It’s two hours before dawn on a Tuesday morning. The concrete finishers have just laid and taped the vapor barrier on this large interior slab on ground. With the engines of the power concrete buggies shut off, the only sounds are the swishing of the large vent fans. Just as he glances at his watch to decide whether to call the concrete plant, the placing crew foreman hears the concrete industry’s “call to work.”

Concrete finishers don’t need a horn blast or a whistle to know it’s time to start moving. They perk up when they hear the unique sounds of a concrete truck about to pour: the staccato beeping of the truck’s back-up alarm; the engine revving the power take off unit to speed up the mixer drum’s rotation; the sound of fresh concrete sliding across mixer blades, down the chute, and into the buggies.

Concrete mixers provide the industry’s call to work thousands of times each day. A fact supported by economists who value the domestically-produced ready-mixed concrete industry at nearly $35 billion.

While that’s a big number, it’s at risk. The lack of a national promotional effort has weakened ready-mixed concrete’s growth in traditional markets. The asphalt, wood, and steel industries tout their systems as less expensive solutions that are just as safe and long-lasting as ready-mixed concrete. Building code officials and DOT engineers are listening.

But to stop eroding market shares, leaders in the ready-mixed concrete business have opted to go on the attack. The National Ready-Mixed Concrete Association (NRMCA) has two key initiatives designed to convince public officials of the importance of ready-mixed concrete in two key market segments – mid-sized commercial structures and pavements. These initiatives may help to ensure the sound of an discharging mixer continues to be the call to work on jobsites across North America.

Retaking the High Ground

Build with Strength, supported by NRMCA and the American Concrete Pumping Association, represents the concrete industry’s best hope for retaining concrete’s share in the commercial building market. The promoters are reminding zoning officials, building owners, and communities that concrete structures are safer than wood.

An important distinction with Build with Strength is that it is reaching out to non-traditional partners to get its message out, with a national coalition of fire service professionals, architects, engineers, and industry experts committed to enacting safer and more sustainable building standards. This involvement is supported by the Investors and Developers Advisory Council. Council chairmen work with their colleagues in the development and investment fields to better educate decision makers about how concrete can help improve their bottom line over the long term.

One key technical source has been the Concrete Sustainability Hub at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In November of 2016, Build with Strength touted the Hub’s research quantifying the costs and benefits of hazard mitigation in construction. The metric provides a cost comparison of a structure’s life cycle to assess resilience and hazard mitigation of two alternative designs. The research found that a $10 million non-engineered wood building is expected to face $505,000 in hazard-related damages over 50 years, while a $10 million engineered concrete building is expected to face only $165,000 over the same period. “The metric confirms that the structure built to a lower design standard is going to have a lower initial cost and will likely have worse energy performance and worse hazard resistance,” said Dr. Jeremy Gregory, Executive Director.

Earlier this year Build with Strength promoted a study providing another economic reason for contractors and owners to select concrete structures: insurance costs. In the “Survey of Insurance Costs for Multifamily Buildings Constructed with Wood-frame and Concrete” the researchers concluded that building insurance rates will be lower for midrise apartment buildings constructed with concrete instead of wood-frame.

In the study, underwritten by NRMCA, researchers collected insurance premium quotes for builder’s risk insurance (during construction) and commercial property insurance (during occupancy) for a reference building built using combustible construction (wood-frame) and non-combustible construction (concrete). They concluded that the extent of the insurance savings for a concrete building for builder’s risk insurance quotes ranged between 22 and 72% while commercial property insurance savings were 14 to 65% lower.

Road Trip

In November of 2017, NRMCA launched their second market retention promotion initiative. Pave Ahead is an educational campaign and website designed to assist the industry, policy makers and other stakeholders when making decisions about how to pave with safety, reliability, sustainability and cost in mind.

Like Build with Strength, this initiative also focuses on consensus building. The initiative connects industry experts with decision-makers in the marketplace so that they might better understand the paving options. “The idea behind Pave Ahead isn’t to sell more concrete. Concrete sells itself,” says Robert Garbini, NRMCA’s president. He forecasts that Pave Ahead will enhance cross-industry communication eventually growing concrete’s paving market share.

Pave Ahead takes advocacy and turns it functional, said Garbini. Its website, features a portal to NRMCA’s no-fee pavement design center. Stressing logistics and efficiency, assistance teams help users develop project pavement designs, select materials, locate contractors, and consult with industry specialists. offers additional resources such as articles, testimonials relating to concrete paving, and other ready-mix produced products used in roadway/paving construction.