Interview – Paulo F. Giafarov: “Natural Stone has an amazingly positive image among architects”

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Paulo Giafarov

Chemical engineer and Technician in buildings. Founder of THE DGG ASSESSORIA, a stone consultancy company in 1985. He has wide experience in projects and dealing with architects in Brazil and around the world since 1978.


Question. As someone who collaborates closely with architects working in projects in the US and the Gulf countries on issues of natural stone, what is, in your opinion, the image of natural stone as a building material among them?

Answer. Natural stone has an amazingly positive image. Architects love to use it because natural stone is considered to be noble, durable and also something unique. For them the use of natural stone gives to the project a certain refinement that no other material is able to give.


Q. What are the typical questions you get asked by the architects?

A. The main questions involve availability of the stone, consistency in colour and pattern of the material, and where it can be applied (interior and/or exterior, flooring and/or walls and/or facades). Questions about technical data are also very frequent. Some architects are even concerned about mineralogical issues like the presence of iron in the rock composition.


Q. Do you need to convince architects to use natural stone or, by the time you come into the picture, the architects have already made the decision to use natural stone in their project?

A. I do not convince them. However, I try to lead them to understand and to use a natural product. I just let them know all about the qualities of the natural stone like beauty, durability, variety and nobility. I always mention that natural stone production is a very eco-friendly process when compared to other products. In most cases I succeed and the specifications change to natural stone.


Q. In recent years is there a tendency among architects to use more or less of natural stone?

A. Unfortunately, the use of natural stone has been decreasing during last few years and this tendency is still strong.


Q. Do you observe a different preference among architects of a younger generation compared to the older generation with regard to use of natural stone?

A. The older generation of architects is used to specifying and using natural stone. But now due to the easy access of information about new products the younger generation of architects have the possibility to know, to learn and to see new possibilities for their natural projects. Some companies that produce artificial products give very strong technical support to the architects during the specification phase and conceptual design.


Q. In your experience, what are the biggest doubts the architects have when specifying natural stone?

A. Normally they do not have much information about natural stone. Most of the doubts that I have to address are regarding the guarantee of supply on time at the site since the time between specification and purchase of stone in major projects can take one or two years. They also fear that that during this time period the stone can change in tonality and/or pattern. They still have concerns regarding durability and maintenance.


Q. How important is the price factor in making a decision of which stone to use?

A. Price always matters. However, depending on how important and prestigious the project is, price will not be the decision factor. For these kind of projects other issues like architect specification, colour palate of the project, uniqueness of stones, etc. count very much. For small projects the price is surely a factor in the decision.


Q. Now that there are new artificial and other materials in the market competing with natural stone, are the architects beginning to look at natural stone in a different way?

A. I would say that they look at non natural products in a different way. Some years ago the non natural materials were unknown in the market. But now the architects can easily do research on the Internet and many options pop up on the screen. Moreover, these new materials are presented in many trade shows around the world and the companies also do massive marketing in the media suggesting their uses.


Q. When it comes to identifying suppliers for natural stone, what are the most important criteria for you?

A. When selecting a supplier some points that have to be considered are- tradition, credibility and past experience in getting projects done. I consider the intersection of three skills as the most important factors- Quality, Delivery Time, and Price. The combination of the three is a decision point.


Q. In your opinion has the natural stone industry made enough efforts to reinforce its traditional image of a premium building material? Is that image under threat?

A. No and no. In my opinion the stone industry was used to selling their products without making many efforts. The stones sold by themselves because there were few materials available and stone was always considered a top premium building material. Now the situation is different. There are many other choices for the architects. I do not see the image of natural stone as being under threat. The architects know that is one of the most premium building materials. What I do see is that consumption of natural stone is under threat because the companies do not promote the use of natural stone as they should do. There is lack of promotional and commercial campaign in the natural stone sector.


Q. What would you recommend to a stone industry professional who wants to promote his stones among architects? The general feeling is it is really hard to reach them, and many have a reputation of being closed minded.

A. First of all, I have been in contact with many architects all over the world and have to say they are not closed minded. They do not have too much time for non productive meetings. They are, nevertheless, willing to try out new stones, new finishes and new technologies of the stone industry. The promotion of natural stone starts with educating the stone industry in how to promote the use of natural stones. Massive distribution of technical information through websites, articles in digital magazines, classes for students, samples distribution, catalogues, specific blogs directed towards use of natural stone- these are some ways of promoting the use of natural stone. It is a pity that very few companies in the stone sector believe in and are investing money in an organised and professional marketing and educational campaign.