Ncma At 90

As the National Concrete Masonry Association (NCMA) enters its ninth decade of service to the concrete masonry and hardscapes industry, its new chairman


As the National Concrete Masonry Association (NCMA) enters its ninth decade of service to the concrete masonry and hardscapes industry, its new chairman aims to keep the association on track, maintaining the rigorous agenda that enabled it to reach 90 with an eye toward celebrating its 2018 centennial.

NCMA is an extremely well-run association, whose many dedicated volunteers and seasoned staff professionals do an excellent job, says 2008 NCMA Chairman Bill Holden, who is president of Block USA. We want to continue that legacy throughout our 90th year.

NCMA will mark its milestone with a variety of special activities and events. This May, we are going to host a large open house and invite the industry to our offices and newly renovated research and development laboratory in Herndon, Va., Holden tells Concrete Products. In advance of the anniversary, we rebuilt our lab to a state-of-the-art condition, so we can better test all types of concrete products, including pavers, segmental retaining walls, concrete block and more.

Our 90th anniversary will be a strong focus for us this year, Holden asserts. We are happy to have made it nine decades, and we will reach out to those who use, specify and install our products, to those who support our members with raw materials Û like the cement and aggregate producers Û and to the equipment manufacturers and producers.


Another landmark event is the launch of the first Icon Expo, which will be held February 26-28, 2009, at the Indiana Convention Center & RCA Dome in Indianapolis. The event continues a long-standing tradition of staging a combined trade show for the concrete industry.

Since the 1980s, NCMA has collaborated with other organizations to sponsor a combined trade show for producers of concrete, masonry, and hardscape products. We are pleased to join the Cast Stone Institute (CSI), Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute (ICPI), Portland Cement Association (PCA), and other industry partners in sponsoring Icon Expo 2009, Holden affirms. These industry events Û dating back to Masonry Expo and including the more recent Manufactured Concrete Products Exposition (MCPX) Û always have been successful for the participating organizations, highly valued by their members, and productive for the exhibitors. We would like to extend an open invitation to all other concrete industry organizations to join us in sponsoring Icon Expo.

And, more is yet to come: every third year, starting in 2011, Icon Expo will be held in conjunction with ConExpo/Con-Agg. This arrangement is convenient for our members who participate in industries that reach beyond concrete masonry and hardscapes, Holden says. ConExpo/Con-Agg is a very well-done show and fits our needs well.


A significant benefit of the shows for NCMA members and its allies is convenient exposure to new technology engineered to optimize production, ensure quality, and enhance the bottom line. Holden elaborates, Years ago, the concrete masonry and hardscape industry basically was composed of smaller producers, one to three plant operators in a small regional area; but, now, it’s greatly consolidated.

Today, the trend is toward larger regional producers, like Block USA, for example, with our 21 plants around the southeast. Some companies operate in up to seven states. Now, our members are bigger and are looking worldwide at equipment, because the demands have become so much more sophisticated.

Today’s production equipment comes from manufacturers in North America, as well as overseas, Holden adds. We look at equipment from Germany, Denmark, Italy, Spain and Japan, in addition to equipment from Canada and the U.S., he reports. The industry’s become much more global. As a result, NCMA is starting to support international shows like Bauma in Germany, as well as emerging shows like ICCX in Russia, to see what innovative products and services we could bring to exhibit to our members at Icon Expo.

Concrete production equipment has to be sturdy and reliable to produce inexpensive gray block, Holden notes. The standard unit is a manufactured product, delivered on a $150,000 tractor-trailer rig, carrying $1.50 products, 100 per cube, with about 1,500 on a truck, he observes. Gray block has to be made inexpensively and in great quantities to be competitive.

Manufacturing equipment is adapting to the challenge by becoming more versatile in function. Foreign and U.S. equipment manufacturers have learned a lot from each other, Holden tells Concrete Products. They took different paths years ago, as the paver industry is biggest in Europe, and in the U.S., the concrete block industry is stronger. They’ve since melded the processes between block and paver equipment, and now everybody is making versatile machinery utilizing robotics. In modern block plants, raw materials enter one side of the plant, go through the machinery and out the other side into the yard for curing, with nobody touching it. Between computerization and worldwide equipment manufacturer competition, machinery for concrete block manufacture has really changed over the last decade.


Gray block is not so gray any more, nor the same size, since value-added variations are emerging to capture new market share and satisfy building requirements. We are doing a lot of things to ensure our products provide superior design flexibility and aesthetics, deliver the best value and performance, and are environmentally friendly, Holden emphasizes.

Those products have to be competitive with wood frame, clay brick, tilt-up concrete, and steel buildings, he says. We have got to keep our product competitive, and that includes installation costs. That’s why we partner so closely with mason and landscape contractors, as well as segmental retaining wall installers.

Historically, gray block has dominated school and big-box retailer markets, but now new products are emerging in response to designer and owner demand. We have a Îhalf-highÌ product Û four inches high, instead of eight inches, and 16 inches long Û that looks like brick, but actually is concrete block, Holden reports. We’re doing a tremendous number of shopping centers with this new half-high product, including Wal-Marts, Lowes, and the like. We have seen monumental growth in these products, probably up to 20 percent per year.

Block USA’s half-high product goes by the name of SpecBrik, and other producers offer similar products. Accordingly, NCMA is developing an industry standard for a concrete brick component. Everybody is branding the product for their own company, but all are half-high, load-bearing, colored concrete bricks for single-wythe walls that look like king-sized clay bricks, Holden says. The single-wythe wall eliminates the block-with-clay brick veneer; and, using concrete brick, the owner needs no exterior treatment. The owner doesn’t even need to apply stucco over it, as it’s basically a finished product. It looks as good as a veneer, lasts longer, is structurally load-bearing, and only needs to be laid one time, so labor costs are reduced considerably.


‘Hardscape’ comprising concrete pavers and segmental retaining walls continues to be a growth area, with aesthetic treatments helping drive growth in the sector about 5 percent per year, Holden asserts. NCMA promotes and supports segmental retaining wall contractors and installers via training, education, and information, he affirms. We train folks how to become installers, and we have our own engineer working with all the licensed segmental retaining wall companies. And, we’ve created the industry’s standard manual on the installation of segmental retaining walls.

The burgeoning hardscape market has prompted NCMA, along with the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute and Brick Industry Association, to present Hardscape North America in Nashville, Feb. 27-Mar. 1. The trade show targets segmental and retaining wall contractors, offering educational sessions, including certification courses, plus displays highlighting innovative products and technology. Indoor and outdoor exhibits, as well as show-floor demonstrations, will feature the latest developments in tools, equipment and services. Seminars will cover certification, business skills, marketing tools, and techniques via hands-on training.

The 2008 show will be the second to date. Last March, more than 1,700 industry professionals attended the inaugural convention and exposition showcasing more than 95 exhibitors.



Part of the Ready Mix USA Companies, Block USA comprises 21 plants and sales locations in the Southeast, where it operates as a full-service masonry, paver and retaining wall supplier. It is one of the largest producers of gray masonry and architectural colored masonry in Alabama, the Florida panhandle, Arkansas, Georgia and Mississippi.

Block USA offers its masonry products under a variety of brands, including Franklin Series gray masonry; Jefferson Series architectural colored masonry; ConPave concrete pavers; Anchor, CornerStone and Mesa retaining wall units; and, Armortec concrete erosion-control systems. Some lines are produced through Block’s Hardscapes USA division.

Its Construction Products USA business provides an extensive line of installation and maintenance products, suitable for both the contractor and Do-It-Yourself customer. Many of the offerings are available through retail locations.

Company representatives note that Block USA’s professionals, numerous locations, company-owned delivery fleet, and commitment to quality ensure that its products will consistently meet customer needs and expectations.

Block USA headquarters are located at 2570 Ruffner Road, Birmingham, AL 35210; tel.: 205/986-4800; web site:



The National Concrete Masonry Association will join the Cast Stone Institute (CSI), the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute (ICPI), and the Portland Cement Association (PCA) to sponsor the International Concrete Exposition (Icon Expo), Feb. 26-28, 2009, at the Indiana Convention Center & RCA Dome in Indianapolis.

ICPI is pleased to be a part of the initial Icon Expo. It is important for our industries to partner in order to provide our manufacturer members value through a joint concrete products industry show addressing their needs, says ICPI Chairman-Elect Ed Fioroni, vice president of distributor sales and marketing for Pavestone Co. We look forward to a successful trade show in 2009.

CSI is pleased to participate in this unique opportunity that exposes our products and the Institute to the masonry industry. The multi-faceted exposition is an eagerly awaited event for our members, to see the newest and best products and technology, notes CSI President Tom Lepisto, president of Hoyle Stone Products. Participation in a combined industry trade show suits our mission to develop standards and promote the use of cast stone, and we are eager to join with the other masonry-related associations in this event.

PCA is proud to be involved with this groundbreaking event, adds PCA President Brian McCarthy. Since its founding more than 90 years ago, PCA has had the same mission: ÎImprove and expand the uses of portland cement and concrete.Ì By bringing the concrete products industry under one roof, Icon Expo reflects this commitment.

Additional information about Icon Expo 2009 can be obtained at




Block USA Division Ready Mix USA Cos.
Birmingham, Alabama


Peerless Block & Brick Co.
St. Albans, West Virginia


President and CEO
RCP Concrete Products
Lemon Grove, California

From its headquarters and laboratory near Washington D.C.’s Dulles International Airport, the National Concrete Masonry Association (NCMA) represents the U.S. concrete masonry and hardscape industry with a unified voice.

Since 1918, the association has supported concrete masonry and hardscape component producers, as well as associated suppliers of products and services to the industry. Today, benefits include marketing promotion, technical assistance, research, lobbying, and communications to concrete masonry producers, customers, architects, designers and specifiers.

NCMA’s extensive technical services include research and design aids, which are distributed through publications, computer programs, slide presentations, and technical training. The association’s industry-leading monthly publications Û Concrete Masonry Designs, CM News, and TEK Û deliver timely, relevant, and valuable information to facilitate design, construction, and promotion of concrete structures and hardscapes.

Additionally, NCMA offers educational resources, information, and services for residential, commercial, and landscape market segments. It also provides continuing education programs for architects, designers, specifiers, and production and operations professionals. NCMA staff and volunteers are particularly active in ASTM standards committees and other code bodies. Its world-recognized research and development laboratory is a leader in product testing, validation, and certification.

Today, NCMA invests member resources in R&D, building-code development, government affairs advocacy, marketing, and technical support. Recognizing that education is at the core of each of these initiatives, the association extends its education and training commitment to members, masons, installers, design architects, engineers, and specifiers, as well as codes and standards developers and federal officials Û all of whom influence the growth and stability of its markets.

The NCMA Education and Research Foundation serves the concrete masonry industry as an affiliate with dedicated endowment. Its mission is to advance and support the industry and public interest through research and education programs designed to meet future needs. Accordingly, the foundation currently funds over $500,000 in scholarships and industry research projects in the areas of workforce development and codes and standards. Each year, the foundation’s source of income increases, providing more funds for future project investment.

Mark B. Hogan is NCMA president. The association is located at 13750 Sunrise Valley Drive, Herndon, VA 20171; tel.: 703/713-1900; fax: 703/713-1910; e-mail: [email protected]; website: