Approaching the end of the year, I thought I would review what I think were the hottest concrete-industry topics of 2014. In the first newsletter of 2015, I’ll look ahead, but looking back provides some perspective.
Replacement binders for portland cement has seemed to be getting a lot of coverage this year. Mostly these approaches rely on cement replacement with pozzolans, which always makes me wonder how long we could rely on a byproduct that is being produced in smaller quantities as coal-fired power generation declines. There’s no fly ash coming from a natural gas-fired generator or a wind turbine. And if we started using replacement levels of 50% or greater, how long would the supply of fly ash last?
Concrete for parking lots has generated a lot of interest. This is a potentially huge market for concrete and unlike some emerging markets, such as ports and fracking facilities, could be accessed in almost every city and town in America. Nigel Parkes with PNA Construction Technologies has been leading the charge on this and while some might feel there’s some self-interest, a successful effort to increase concrete’s market share in parking lots would give the entire concrete industry a boost.
The shortage of workers has been in the news a lot. And while I believe that there is a shortage for the right kind of workers in some markets, some of this may be overhyped. This also ties into the immigration policy, or lack thereof, in this country. One could argue against the president’s approach, but at least he’s moved the issue to where congress may be forced to do something constructive. Wouldn’t that be a welcome change!
What else? 3-D printing is coming, but not soon. Collaboration software tools are improving dramatically and will slowly become mainstream. Decorative and polished concrete is evolving. The World of Concrete is now owned by a British company. Residential construction, especially multifamily, is on the rise. What else do you see as the biggest developments of 2014?