A concrete renaissance

Concrete Contractor Editor's Letter

I'm a big believer in timing - waiting for the exact moment to strike, without jumping the gun or procrastinating and missing an opportunity; being open minded and making yourself available to take advantage of a moment when it's there; and simply being in the right place at the right time and acknowledging your luck.

Despite a down residential market and uncertainty in the nation's economy, I look around and see what's happening in the concrete market and I can't help but think that concrete contractors have timing on their side. Concrete's expansion into a number of markets and decorative concrete's popularity make me believe that when the market bounces back, we'll find ourselves in the midst of a concrete renaissance. As owners, architects and designers fully realize concrete's potential, the building industry will look to concrete more and more; something that seems to be happening already.

A recent study by the Portland Cement Association (PCA) surveyed homebuilders on their awareness and use of concrete above-grade wall systems. According to the results, 13.8 percent of builders used a concrete above-grade wall system in 2007, up 60 percent from the last survey in 2003.

Across the industry we're seeing the growing popularity of the green building movement, in which concrete can play a major part with its recyclability, use of recycled and local materials, ability to lower the heat island effect, potential for energy efficiency and opportunities with pervious concrete. As more states, cities and municipalities look to "green" structures to save money and the environment, more architects and designers will look to concrete for their building needs.

Another market where we're seeing concrete pick up some steam is in the paving and whitetopping industry. The National Ready Mixed Concrete Association's (NRMCA) Concrete Industry Parking Lot Working Group has a plan to increase concrete's market share in parking lots from 9.1 percent in 2005 to 15.1 percent by 2010. Promotional materials and help from several industry groups have already helped many concrete contractors make headway in this market.

And then there is the broad range of options decorative concrete offers owners and designers for flooring, driveways, countertops, architectural elements and just about anything else that can be imagined. Concrete is a product that can be molded, colored, embellished and polished in a countless number of ways to offer uniqueness, stability and longevity. We've seen its popularity take off in recent years as it increasingly shows up as a topic on home and garden TV shows and in home and building magazines. Each year manufacturers and contractors continue to develop new products and techniques to offer more options.

Concrete's popularity across the construction industry has arrived - the timing is right. Recognize those opportunities, maximize your company's potential to take advantage of these markets and start selling some concrete!