regional manufacturers for our aggregates to help reduce our carbon footprint when transporting the material to our own facilities. We have also worked hard to identify natural stone suppliers in Portugal, India and China who meet our responsible sourcing requirements and we keep a close check on each supplier’s production processes.
It is important to have these responsible sourcing and sustainability guidelines as a growing number of projects are imposing strict requirements. So, for a project that is being developed along clear environmental guidelines, we are more likely to recommend natural stone supplied from Portugal which will help reduce the carbon footprint. Or, if a project has a longer lead time and the environmental considerations are not so acute, we might recommend a natural stone from China. We work to understand the requirements of each project so we can then supply the right products. Also, although landscaping does not provide as many BREEAM credits as other aspects of a project, it is very important that we meet the requirements of the wider development.
Q: What are the future trends the company has identified?
A: External spaces, both for private and public sector developments, are increasingly being regarded as multi-functional spaces. So, we need to be aware of the various requirements of each project, whether it be the paving which is aesthetically pleasing but also durable enough to cope with a mix of pedestrian and vehicular traffic, or the street furniture which needs to double up as additional security measures. It is an indication of the times we live in that security products in landscaping situations have become more important, but equally significant is recognising that as a country we are not used to highly visible safety and security measures. There is an argument that you should make security systems and products as visible as possible to act as a deterrent. However, we are seeing more projects looking to install security measures in a more sympathetic way – for example with pieces of street furniture that look decorative but also provide an effective security function.
We are also seeing a blurring of the lines between soft landscaping and hard landscaping, such as products that divert rainwater away from pedestrian areas to planters or planted and grassed areas. Marshalls has recently developed a pedestal system for use with roof gardens and terraces as we are seeing an increase in demand for quality paving systems for these developments. Such trends are seeing an increase in the development of complimentary and adaptable products that designers and specifiers can use to fulfil whatever requirement they want.
There is a growing awareness of the impact the industry has on the built environment, not just in the short-term but into the future as well. Recycling is an important issue, but it is also a difficult and challenging one when you consider the materials we use. However, Marshalls is continually striving to improve the way we operate and increase our recycling.
We also know our products will be expected to remain in place for 10 years or longer and still look good and function properly throughout that time. This is why our early engagement in the specification process is so vital as we can then guarantee that the right product is specified for the right project.