Do you view wood construction as a competitor to concrete? While we’re not likely to see too much wood pavement, in the mid-rise buildings market, the wood industry is taking a very aggressive approach that could take some of concrete’s market share. New organizations (such as rethink Wood and WoodWorks) are attempting to expanding their market share through building code changes, education, and very focused marketing campaigns. And they are redefining for architects where wood is an appropriate building material. For example, have you ever heard of cross-laminated timber (CLT)? Here’s how WoodWorks defines it: “Cross laminated timber is an engineered wood building system designed to complement light- and heavy-timber framing options. Because of its high strength and dimensional stability, it can be used as an alternative to concrete, masonry, and steel in many building types.”

Concrete has many obvious strengths that we can proclaim, but what do developers of mid-rise concrete buildings really want? Fast and cheap construction, said the Pankow Foundation’s Mark Perniconi. That’s what the wood industry is promising.

At last week’s meeting of the Concrete Industry’s Strategic Development Council, Bob Thomas from the National Concrete Masonry Association and Bob Risser from the Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute led a discussion into whether this is a real threat and if so what to do about it. Industry leaders strategized over whether to take a defensive or offensive approach. Ron Burg, executive director of the American Concrete Institute, said that going on offense, demonstrating concrete’s strengths and cost-effectiveness, seems a much better tactic—he noted that in football the offense is the only side that has a huddle to plan their attack, the defense just reacts. We would be better off working together to develop information showing how concrete is superior in all aspects of building construction, rather than simply trying to refute the wood industry’s assertions.

This discussion will continue and hopefully our industry will work together to show in a meaningful way all of the reasons concrete and masonry are the best choice in construction materials.