House Holds Hearing on Corps Water Resource Development Reports

capiitol-photo-framedThe House Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment held a hearing on February 24, titled “A Review of United States Army Corps of Engineers Reports to Congress on Future Water Resources Development and Chief’s Reports.” The hearing provided an opportunity for members of Congress to review the 24 pending Chief of Engineers Reports, or “Chief’s Reports.” Since the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) of 2014 was enacted, this is the process the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) undertakes when developing projects throughout the United States.

The following five criteria were discussed under which proposals would be evaluated in developing the 2016 Annual Report: 1) proposals related to the missions and authorities of the Corps; 2) proposals that require specific congressional authorization – this refers to proposals seeking construction or study authorization; 3) proposals that have not been authorized by Congress; 4) proposals that have not been included in the report table of any previous Annual Report; and 5) proposals that, if authorized, could be carried out by the Corps.

As the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure moves forward in developing the next WRRDA, the hearing highlighted the complexity of the application process, which resulted in a significantly lower number of communities applying for applications. PCA has a vested interest in the 2014 WRRDA Risk Reduction Study. This study focuses on infrastructure and coastal restoration options for reducing risk to human life and property from extreme weather events. The Corps have indicated that the study has not yet been completed due to a lack of direct appropriations.

Contact David Bell


EPA Announces 2015 Energy Star Certified Manufacturing Plants

Twenty-seven cement plants were among 70 manufacturing plants to achieve Energy Star certification in 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced last week. Together, the manufacturing plants cut their energy bills by $476 million and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by more than five million metric tons.

The 2015 Energy Star certified cement plants are:

Alabama: Argos USA, Roberta, and Lehigh Cement, Leeds 
Arizona: CalPortland, Rillito, and Salt River Materials Group, Clarkdale
California: CEMEX, Victorville; Lehigh Cement, Redding
Colorado: Holcim, Florence
Florida: Argos USA, Newberry (first time); CEMEX, Miami; Titan Pennsuco Cement Co., Miami; Suwannee American Cement, Branford
Georgia: CEMEX, Clinchfield
Maryland: Lehigh Cement, Union Bridge
Missouri: Holcim, St. Genevieve; Buzzi Unicem River Cement, Festus
New York: Lehigh Cement, Glens Falls
Pennsylvania: Essroc Cement Corp., Nazareth
South Carolina: Holcim, Holly Hill 
Tennessee: Buzzi Unicem Signal Mountain, Chattanooga
Texas: Buzzi Unicem, San Antonio; Buzzi Unicem, Maryneal; Holcim, Midlothian; Martin Marietta Materials, Midlothian
Utah: Holcim, Morgan
Virginia: Titan Cement Company, Roanoke
Washington; Ash Grove Cement Company, Seattle 
West Virginia: Essroc Cement Corp., Martinsburg

Since 2006, EPA has certified manufacturing plants with the Energy Star for reaching the top 25 percent of energy performance in their industries nationwide each year. Energy Star certified plants must have their energy performance independently verified. Plants from the automotive, cement manufacturing, corn refining, food processing, glass manufacturing, pharmaceutical manufacturing, and petroleum refining industries are among those that qualified in 2015.

Market Intelligence

Oil Price Drops Affect Steel and Concrete

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Current global economic conditions have led to steep price drops for globally traded commodities, particularly oil. Since June of 2014, West Texas Intermediate Spot (WTI) prices have fallen 70 percent. The Steel Producer Price Index (PPI) has followed suit and declined by 21 percent over the same period, to the detriment of concrete’s relative cost position.

The effects of the decelerating Chinese economy on the oil and steel markets have been substantial. The combination of the steadily increasing supply of oil and steel along with a diminished outlook on global economic activity have pushed prices below economists’ expectations. The PPI for steel tracks closely with that of WTI Spot prices. Given current projections for oil prices from the Energy Information Administration, there is expected to be further significant decline in the price of steel in 2016, weakening concrete’s relative competitive price position. Oil prices are projected to rise somewhat sharply in 2017 and 2018, which indicate similar movement for steel prices. By 2018, PCA expects concrete’s relative price against steel to return to its current level, and gradually improve in the following years.

Contact Joe Chiappe


Officials Can Still Interpret Code as Permitting Tall Wood Multi-family Buildings

IMG_2118_framedThe final results of the code change proposals modifying the 2018 edition of the International Building Code (IBC) retain vague language.

The language in question resides in Section 602.3 where Type III construction is defined as having “exterior walls are of noncombustible materials…” with a further statement: “Fire-retardant-treated wood [FRTW] framing … shall be permitted within exterior wall assemblies of a 2-hour rating or less.” The concrete and masonry industry, along with many building code and fire officials from the legacy Building Officials and Code Administrators and Southern Building Code Congress International, continue to interpret the requirements as permitting the framing within the noncombustible exterior walls as non-structural elements. This is similar to what is permitted for other noncombustible construction, referred to as Type I and Type II Construction.

The concrete industry rose to meet the challenge with PCA running banner ads targeting government officials eligible to vote and an email blast to a similar audience distributed by the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association. Unfortunately, our industry efforts could not surmount those in favor of disapproval. Thus, the language will continue to remain vague in the 2018 edition of the IBC. State and local efforts between now and the code development cycle for the 2021 edition are required if proper interpretation is expected to be integrated into the code. There is also a challenge to the industry to get the current language, as vague as it is, enforced properly. FRTW is combustible and Type III construction requires non-combustible exterior walls.

Contact Steve Szoke


WEG Electric Corporation Becomes Associate Member

WEG logo framed

WEG Electric Corporation is the latest PCA Associate Member. Founded in 1961, WEG is recognized as one of the largest electric machine manufacturers in the world. WEG employs over 30,000 people around the globe and offers a diversified and integrated product line, with sales to more than 135 countries worldwide. WEG’s diverse and integrated product line includes motors, drives, controls, transformers, and generators. The corporation has committed to an R&D investment of 3 percent of annual global sales.

PCA now has 21 Associate Members who participate in PCA's Manufacturing Technical Committee (MTC). The committee conducts research, education and technology transfer related to cement manufacturing.

Read more on the PCA Manufacturing Technical Committee

Contact Rick Bohan

Market Development

Southern US Corridor Seeks Tornado Protection

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Hundreds of residents concerned about keeping safe in tornados or hurricanes benefitted from the joint efforts of PCA and FEMA at the 2016 Birmingham Home and Garden Show last week.

In light of the Christmas Day 2015 tornado and a recent increase in tornados along the southern corridor, concrete safe rooms are gaining renewed attention. Show managers invited PCA to fill three prominent main stage show spots, alongside national HGTV and DIY celebrities. In the wake of more frequent tornadic activity, PCA was asked to highlight concrete’s inherent strength in FEMA-compliant, wind-resistant safe rooms for the consumer-based audience.

“For no more than the cost of a typical bathroom remodel, a concrete safe room is a proven way to keep people safe during a tornado or a hurricane,” said Donn Thompson, PCA senior director of market development.

A safe room may be incorporated into the construction of a new home or retrofitted into an existing home. The advantage of a safe room over a storm cellar is that the safe room can function year-round as a usable area, such as a bathroom, closet or utility room. PCA distributed FEMA’s new guide on safe rooms and PCA educational materials at the exhibit booth. Future safe room promotional events are scheduled throughout the year.

Contact Alpa Swinger


There's a PCA App for That


PCA will be using a mobile application for its 2016 Spring Meeting, March 13-15, at the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago. The app will provide up-to-the-minute information such as the latest agenda, speaker information, maps, an attendee list, and more. PCA's app is password protected. Once you have accessed the app, attendees will be prompted to establish a password, using the e-mail that was used to register for the conference.

To download the PCA Meetings mobile app:

> iPhone and iPad users - search “PCA Meetings” on the Apple App Store.
> Android users - search “PCA Meetings” on the Google Play Store.
> Blackberry, Windows, others - go to this address on your computer or smart phone: https://pcameetings.gatherdigital.com

Standard WiFi is available in the hotel rooms and available for purchase in the meeting rooms.

Read more on the PCA Spring Congress

Contact Kathryn DiProva


Professors' Workshop Opens for Registration


Concrete materials properties, engineering and economics of concrete structures, and design, construction, and performance of concrete pavements are the topics scheduled for the PCA Education Foundation Professors’ Workshop, July 20-24.

Held at the PCA office in Skokie, Illinois, the workshop provides faculty in engineering, architecture, and construction management the tools to teach the latest developments in concrete design, construction, and materials. Networking opportunities to exchange ideas with professors from many universities, demonstrations by software vendors, and more than $2,500 of free resource materials are also part of the week.

The workshop fee of $395 includes handout materials, resource literature, shipping, lunches, and receptions.

See the PCA website for registration and activities.

Contact Michelle Wilson

Market Development

International Conferences Promote SCC and Concrete Sustainability

Two international conferences promote the latest in self-compacting concrete and concrete sustainability, May 16-18 in Washington, DC. Experts from around the world will present at the 2016 North American Conference on Design and Use of Self-Consolidating Concrete (SCC 2016) and the 2016 International Concrete Sustainability Conference (2016 ICSC), RILEM Symposium on Self-Compacting Concrete.

Presented by the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association and Missouri University of Science and Technology, SCC 2016 features nearly 200 expert researchers and practitioners from nearly 50 countries presenting on topics ranging from SCC materials and design methodology to production and quality control.

The 2016 ICSC features nearly 100 researchers and practitioners from 30 countries discussing the latest advances for sustainable concrete manufacturing, design and construction. Topics include resilience, low impact development, life cycle assessment, material science and social responsibility. 

One registration fee provides access to both conferences

Contact Mark Justman


Register for Design and Control of Concrete Mixtures Course

EB001 16 cover-low res3x3_framedConcrete industry personnel who need fundamental yet practical concrete knowledge greatly benefit from PCA's Design and Control of Concrete Mixtures Course.

Based on PCA’s publication Design and Control of Concrete Mixtures, the course is offered May 2-5, on the PCA campus. The course reflects the latest advances in concrete technology. Covered will be materials, properties of concrete, mix design, placement, and testing. It combines classroom instruction, lab demonstrations, and hands-on training to help employees meet customer needs. The course will also be offered in the fall, September 12-15.

For more information, go to the PCA website.

Contact Michelle Wilson