New Leadership, New Horizons

Momentum from its 90th anniversary celebration in 2008 continues to carry the National Concrete Masonry Association forward in 2009. New professional


Momentum from its 90th anniversary celebration in 2008 continues to carry the National Concrete Masonry Association forward in 2009. New professional leadership and an updated, newly accredited research lab are only part of the changes at NCMA.

We are in challenging times economically, but we know the networking and services that NCMA provides Û along with our extensive partnering with other concrete industry associations Û will help our members and association ride out the storm, affirms 2009 National Concrete Masonry Association Chairman Mike Finch, who is president of Lemon Grove, Calif.-based RCP Block & Brick, Inc.

NCMA observed its 90th anniversary last year with a variety of events. We had a great celebration and open house at the headquarters, Finch recalls. As part of the anniversary, several companies took the opportunity to revamp our lab, including a new, more sophisticated block-making machine to replace a much older machine, helping us conduct the research we need to further the industry. We redecorated and updated parts of the headquarters, and it was a good opportunity for members to meet staff and see where their dues dollars go.

Held in conjunction with the May anniversary event were long-range planning and executive meetings at which strategies for enhanced marketing and education programs were discussed. We also conducted a legislative conference that was partnered with the Masonry Contractors Association of America, Finch reports. We got together with our representatives for a very busy week.


Finch will be working with new leadership at the association’s helm, since the board in 2008 elected long-time NCMA staffer Û and former vice president of engineering Û Bob Thomas to the post of president. He replaces Mark Hogan, who resigned in mid-year after 30-plus years of distinguished NCMA service, the last decade as president. Thomas’ stint as interim president, which began June 1, culminated in his selection by the search committee led by Finch.

Bob provides the necessary leadership to address both future challenges and opportunities for the association and the concrete masonry and hardscapes industry, Finch asserts. We are fortunate to have someone like Bob, who is capable of moving into the position and assisting NCMA with realignment of its efforts and resources to address the evolving needs of our membership.


Finch sees partnering with other concrete associations as a way of optimizing NCMA’s influence to obtain long-standing goals. Whether we are partnering on trade shows or legislative conferences, we can create synergies with other associations to leverage our limited resources to their full potential, he tells Concrete Products. In this economy, dues dollars are stretched, and sponsorship dollars are not what they have been, so it’s important that we work together with, for example, the Masonry Contractors Association of America on our annual legislative conference. We both have the same story to tell our elected officials, which is why we’re partnering with them.

In late 2008, NCMA lobbied Congress on an economic stimulus program that would supply significant funds for infrastructure projects. Along with the National Precast Concrete Association (see page 26) and its other association partners in the North American Concrete Alliance (NACA), NCMA urged Congressional leaders to bring to their respective floors an economic-recovery and jobs-creation package with major infrastructure funding.

Although some infrastructure projects can take years to complete, a targeted proposal would create new, high-paying jobs very quickly, the alliance urged in letters to House and Senate majority and minority leaders during the lame-duck session. Directing funds to these types of projects would take immediate advantage of the 35,000 jobs created by every $1 billion of new federal highway investment, association members emphasized, thereby accomplishing the appropriate objective of a stimulus package: putting money directly in the hands of individuals.

An infrastructure package would aid construction workers who have been idled by the slowdown in housing construction, NCMA and its allies affirmed. Another benefit of infrastructure investment is that stimulus spending will be targeted where it will be most effective: in the construction sector of the economy, where the mortgage meltdown has eliminated thousands of jobs in the homebuilding and general building segments of the industry, the letter noted. While no such legislation was passed, the letter remains valuable in the early-2009 ramp-up of the Obama administration and its proposed infrastructure spending package.


NCMA was more successful in getting language favorable to masonry inserted into the FY 2009 defense funding bill. In addition to allocating monies for Department of Defense programs, the bill directs DOD to incorporate principles of sustainable design and life-cycle cost-effective practices in military construction. Further, requiring the Secretary of Defense to incorporate these principles and practices in all military construction projects submitted to Congress for approval establishes a mandate for such criteria across all DOD branches, including the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force.

The sustainability issue has been very important to masonry, Mike Finch observes. As some branches of Defense had been going to a less sustainable form of construction, environmentally speaking, we had been losing share to other, less durable materials. The Navy and Marines have tended to build their barracks out of concrete masonry, because they understand the sustainability and durability of the product Û not so with the Army and Air Force.

In the industry, we know that concrete is best. The environmental footprint, the durability, and safety attributes of concrete masonry for barracks and other defense installations now will benefit all branches of the military, as well as taxpayers.

NCMA and the concrete masonry industry long have argued that DOD should be utilizing more sustainable construction materials that are also cost-effective over the life cycle of the construction project. The new requirements likely will require a significant paradigm shift on the part of DOD regarding building material selection, especially for some branches that typically have sacrificed long-term cost-effectiveness and performance in the interest of achieving short-term objectives, NCMA asserts.


Also in the interest of sustainable concrete construction, NCMA’s foundation is sponsoring research into product life cycles. Environmental Life Cycle Inventory of Concrete Masonry and Concrete Hardscape Products will survey operations to determine the industry average of energy expended, emissions, and materials used in the production of concrete masonry units, segmental retaining wall units (SRW), and concrete pavers. Results will be analyzed and information prepared for submission to various life-cycle inventory databases, such as that managed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

The Portland Cement Association and the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute are cosponsors of the study. Project success will depend upon information submitted by block, SRW and paver producers, NCMA contends. Industry-generated average environmental footprint information secured in a public database is important to the future recognition and market success of concrete masonry and concrete hardscape products as sustainable materials of construction.


NCMA’s foundation also is underwriting continued research on the effect of freeze-thaw cycles on segmental retaining walls (SRW) Û a key factor curtailing use of SRWs in northern-tier states. Freeze-thaw is a big issue in some areas of the country, Mike Finch tells Concrete Products. The association is constantly doing freeze-thaw research, and it’s been a major theme for years. Some of the DOTs Û for example, here in California Û have not accepted segmental retaining walls. We won’t Îbang our headsÌ against that market, if there is too much resistance; we will find the path of least resistance, and that means advanced research.

Evaluation of Freeze-Thaw Test Method for Segmental Retaining Wall Units will tackle variability of test results when the method is applied within nominal requirements of the standard. The study by Cornell University aims to provide an informed recommendation for a freeze-thaw testing cycle with associated tolerances for all procedures, as well as reliable guidance on methods of SRW-unit performance evaluation. The overall challenge is to define a reproducible, reliable test method to confirm the durability of SRW units that have exhibited and will continue to demonstrate dependable performance under field conditions, plus identify those units that should not be used in severe freeze-thaw environments, NCMA notes.

NCMA does this research along with the licensors of segmental retaining wall technology, Finch reports. These products were created by entrepreneurs who have patents and licensing fees, and the SRW industry needs a ÎGood HousekeepingÌ-type seal of approval from a reputable association like NCMA that will serve as a watchdog for standards. Should SRWs become more prevalent, more pressure will be exerted to enlarge the building code to include them, so NCMA Û with the expertise of the SRW people Û may need to be the watchdog for codes and standards.

In addition to its freeze-thaw research work, NCMA last year articulated new guidelines on performance criteria for concrete masonry components incorporating integral water repellents. The association emphasizes that such units are able to contribute significantly to concrete masonry walls’ function as exterior building enclosures resistant to penetration by wind-driven rain. Recommended by NCMA for inclusion into construction specifications are its guidelines regarding new test methods for evaluating units’ water repellency characteristics.


Pursuant to Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute’s full-structural seismic shake tests at the University of California-San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering’s Englekirk Structural Engineering Center, NCMA is supporting scaled model research at Drexel University, Philadelphia. The System-Level Seismic Research of Concrete Masonry Buildings study will use a total system-level approach to evaluate low-rise, lightly reinforced masonry buildings’ performance in earthquakes.



Serving the masonry needs of its Southern California market for over six decades, RCP Block & Brick grew with San Diego during the post-World War II years, benefiting from housing and commercial growth among residents who stayed and formed families after 1945.

In 1947, returning from Germany after months aiding the war cleanup effort, Marvin Finch partnered with some friends to set up a concrete block operation, Revolutionized Concrete Products. Subsequently, La Mesa Block and R.C.P. Company merged in 1966 to become what is now RCP Block & Brick, Inc. Since that time, both the San Diego building industry and RCP have experienced sizeable growth.

Presently, RCP Block & Brick serves far Southern California from six masonry centers located in Chula Vista, Lemon Grove, Santee, Encinitas, Escondido and Murrieta. RCP’s two state-of-the-art production facilities in San Diego County fabricate thousands of concrete masonry units in a variety of sizes, shapes, colors and textures.

The RCP product line includes not only basic concrete block, but decorative architectural units, interlocking pavers, Keystone segmental retaining walls, tumbled pavers and landscape wall block, plus pumice flue liners, turf-block and several hardscape items. Products such as clay brick, glass block, stone, porcelain tile, and barbecues round out the line of building materials RCP offers. Also available is delivery to customers’ homes or job sites via RCP’s fleet of GPS-guided, radio-dispatched trucks.

Following Marvin Finch’s death in 1998, company management fell to his sons, Mike and Tom Finch; daughters Kathy Finch Olsen and Sharon Finch Regano; brothers Chuck Dick Finch; and, partner, Gene Chubb. All remain committed to the ideals and values set out by RCP’s founder. That dedication is evident as well in RCP’s 300-plus employees, many of whom have been with the company for 20 or 30 years and longer. Û




RCP Block & Brick, Inc.
Lemon Grove, California


Block USA, div. Ready Mix USA Companies
Birmingham, Alabama


Manager, Sales & Marketing
Kirchner Block & Brick
Bridgeton, Missouri

A global trade association representing the concrete masonry and hardscape industry, the National Concrete Masonry Association (NCMA) serves a membership comprising producers of concrete masonry and hardscape units, as well as suppliers of related products and services. Its scope of activity encompasses a broad range of technical, research, education, marketing, certification, communications, and government-relations functions. NCMA offers a variety of technical services and design aids through publications, computer programs, slide presentations, and technical training.

The NCMA Education and Research Foundation supports the concrete masonry industry by serving as a research and education affiliate. Every year, the foundation identifies and funds new grants with the aim of fostering developments to advance the industry. Over $700,000 in new grants and scholarships have been approved by the foundation over the past seven years.

NCMA’s Research and Development Laboratory is a world-class facility, dedicated to the scientific testing and study of concrete masonry and hardscape products and systems. The laboratory features a new concrete-unit production line capable of simulating various methodologies in use at modern plants.

The facility can be used for many applications that support and improve the industry, association officials emphasize. More information is available at

NCMA is located just east of Dulles International Airport at 13750 Sunrise Valley Drive, Herndon, VA 20171-4662; tel.: 703/713-1900; fax: 703/713-1910; e-mail: [email protected]; website:


Despite the economy, NCMA is going ahead with the first annual International Concrete Exposition (ICON Expo), Feb. 26-28, in Indianapolis. ICON Expo will give delegates to NCMA’s annual convention an opportunity to view new advances in the concrete masonry and hardscape industry. Offering attendees more educational programming, networking opportunities, and exposure to the latest equipment, supplies and services for the entire concrete products industry, ICON Expo is held in conjunction with the NCMA convention, thereby allowing industry professionals to participate in seminars and presentations. Cosponsors of the show include the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute, Cast Stone Institute, Expanded Shale, Clay and Slate Institute, and the Portland Cement Association.

We will be putting on a good event that will showcase the industry, 2009 NCMA Chairman Mike Finch affirms. It will be in the center of the country, where a considerable number of people in the industry will be able to drive to the event. For a Southern California boy like me, the cold will be a shock, but we know the central location will draw a lot of industry representatives, because of low travel costs.


In a major step forward, the NCMA Research and Development Laboratory received full accreditation by the independent International Accreditation Service (IAS). Providing evidence that the laboratory has been evaluated against rigorous, internationally accepted standards, accreditation ensures that the facility has demonstrated its ability to provide highly reliable testing, calibration, and production services.

Moreover, the accreditation allows NCMA Laboratory test results to be recognized by the International Code Council Evaluation Service (ICC-ES). As ICC-ES approval is crucial to the introduction, approval and use of new building materials and systems, the lab’s IAS accreditation is instrumental in serving developers of new and innovative concrete masonry systems.

IAS accreditation also will help the NCMA laboratory meet the building industry’s demand for substantiation of concrete masonry products’ technical competence. Covered by the accreditation are nearly all tests the NCMA lab performs, i.e., unit testing of concrete masonry units and related materials; assembly testing, including segmental retaining wall connection and shear strength tests; and, full-scale structural testing of concrete masonry wall panels.