OBERLIN, OHIO, Nov. 24, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Note: This article originally appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of Building Stone Magazine. It was written by Jennifer Adams. Photo appears courtesy of Shands Photographics.
There is a saying among members of the stone and tile industries that "a design is only as good as its installation." If the proper products or methods are not used, it can lead to problems down the road. As a result, industry associations, such as the Marble Institute of America (MIA), are implementing programs to certify installers and fabricators, as a way of recognizing those who are among the best in their respective fields.
MIA launched its accreditation program in the beginning of 2007, after dedicating two years to planning and development. Its purpose was to "provide a tool that allows the natural stone industry to recognize companies demonstrating compliance with quality standards, so that the public values, has access to and benefits from consistent, competent and safe fabrication, installation and maintenance of natural stone."
The concept of industry accreditation was supported in multiple MIA member surveys conducted in 2004, 2005 and 2006. Respondents overwhelmingly indicated they favored such a program, believed there would be an advantage for firms accredited, and were in favor of industry standards for competency and industry accreditation or certification. The "standard" was developed as an industry standard -- not by a third party verified standard.
Accreditation is available to all companies within the natural stone industry, not just MIA members, and is broken down into three categories: "Natural Stone Fabricators," "Commercial A" companies, and "Commercial B" companies. Accredited "Natural Stone Fabricators" are residential-oriented companies that have been in business a minimum of three years, have successfully completed 200 projects in those three years, have 2,000 square feet of dedicated fabrication space and have passed a voluntary or mandatory OSHA facility inspection in the previous year.
Commercial Accreditation is broken into two categories, which are differentiated as prescriptive or "non-engineered" veneer and non-prescriptive or "engineered" veneer as implied by the universal building code (generally regarded as 30 feet high). "Commercial A" companies include firms that handle large-scale commercial stone installations such as skyscrapers, museums or hotel exteriors. These companies will have completed five mechanically anchored cladding installations (engineered) typically over 30 feet high with a minimum of 10,000 square feet each. Companies applying for "Commercial B" accreditation will have completed at least three cladding installations (non-engineered) typically under 30 feet that are at least 2,000 square feet or three commercial building lobbies with a minimum of 3,000 square feet. "Commercial B" companies are firms that handle smaller-scale commercial stone installations, such as hotel lobbies, bank lobbies and low-rise interior/exterior cladding.
The MIA accreditation program recently reached the milestone of 100 accredited locations in North America, and several other companies are nearing completion of the accreditation process. "Credentialing programs have long existed in the design community, and it is significant that the natural stone industry can also now demonstrate a parallel commitment," said Jim Hieb, MIA's Executive Director. "The MIA accreditation milestone of 100 accredited locations means that design professionals are now in close proximity to the very best stone companies who have each demonstrated the highest standards for quality workmanship, safety, financial stability and so much more. With the 100 milestone behind us, MIA will continue to stress the importance for stone companies to become accredited. The end result will be increased quality stone work that the design community can rely on for many years to come. We are delighted with the accomplishment and pleased to showcase the premier companies that work with natural stone."
Reasons for earning accreditation
Those who have gone through the accreditation process feel strongly that it is a benefit to their business. "Back in 2008 when we embarked on the accreditation track, we saw it as a way of differentiating our company from the myriad of fabricators that had sprung up in our market," said Scott Lardner, president of Rocky Mountain Stone Co. Inc. in Albuquerque, NM, as well as past MIA president in 2005 and chairman of the accreditation committee from 2006 to 2010. "We were seeing a number of installations that did not follow or meet industry standards and felt certain that the credentialing program that MIA had created was a perfect way of proving to the market that we were indeed the most professional and committed to high standards company here in New Mexico. It also gave our crews a sense of pride in knowing that their work was comparable to the best stonework in the country. It gave our entire company a chance to revisit the various standards and qualifications necessary to be considered the best of the best."
On the commercial side, Dee Brown, Inc. of Dallas, TX, also realized the value of going through the accreditation process. "As an active member of MIA, Dee Brown, Inc. wanted to fully support the accreditation initiative to improve the processes and competencies of all installers and fabricators," said Rob Barnes, company president and CEO, and 2015 president of the Building Stone Institute (BSI). "As an industry leader for many years, we believe accreditation will help us maintain relevance and that the accredited member will see benefits over time as the program continues to gain strength and legitimacy, including industry adoption."
Brett Rugo, owner of Rugo Stone, LLC in Lorton, VA, shared similar views as Barnes on the subject of accreditation. "Our company served on the board which created the plan, and we believed deeply in the idea that the trade needs to be preserved through an industry recognized standard of excellence," he said. "Since becoming accredited we are safer and more conscious of all our business functions, which create a superior product."
Benefits to the A &D community
The accreditation program was developed with architects and designers in mind. "MIA accredited companies have gone through a very thorough and vigorous vetting process that ensures that they both know and implement the highest standards in stone fabrication and installation," explained Lardner. "Architects and designers can be confident when talking to the principal from an accredited company that the individual knows and understands all aspects of the fabrication business. Natural stone is the ultimate finish, and the one that will be seen as a differentiating component of an architect's final design. It needs to be done right, and when architects or designers specify accredited fabricators they can rest assured that the company providing the work knows what they're doing and that the installation will provide years of trouble-free performance."
Rodney Harvey, principal at Curtain Wall Design and Consulting, Inc., and current MIA accreditation chairman, as well as a member of the BSI, believes architects and designers should consider specifying/using an MIA Accredited company because these members are prequalified to be a sound business operation (financially and otherwise) and technically qualified to perform in accordance with MIA and industry standards regarding stone fabrication and installation. "Using an MIA Accredited company reduces the risk for architects, designers, owners, general contractors, etc.," he said. "MIA Accredited companies and design professionals can work together to ensure that natural stone is represented -- from preconstruction planning to construction documents -- in a manner that is appropriate for the material and consistent with MIA and industry standards for installation."
According to Barnes, architects and designers should find that accredited companies are extremely competent; and are held to a higher level of accountability than a non-accredited company. "Competency and accountability of the accredited companies should provide the design team with a comfort level that the installer or fabricator will perform their work to the highest standards of quality and best practices for the benefit of their clients," he said.
If architects and designers join forces with an accredited stone fabricator or installer, it would benefit all those involved and make for a successful project. "Most design firms that have been around for a while learn pretty quickly who the qualified contractors and subcontractors are in any given market," said Lardner. "They've experienced how difficult it can be to work with suppliers and subcontractors who do not respect the specification process and who throw prices at projects and then use the specs to justify change orders or changes in materials and processes. Like any licensure or credentialing program that was designed to establish standards for any trade, the MIA accreditation program provides and insures that companies who have attained accreditation are indeed qualified to provide work that meets the industry's standards. By simply specifying accredited companies to do the work, they will eliminate lots of headache and liability involved with getting the job done right."
In order to spread the word about the existence and benefits of working with an accredited fabricator or installer, marketing is a key component. "We are designing the MIA Accreditation seal onto our truck wraps and all social media sites, including our website," explained Barnes. "It is posted in our stone fabrication facility, and we will be undertaking an email campaign hopefully between now and the end of the year."
Rocky Mountain Stone also proudly promotes its accreditation. "The MIA accreditation program is front and center in all of our marketing and educational efforts," said Lardner. "The showroom has MIA's accreditation brochures, our value proposition has the accreditation program highlighted with an explanation of the merits of the program and all of our marketing materials have the accreditation logo -- from business cards to print ads -- in place. The accreditation program is explained in depth during every CEU presentation, as well as in our sales presentations to retail, contractor and designer/architectural customers. We discuss the standards that we work to and have those included in our programs across the board. As the program has expanded and most markets now have multiple companies who have attained accreditation, the push to have architects and designers specify accredited companies will increasingly become more acceptable and will not create a sole source issue that designers and architects typically want to avoid."
According to Hieb, 2015 included several program enhancements such as more immersion classes, work with the design community to reference MIA Accreditation in design specifications, and continued work on creating an accreditation program for the care and maintenance segment of the industry. "The growth of the program is largely attributed to an improving economy and launch of the popular accreditation program immersion classes," he said.
A full list of MIA Accredited companies can be found at www.marble-institute.com/accreditation.
A photo accompanying this release is available at:
Source:The Marble Institute