Standing Strong

In difficult economic times now facing us, the new chairman of the American Concrete Pipe Association (ACPA) is looking for ways to preserve member services

Tom Kuennen

In difficult economic times now facing us, the new chairman of the American Concrete Pipe Association (ACPA) is looking for ways to preserve member services as the organization cuts costs.

Despite the economic downturn and a desire to trim expenses, the association is determined not to compromise its value as a resource for members, asserts 2009 ACPA Chairman John Finch, P.E., who is regional manager, Mid-Atlantic States for Rinker Materials – Concrete Pipe Division of Cemex USA in Frederick, Md. Since difficult and challenging times are present for all of us, he notes, one of our goals at the association is to keep costs down for our membership. We’re accomplishing that by doing more online, such as holding ÎwebinarsÌ instead of seminars, providing information as online features instead of print, and conducting conference calls instead of meetings.

Acutely aware that its members face a tough economy, ACPA is doing what it can to enable them to stay involved with the association. Using the Internet and other technology to reach them saves time and money for everybody, he observes. Historically, we’ve had members fly in for meetings around the country. This year, we hope to achieve the same result via webinars, while reserving in-person meetings for certain events. Also as part of the streamlining process, a digital edition of ACPA’s quarterly publication, Concrete Pipe News, will be posted in 2009 at its web site,

Finch lauds the work of ACPA staff as it functions under current economic pressures. We have an excellent staff, he affirms, which serves as a well respected resource for the concrete pipe industry. ACPA constitutes a tremendous technical resource, and we are continually expanding that capability.

Meanwhile, following a reevaluation in fall 2008, ACPA stands by its strategic plan. We examined it and decided to stay the course, Finch reports. Our plan includes adding a fourth field engineer in 2009, depending on the economy.


Similarly, even as ACPA shaves expenses for itself and its members, cutting back on principal marketing and education outreach missions is not an item on the association agenda. Focused efforts in marketing our product and educating owners, agencies and specifiers will continue, Finch emphasizes. We will persevere in making clear the differences between rigid concrete and flexible thermoplastic pipe systems. We have been pointing out distinct differences in pipe design and installation Û and how owners then assure themselves they got what they paid for. Flexible pipe systems are designed to deflect, yet rarely do owners complete a post-installation inspection. That’s essential to confirm that the pipe is deflecting as designed.

With rigid concrete pipe, however, the majority of pipe-soil structure is delivered to the job site in the precast component, Finch explains. In some instances, up to 100 percent of the pipe-soil structure is provided to the job site, thereby minimizing potential problems and negative impact of contractor error in the installation process.

By contrast, high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pipe Û due primarily to its low stiffness Û comprises 5 percent or less of the soil-pipe system at delivery, Finch contends. This places the burden of performance in the field largely on installation method, type of bedding and backfill material, plus adequacy of field inspection.

Poor site conditions, such as weak native soils and groundwater, further aggravate the problem, Finch adds. Because project sites differ in the in situ conditions, lack of attention to that fact on the part of designers for flexible pipe can be problematic. On the other hand, he observes, the structural integrity of a concrete pipe installation is derived primarily from the pipe and, thus, will not be compromised by moderate changes over time to the soil envelope.


Concrete pipe’s position against HDPE pipe in a brutal market has been bolstered by new research from the University of Texas-Arlington. Significant interest in the structural performance of pipelines at the University of Texas at Arlington has produced a lot of research on HDPE pipeline performance, Finch reports. They’ve found that it is not performing very well. In the meantime, in the same application, concrete pipe has served the public interest well for the last 100 years.

The research was published in January 2009. Titled Evaluation of HDPE Pipelines Structural Performance, by Ali Abolmaali, Ph.D., P.E., associate professor of structural mechanics and director, University of Texas-Arlington Center for Structural Engineering Research, and Ardavan Motahari, Ph.D., research scientist, Center for Structural Engineering Research, it recaps field investigations on HDPE pipe across the nation.

The authors investigated structural performance of more than 100 HDPE pipelines throughout six states, including Texas, Missouri, Kansas, Minnesota, North Carolina and Virginia. The sites were selected to cover diverse geographical locations, the researchers explain. Qualitative and quantitative observations and measurements were completed using a pipeline inspection camera and a pipeline laser profiling unit.

Several failure modes were identified for all HDPE pipelines tested, including cracking and fracture; excessive deformation; inverse curvature; joint displacement; corrugation growth; and, buckling. The study showed that 100 percent of the pipelines examined suffered from some or many of the failure modes cited. In 68 percent of the pipes tested, governing maximum deformations (Y, X, and/or ovality) of 5 percent were exceeded, the authors state. A value of 22.5 percent was observed for the maximum deformation; and, among all pipelines inspected, the average of maximum deformations was 7.2 percent.

That evidence provides a powerful comment on the efficacy of flexible pipes. [S]tructural health and integrity of the installed HDPE pipelines tested are generally below structurally acceptable levels of serviceability, the researchers conclude.

Additionally, the authors assert that knowledge of long-term performance properties of HDPE pipes subjected to diverse service load is limited, due to the various and multiple modes of pipe failure identified in their research. Further studies, they emphasize, are needed to identify HDPE’s long-term properties in order to avoid unexpected failure. The full 228-page report may be downloaded at


Part of flexible thermoplastic pipe’s marketing pitch is that it’s easier to install, John Finch tells Concrete Products. In fact, as time progresses and owners use new inspection technologies available to them, [HDPE advocates] will find that their flexible pipes are not performing as they should, due to the time-dependent material properties of thermoplastics. That was demonstrated by the UT-Arlington report, which found that pipe designed to deflect experienced deformation exceeding its design limit.

The UT-Arlington report is just one arrow Û but an important one Û in the association’s quiver. We are using it as part of our educational effort, says Finch. We’re using it to inform owners, agencies, and specifiers of the differences between rigid concrete and flexible pipe. It’s an ongoing effort, and UTA research certainly helps us.

Also targeted by ACPA are inadequate specifications for HDPE pipe use. Too often, the flexible HDPE pipe is broadly specified and not designed specifically for individual projects and their varying conditions, Finch notes. It’s a key point: when agencies include the material spec in the plans, they often don’t consider installation and bedding requirements for the specific site and soil conditions. Then, the specs cascade from state to cities to counties, and then to private projects. Our solution is to be positive about concrete pipe and promote its excellent attributes. Concrete pipe is clearly the low-risk product for owners and specifiers, providing the best value.

Carrying this message to the field are ACPA’s three regional engineers, whose mission is to reach out to the agencies. In that capacity, they host box-lunch sessions for specifiers, offer presentations at local association meetings, and assist the marketing efforts of regional producers. Given the sizeable universe of folks we need to reach, we depend in large part on our membership taking the message to them, Finch affirms.


In the midst of a major recession, the first-ever Precast Show Û co-sponsored with the National Precast Concrete Association Û was staged in Houston in late February. It was a very successful show, Finch reports. Given the economic conditions, it was a greater success than we anticipated, exceeding our attendance expectations and eliciting positive feedback from attendees. The concrete pipe side was very well supported.

A notable offering at the Precast Show was ACPA’s Production Short Course School. In November, we conducted the Marketing Short Course School, Finch recalls. For 2010, we are considering co-locating the marketing school with the production school at the Precast Show. Next year’s event will be held Feb. 19-21 at the Phoenix Convention Center. More information is available at

ACPA’s Quality School also was held in conjunction with the 2009 Precast Show. As part of our Q-Cast certification requirements, individuals need to participate in the quality school, Finch asserts. We will combine that with future shows as well.



As a leading building materials supplier, Cemex provides cement, ready-mix concrete, aggregates, and concrete products to the construction industry. Rinker Materials was acquired by Cemex in 2007, positioning the company to deliver a greater variety of products and services to more areas of the country than ever before.

Rinker Materials – Concrete Pipe Division, a Cemex Company, is a leading producer of concrete pipe and box culverts in the United States. Among its offerings is the proprietary Rinker Stormceptor, a stormwater separator that removes sediments and hydrocarbons from stormwater run-off and stores the pollutants for safe and easy removal. Rinker’s Concrete Pipe Division encompasses manufacturing facilities in 21 states.

Other products from various Rinker locations include manholes and inlets, microtunnelling (jacking) pipe, and specialty fittings and accessories. The Rinker Materials Concrete Pipe Division hosts a web site at





Regional Manager
Rinker Materials – Concrete Pipe Division
Cemex USA
Frederick, Maryland



Vice President, Production
Northern Concrete Pipe, Inc.
Bay City, Michigan



The Langley Concrete Group of Companies
Langley, British Columbia

For more than a century Û its centennial was celebrated in 2007 Û the American Concrete Pipe Association has provided a voice for concrete pipe producers in matters affecting the industry’s welfare. In return, ACPA members contribute to the improvement of our environment by producing quality concrete pipe, engineered to provide a lasting and economical solution to drainage and pollution problems.

ACPA was conceived in 1907 as the Interstate Cement Tile Manufacturers Association in Ames, Iowa, by a small group of concrete farm drain tile producers. The organization was established as a vehicle for exchanging ideas and establishing high-quality, standardized products. In 1914, the organization was renamed the American Concrete Pipe Association.

Throughout the 20th century, the concrete pipe industry experienced tremendous growth. As people migrated in ever larger numbers from farms to cities, demand increased for concrete sewer and drainage products. With the introduction of the automobile and subsequent development of the highway network, use of concrete pipe storm drains and culverts grew exponentially.

Today, over 400 plants are operated by ACPA members in the United States and Canada. Over 40 countries are represented in the membership of the American Concrete Pipe Association. ACPA’s international headquarters are located at 1303 West Walnut Hill Lane, Suite 305, Irving, Texas 75038; tel.: 972/506-7216; fax: 972/506-7682; e-mail: [email protected]; web site: