Build with Strength, a coalition of the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association (NRMCA), hosted a roundtable discussion last week to address safety standard and building code improvements in Philadelphia in order to keep residents and first responders safe.
The event was part of the organization's ongoing campaign to educate citizens, local and state officials, and industry experts about the potential dangers of wood-framed construction, particularly in multi-story, residential and commercial buildings.
Taking part in the discussion was State Rep. Joe Hohenstein; Wayne Miller, assistant business manager of the Philadelphia Building Trades Council; and Mark Wildsmith, vice president of Mid-Atlantic District Council of Plasterers & Cement Masons and NRMCA.
“What I’ve found is that we have to focus on building structures that are going to withstand the elements long term,” says Rep. Hohenstein, a vocal proponent for the coalition. “The problem is when construction is so fast, is so rushed, and you don’t have skilled labor and you’re not using materials that can last 100 years. They’ll basically last maybe five or 10.”
Miller, who is also the assistant business manager of Sprinkler Fitters Local 692 and a member of Build with Strength, voiced support for the use of concrete and NFPA13 sprinkler systems to address the state representative's concerns.
"[These materials] are about as safe as you can get, period,” he says. “Especially when we look at new construction, it is very important when you tear something down that you build it back up with concrete. It’s good for everyone: it’s good for the people living there, and it’s good for the city of Philadelphia.”
“Fire safety, strength of materials and quality of the contractors—that’s what makes the difference,” adds Wildsmith. "People live in these buildings, they have families, they have kids. They’re living on the third floor of a stick-built; it’s crazy to me.”
Additional organized labor groups counted among Build with Strength Philadelphia’s coalition members include the Philadelphia Building Trades Council, International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1291, Philadelphia Jewish Labor Committee, Philadelphia Metal Trades Council, Iron Workers Local Union 405, Cement Masons Local Union 592, Bricklayers & Allied Crafts Local Union 1, Teamsters Local 830, Heat & Frost Insulators & Allied Workers Local Union 14 and Sheet Metal Workers Local Union 19.