Women gathered at this year's World of Concrete to commune, eat, and discuss business at the fourth annual Women in Concrete Luncheon and Forum.

"This has been a year of more downs than ups for many, which is why events such as these are so important," said Kari Moosmann, managing editor for Concrete Construction magazine, welcoming all in attendance. "The time you take here is an opportunity to gain new ideas and insights."

Co-hosted by Cocnrete Construction and The Concrete Producer magazines and sponsored by LaFarge, the two-hour program brought together female professionals from all segments of the concrete construction industry, and provided them with a unique opportunity to connect with peers.

The 2009 program consisted of a panel of experts discussing hot industry trends.

Tanya Wattenburg Komas, Ph.D, from California State University, Chico, recounted her research team's efforts in investigating historic concrete at Pointe du Hoc, Normandy, France. The student team is evaluating WWII concrete bunkers using onsite in-situ testing methods and nondestructive testing equipment, and is also working with Texas A&M University and the American Battle Monuments Commission with related cliff stabilization and site survey projects. The goal is to stabilize the eroded D-Day landing site so it is safe enough for WWII veterans to visit the cliffside monument honoring the U.S. Rangers who stormed the beaches to turn the tide of WWII. The project is ongoing and Komas is currently seeking additional funding to continue work.

"The hottest topic in concrete repair is our next generation," says Komas. "For our younger people, preserving a site like this, there is no better way to communicate what really happened ... to understand the tragic events."

The next speaker, Shellie Rigsby, owner of Acanthus/Concrete Stain Designs, expounded on the many opportunities in decorative concrete. She also provided a step-by-step account of the techniques and materials she used to create a downsized version of The Alamo, which included ICF, stamped vertical overlays, stencils, and hand-carving. "It's a lot more fun if you go outside the box to explore what you can do," says Rigsby of decorative concrete projects.

She went on to say that the down economy does not have to be bad news for decorative concrete contractors. The key is in providing cost-effective options to architects who want artistic elements incorporated into scaled-back budgets: "There's still a lot of business out there, but we have to tell the architects what's available for them."

The final speaker, Julie Babb Smith of the FIGG Engineering Group, detailed how the I-35 bridge project incorporated sustainabilty into every aspect of the bridge's design, from using eco-friendly materials to installing an Integrated Bridge Monitoring System complete with sensors that can detect potential corrosion. The monitoring system sends data to designated researchers to determine bridge performance and set standards for all future bridge designs.

With an expected 100-year service life, the bridge opened Sept. 18, 2008-11 months after the project began, three months ahead of schedule, and a little more than a year after the infamous collapse that killed 13.Eco-friendly materials used in the project include recycled aggregate and TX Active, a photocatalytic principle for cement products that reduces airborne pollutants, thereby cleaning the air. An Italian product, TX Active made its U.S. debut in the I-35 bridge project.

Smith also explained how this was truly a community project, down to the children making decorative tiles.