It’s only October, but the World of Concrete will soon be here. To gear up for this annual event, Concrete Construction will be featuring some of this year’s presenters. In this first installment, we spoke with Bryan Birdwell, Senior Concrete Flooring and Pavement Consultant for SSI (Structural Services Incorporated). Birdwell and Jerry Holland will teach a 3-hour seminar entitled, “Unique Slab Design & Construction: Superflat + High Volume Fiber Floors & Pavements.” Birdwell will also teach at two other 90-minute seminars, one on the “A, B, C’s & 1, 2, 3’s” of proper industrial floor finishing and another on design and construction of industrial pavements and parking lots.
Concrete Construction: You’ve been in the concrete construction business for 20 years, what is your goal for this seminar?
BB: I think this industry needs education in some of the basics, which is something that hasn’t really been pushed. I plan to share my experience with those who haven’t been exposed to the types of projects and challenges I deal with every day. By combining a little common sense with lessons learned and industry documents, I hope to illustrate to the attendees how they can guide themselves through the challenges they will face.
CC: What do you hope people take away from the three sessions you are presenting?
BB: For the “Industrial Concrete Floor Finishing” seminar or what I like to call the ABC’s and 123’s of Building a Process, I will focus on how to achieve quality concrete construction. As a past specialty contractor and now a consultant, I often see projects where fundamental craftsmanship and attention to detail is lacking. This seminar will focus on the process required to develop, implement, and execute on each project to achieve the highest potential for repetitive quality. Contractors need to understand that quality isn’t achieved by investing in just expensive equipment. They need to understand the tools and equipment, how to respond to unexpected equipment failure and weather conditions, and how to use all of their resources to their advantage. By far, continuous education is the contractor’s most cost effective tool.
The other two sessions are on industrial pavements and flat floors/fibers. The use of industrial concrete pavement is growing in the industry. The goal for that session is to highlight the value of concrete parking lots and paving. This seminar will help people better understand ACI’s documentation on both parking lots and pavements. It will help them understand project specifications and how to plan and build quality parking lots.
The session on flat floors / fibers will help people understand how they should approach a project and how to achieve high quality without a lot of excessive cost. With my history, having won several awards for producing quality floors, I hope to convey that expertise to help those at the seminar achieve the same type of high quality that I’ve been able to produce in floors.
CC: What do you see as the biggest trend right now in concrete flooring design and construction?
BB: Reduced joints in floors/pavements and durability of concrete floors and parking lots continues to be a very hot topic. Reducing the number of joints, possible cracks, and curling have a direct impact on the industrial floor warehouse industry. The question is, how we can improve the quality of the floor? How you can use different methods of jointing to improve the quality?
There are a few companies that have developed their own “systems”, and have marketed themselves as the next big thing. This trend has some believing that you can buy a product or “system” and this will in turn reduce cracking and their floors will be flatter with no cracks and no curl, but that’s not always the case. Flat floors are very important with distribution centers and fulfillment centers. When they invest in these buildings they want something that will last a long time and stay smooth and safe. The goal of my seminar is to help everyone consistently achieve the desired result and train their team to understand the fundamentals.
CC: What are the issues with fibers in concrete?
BB: No one type of fiber will make everything right. You have to know when to use them, when not to use them, what they are capable of, and how to design your building to make the fibers work the way you intend.
CC: Would more apprenticeships help?
BB: Yes, but we don’t really have too many these days. Sadly, we see guys that do not know how to dig with a shovel, lay out a building, hammer a nail, keep a truck clean, or operate a piece of equipment. All of these elements create value, and that value creates pride, craftsmanship, and quality. One of the biggest challenges in our industry in the last ten years is that we have had a demographic transition towards a workforce that did not have the benefit of an apprentice program. The majority of the skilled craftsmen out there are close to retirement, and none of that craftsmanship and expertise has been passed on to the next generation.
CC: Who should attend your seminars?
BB: The seminars are for everyone within a company from the guys who are just starting out, working in the field office, estimators, project managers, owners. These seminars have a common-sense approach that will affect everyone because I’m focusing on the fundamentals. With the help of Jerry Holland, the attendees will get both a construction and an engineering approach, which makes it diverse.
CC: What are you most looking forward to at the upcoming World of Concrete in February?
BB: It’s always exciting to see what innovative products come out; how people are creating equipment or products to benefit the industry. Just good to hear where the industry is at and where it’s going.