Building Clean, Dry and Healthier Basements with Precast Concrete

Remember the basements of old days? Many were dark, sometimes outright scary. They felt damp, smelled musty and had steel support beams and exposed pipes running across their length. Reaching to the other end was a real struggle and you had to crawl your way through with a single exposed light bulb mounted on your …

The difference between sales and marketing is well documented, but too often they are viewed as the same. They do share common threads; however, sales and marketing are more like two peas in the pod of profitability. One without the other leaves the pod half full. Marketing can enhance your sales efforts dramatically. If somebody cold called you or stopped by your house uninvited (bad marketing) to sell you a touchscreen phone you’ve never heard of, the chances of you buying that product are slim. But millions of iPhone 6 devices will sell this week. That’s because nobody is better at marketing than Apple. Whether you sell technology or building materials, the principles remain the same. Without marketing, quality prospects are hard to come by because you haven’t done market research to find out who they are or what their needs and tendencies are, let alone introduced your products or positioned them. Sales feels a lot like that cold call or door-to-door approach without marketing.The best part is marketing is more targeted and effective than ever. The internet and our hyperconnected society can feel like a burden at times, but they have enabled targeted marketing far better than any time in the past. Space here is limited, but learning more about the difference between sales and marketing and how they complement each other is only a Google search away.Kirk Stelsel Director of Communication & Marketing, NPCA

The difference between sales and marketing is well documented, but too often they are viewed as the same. They do share common threads; however, sales and marketing are more like two peas in the pod of profitability. One without the other leaves the pod half full. Marketing can enhance your sales efforts dramatically. If somebody …

This month we are pleased to feature A.C. Miller Concrete Products Inc. as part of our Meet a Precaster blog series. Answers were provided by Dave Gautreau, general manager; Ramzi Kawar, executive vice president; and Mike Buchan, vice president. Don’t forget to check out all of our Meet a Precaster blog posts and if you’re an NPCA producer member and would like to be featured in a future Meet a Precaster post, please send an email to NPCA’s internal communication and web manager, Sara Geer.Q: Where are you located?A: Spring City, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia suburb) and Blairsville, Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh Suburb) A.C. Miller Concrete Products’ original septic tank plant built in the 1950s. Q: How did your company get its start?A: Gautreau: We started as a small septic tank producer in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, in the 1950s and had a vision to make underground telephone manholes from precast in lieu of cinderblocks. This helped change the underground utility market and how products were produced and supplied. Q: What value does NPCA bring to your company and to the industry?A: Gautreau: NPCA provides us with valuable tools to help us compete and be a state-of-art material provider. Their yearly inspection visits allow us to comply and stay up-to-date with industry standards for a safe and reliable product line. Buchan: NPCA also promotes high quality in precast concrete manufacturing and promotes the use of these high quality products to a broad range of the construction, commercial and residential community.Q: How have the relationships you’ve developed through NPCA membership impacted your business?A: Kawar: Interaction with fellow member precasters and supplier members of the NPCA has allowed us to explore and implement new ideas that have helped us grow our business. While we compete with fellow members, there is also a collegial feel to the organization because we’re all trying to promote our industry. Best practices help us all succeed. Buchan: Being an NPCA member and having all our plants certified in the NPCA Plant Certification Program generates many opportunities for us in both public and private work. Q: What are the top advantages of utilizing precast concrete products? A: Gautreau: The top advantages are fast, dependable product and lower costs for end user because we are producing in a controlled environment with less work site impact and weather conditions. Q: What’s the most interesting or unique precast project you’ve worked on? A:  Gautreau: The precast concrete 50-yard markers at the new Metlife Stadium, site of 2014 Super Bowl in New Jersey (art work of 50-yard-line marker visible from Google Earth on both sides of stadium). In the early 2000’s we also re-decked the Brooklyn Bridge with precast. We also donated 6 ft. by 16 ft. manholes to the Katrina New Orleans recovery for use as temporary sewer tanks in the tent cities. Buchan: A more custom and complex job that we undertook was segmental precast emptying valve chambers that were assembled and post-tensioned while suspended above the water on the U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers Lock and Dam on the Monongahela River at Charleroi, Pennsylvania. The nearly 350,000 lb assemblies were then lowered by hollow-strand jacks and positioned by divers at a precise location underwater. Q: What drives you and your employees to produce quality precast concrete products?A: Kawar: It may sound a bit cliché, but we have always been driven by a commitment to our customers. In our view, that means providing quality products and superior services to make our customers’ lives easier. Precast is an ideal solution. We never want to turn into a headache for our customers. Buchan: We need to produce products that yield strength, durability, fit and appearance that rival competing methods of construction to earn broad acceptance by owners, engineers, architects and public works departments. Employees are driven by pride in their workmanship which can be maximized by identifying and rewarding their achievements. An aerial view of A.C. Miller Concrete Products’ new plant located in Blairsville, Pennsylvania. Q: Tell us about a time when you changed a spec to precast on a project and why the change was made.A: Buchan: The Boulevard of the Allies is a busy artery running in and out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, at the top of a high cliff above the I-376 Parkway. The only means to widen the highway was to cantilever a portion of a lane and the parapet wall over the cliff side. Forming and placing reinforcing steel and concrete while suspended above I-376 was dangerous, tedious and very costly. The general contractor chose to work with A.C. Miller to design, fabricate and install post tensioned, precast concrete, counterweighted and cantilevered deck slabs with exposed reinforcing bars for the cast-in-place parapet walls. The slabs were placed at night allowing normal traffic flow on some existing lanes during the busy daytime hours. Using precast concrete for this project was much safer than cast-in-place methods and saved the contractor substantial time and money. There was also less disruption of traffic along this very busy corridor. Q: What makes precast concrete an even better product today than it has ever been in the past?A: Gautreau: Technology has allowed us to make products that were not even imagined in past years. To name a few, products such as precast buildings, stairway systems, train platforms and even polished countertops. Q: How do you see the precast concrete industry – and your company in particular – evolving in the future?A: Gautreau: Being that precast is always a feasible alternative to poured-in-place products, I think as the future arrives we will be able to continue to give our customers new exciting product lines to complement our core line of underground utility standard products. The opinions expressed in this blog post are solely those of the member, and not of NPCA or any of its employees.

This month we are pleased to feature A.C. Miller Concrete Products Inc. as part of our Meet a Precaster blog series. Answers were provided by Dave Gautreau, general manager; Ramzi Kawar, executive vice president; and Mike Buchan, vice president. Don’t forget to check out all of our Meet a Precaster blog posts and if you’re an NPCA producer member and would like to be …

General Contractor: Bluebonnet Contractors, LLCProject Owner: TxDOTEngineer: Profile Consultants, Inc.Precaster: Speed Fab-CreteCompletion: August, 2014 View the project diagram here. In June 2012, Profile Consultants, Inc. began designing integrated precast panels to serve as the sound barriers for approximately 7.8 miles of frontage road and highway areas on the east and west segments of the North Tarrant Expressway project. The project involved civil and structural engineering of 12 independent sound barrier wall packages using integrated precast panel configurations.Highway sound wall systems have traditionally used a mix of precast or steel columns and individual precast panels at regular intervals on concrete drilled pier shafts as primary structural components. However, to reduce transportation costs, construction erection timelines and the number of components required, an integrated precast wall system was developed. This solution includes a precast concrete column in the design of the panel, resulting in a monolithic system. Thanks to the integrated design, several panels can be installed and transported quickly once foundation piers are in place. The panels use a high-yield, 5,000 psi concrete mixture with welded wire reinforcing fabric. The integral columns are reinforced with grade 60 reinforcing bars and cast in conjunction with the panels. Each column is also cast with voids at the base, allowing connection to the concrete piers. The voids are then grouted when the panels are erected. During the grouting procedure, a low and a high weep hole is drilled near the top of the cavity to ensure grout has filled the void. Unlike traditional wall systems, the connection does not require any secondary steel plate or anchor bolts. Panels are lifted in place and managed by lifting inserts installed during casting.Various form liners can be used on the panels to achieve specific aesthetic requirements generally mandated by local municipality zoning ordinances. The integral panel configuration’s standard widths are 12 ft and 18 ft. Special panels can be used at locations requiring a specific width. Panel heights can also vary from 8 to 19 ft.

General Contractor: Bluebonnet Contractors, LLCProject Owner: TxDOTEngineer: Profile Consultants, Inc.Precaster: Speed Fab-CreteCompletion: August, 2014 View the project diagram here. In June 2012, Profile Consultants, Inc. began designing integrated precast panels to serve as the sound barriers for approximately 7.8 miles of frontage road and highway areas on the east and west segments of the North …

Photo: Iowa State University In 2013, global wind power capacity reached 318,105 megawatts (MW). That’s enough energy to meet the electricity needs of more than 500 million people. As the number of wind turbines across the world continues to increase each year, so does the need for units designed to maximize energy production. Steel towers – the current standard in the wind industry – are unable to reach heights greater than 330 ft, where steadier winds capable of higher energy output can be found. To combat this limitation, engineers are turning to the strength of precast concrete.In Spain, Norten PH engineered a precast tower manufactured in segments and intended for on-site assembly. Thanks to a powerful self-consolidating concrete mix design, each turbine is capable of attaining heights of anywhere from 361 ft to 396 ft. Similarly, Enercon, a wind turbine manufacturer based in Germany, recently began delivering a new line of units for a project in the Netherlands. By using precast concrete towers, the turbines reach an astonishing height of 440 ft. Researchers are also studying increasing tower heights in the U.S. In September, the Department of Energy awarded engineers at Iowa State University a $1 million grant to investigate how high-strength precast concrete can be used to build taller, more productive towers. Sri Sritharan, a professor at Iowa State and leader of the College of Engineering’s Wind Energy Initiative, believes that the grant will help create new product line opportunities for U.S. precasters. Additionally, by relying on precast panels for the towers, Professor Sritharan feels transportation will be easier. When other building materials reach their limits, precast concrete remains up for the challenge, allowing the wind industry to meet the increasing energy needs of an ever-expanding global population.

Photo: Iowa State University In 2013, global wind power capacity reached 318,105 megawatts (MW). That’s enough energy to meet the electricity needs of more than 500 million people. As the number of wind turbines across the world continues to increase each year, so does the need for units designed to maximize energy production. Steel towers …

This month we are pleased to feature Sanders Pre-Cast Concrete Systems Inc. as part of our Meet a Precaster blog series. Answers were provided by Mark Sanders, president and CEO. Don’t forget to check out all of our Meet a Precaster blog posts and if you’re an NPCA producer member and would like to be featured in a future Meet a Precaster post, please send an email to NPCA’s internal communication and web manager, Sara Geer.Q: Where are you located?A: Whitestown, Indiana.Q: How did your company get its start?A: We originally started out as a cast-in-place foundation contractor in 1976 and entered into the precast business in 1999.   Q: What value does NPCA bring to your company and to the industry?A: The opportunity to interact with other precasters and staying informed about new products. Q: How have the relationships you’ve developed through NPCA membership impacted your business?A: Precasters in other markets are willing to share information which helps the learning curve when developing new products to offer.Q: What are the top advantages of utilizing precast concrete products?A: Top advantages include tighter quality control and production costs. Q: What’s the most interesting or unique precast project you’ve worked on?A: We provided precast bridge beams on a rehab project to help keep the original design intact. Also, we provided barrier walls and specialized curbs for the motorcycle races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.Q: What drives you and your employees to produce quality precast concrete products?A: When getting feedback from contractors complimenting us about our products and how they are treated, we pride ourselves on providing quality products and service.Q: Tell us about a time when you changed a spec to precast on a project and why the change was made.A: A project in downtown Indianapolis had to be completed in a very short timeframe and originally had cast-in-place walls. We worked with the contractor to get these changed to precast so we could produce them ahead of schedule. Q: How do you see the precast concrete industry – and your company in particular – evolving in the future?A: Contractors and owners are seeing the benefits of precast vs. cast-in-place and realizing how its use shortens the construction schedule. We are constantly looking for ways to offer more options and products. The opinions expressed in this blog post are solely those of the member, and not of NPCA or any of its employees.

This month we are pleased to feature Sanders Pre-Cast Concrete Systems Inc. as part of our Meet a Precaster blog series. Answers were provided by Mark Sanders, president and CEO. Don’t forget to check out all of our Meet a Precaster blog posts and if you’re an NPCA producer member and would like to be featured in a future Meet a Precaster post, please …

By Jacqui Scibior Editor’s Note: The following is the first of two posts from NPCAF scholarship recipient Jacqui Scibior on her experience with a concrete canoe team at Clarkson University. The second post in this series will be published next spring at the conclusion of ASCE’s annual Concrete Canoe Competition.Floating across a river in a canoe made of concrete may not sound ideal, but with some engineering innovation, the Concrete Canoe SPEED team at Clarkson University makes it work. As a member of the team, I am working diligently with my colleagues to create a concrete canoe that must float and be capable of carrying passengers down a river. Our journey is a difficult one, involving heavy research, innovation, creativity and teamwork. My team draws from the educational material taught in our engineering classes and we apply this – along with a little innovation and creativity – to create a durable, maneuverable canoe showcasing the versatile uses of concrete. I am working on the hull design and concrete mix portion of this project. We still have to compete with our canoe, so I’ll have to keep some of our recipe for success a secret. But to help you understand the concept of our project, I can offer some insight. One of Clarkson University’s previous entries into the competition, the “Defiance.”The team studies and tests a variety of concrete mixtures before choosing a final composition. This year, we will be testing two new mixtures. One introduces the use of hemp, and the other – which I personally proposed – uses horsehair and eggshells. Other materials in our mix include recycled concrete from last year’s canoe, Portland cement, fibers, binders, slag, and glass beads. Ultimately, we will choose the mixture that allows the canoe to float while holding up the best under stress and strain. We also research a variety of hull designs to optimize our canoe performance. Our hull for this entry is shaped from industrial foam boards that are cut, glued together and sanded down. Fiberglass mesh sheets are surrounded by our concrete mixture, which is left to dry and cure on the industrial foam in a controlled environment. The canoe is then sanded to a smooth surface, painted and given a name. This year’s canoe is known as the “Black Pearl.” Large sections of industrial foam are added to the front and back ends of the canoe to make it both light and strong. Once the final product is established, it is taken to ASCE’s National Concrete Canoe Competition in the spring. Here, the team is judged on our written report and oral skills in conveying our engineering design as well as construction principles of the canoe. We are then evaluated on our canoe performance while paddling across a river in a race against other teams. Will we sink or float when we face off against our competitors? Stay tuned for a future blog post to find out.

By Jacqui Scibior Editor’s Note: The following is the first of two posts from NPCAF scholarship recipient Jacqui Scibior on her experience with a concrete canoe team at Clarkson University. The second post in this series will be published next spring at the conclusion of ASCE’s annual Concrete Canoe Competition. Floating across a river in …

The SHE Committee prepares bi-monthly safety training programs for precasters to use for conducting safety programs at their plant. This month’s featured safety program is on wellness. Click on the links below to view the program materials. Workplace Wellness: Potential Legal Issues Associated with Workplace Wellness Plans (DOC) Implications for Workplace Wellness Programs (DOC)

The SHE Committee prepares bi-monthly safety training programs for precasters to use for conducting safety programs at their plant. This month’s featured safety program is on wellness. Click on the links below to view the program materials. Workplace Wellness: Potential Legal Issues Associated with Workplace Wellness Plans (DOC) Implications for Workplace Wellness Programs (DOC) Leave a Reply …

Michael Tidwell, president of Bartow Precast in Cartersville, Georgia, has been appointed the National Precast Concrete Association’s Chairman of the Board. Tidwell began his one-year term on Saturday, Oct. 25, at NPCA’s 49th Annual Convention in Montreal, Quebec. “I am humbled by this opportunity to lead this incredible association into its 50th year,” Tidwell stated. “One of the things you realize as you advance through committees and the Board is the enormous wealth of expertise that NPCA members bring to the table.” Bartow Precast was started in 1985 by Tidwell’s father, C.L. Tidwell. After working for his father for years, Tidwell became president in 1999 and the company became an NPCA member shortly after in 2002. Tidwell has been involved with a wide variety of product committees and task forces and has been a Board member since 2010. “Michael has a passion for the industry and for what the association stands for, and the membership will benefit from that in the coming year,” said NPCA President Ty Gable. “Michael and the Board will be instrumental in guiding the future direction of the association to ensure it best serves all members.” In his acceptance speech, Tidwell spoke of his experiences in the association and how much the relationships he has developed over the years have help grow and improve his business. “The collective knowledge and the willingness of NPCA members to share that knowledge with each other is what makes this a unique organization,” he said. “I make better concrete now than I did when Bartow Precast joined NPCA 12 years ago. What I didn’t know was that I’d be building so many lifelong relationships along the way.”

Michael Tidwell, president of Bartow Precast in Cartersville, Georgia, has been appointed the National Precast Concrete Association’s Chairman of the Board. Tidwell began his one-year term on Saturday, Oct. 25, at NPCA’s 49th Annual Convention in Montreal, Quebec. “I am humbled by this opportunity to lead this incredible association into its 50th year,” Tidwell stated. …