Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY-2) and lead co-sponsor Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL-14) have introduced the Concrete Masonry Products Research, Education, and Promotion Act of 2015 (H.R. 985) into the 114th Congress, its title and language nearly identical to 2013 legislation. The bill would authorize concrete masonry interests to conduct an industry-wide referendum establishing a commodity check-off program; approval would lead to a U.S. Department of Commerce-sanctioned stakeholder board empowered to collect a target amount per concrete masonry unit sold. It contains provisions for the industry to eliminate the program at any time and requires at least half of funds to be reinvested in regions from which they were collected, thereby supporting products most beneficial to a specific geographical area.
Proponents note: a) the bill supports an industry made up of primarily small, local businesses; b) most block producers are small and local due to the huge weight of concrete block and the high costs of transporting the products; and, c) virtually every Congressional district is home to at least one producer and multiple masonry contractors.
“This approach provides us the best opportunity to fairly and effectively advance the use of concrete masonry as a modern building material,” says Ready Mix/Block USA’s Major Ogilvie, a CMU Check-off Program Leadership Team member. “We made great headway in educating members of the last Congress, securing 267 co-sponsors. I believe that hard work will translate into passage this year.”
In the spirit of “Pork, the other white meat,” “Beef, it’s what’s for dinner,” and “Got Milk?” campaigns, check-offs permit commodity producers (non-branded, indistinguishable brands) to pool their resources for research, education, and promotion.
H.R. 985 has been referred to the Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade Subcommittee of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, of which Rep. Guthrie and Rep. Castor are members. Additional information on the masonry program can be obtained from Joel Miller in Rep. Guthrie’s office, [email protected]; or, Elizabeth Brown in Rep. Castor’s Office, [email protected] — National Concrete Masonry Association
FIRE-WEARY LAWMAKERS SCRUTINIZE BUILDING CODES
Concrete industry stakeholders are tracking New Jersey officials’ response to a massive fire that destroyed more than half of Avalon at Edgewater, a four-level, 408-unit apartment complex framed with lightweight wood trusses. Triggered by a plumbing crew’s welding torch, the early-2015 blaze saw no loss of life and minor injuries, but displaced more than 1,000 residents of the development and neighboring properties.
Portland Cement Association cites New Jersey Assemblyman Scott Rumana’s (R-40) proposed legislation requiring evaluation of the appropriateness of light-frame construction for multi-family dwellings, and imposing a moratorium on such practice until a determination and recommendations are adopted.
“With concrete and masonry construction, as well as appropriate sprinkler application, most fires would not have the potential to spread this rapidly,” says PCA Northeast Region Executive Director Patrick Reardon Jr. “While developers might be tempted to save on initial costs by utilizing cheaper building construction, non-combustible materials such as concrete, masonry or steel minimize the damage that could be caused in an emergency and increase building costs only marginally.” A Fire Safety Construction Advisory Council (FSCAC) study, he adds, finds the cost difference ranges from three percent more to three percent less when builders switch to a two-hour non-combustible material against lesser construction.
Stringent fire safety provisions are the basic requirements of any code, including New Jersey’s, which is modeled after the International Building Code. However, the code permits structural fire protection reductions wherever automatic sprinklers are present. According to Reardon, recent passive fire protection provisions in new construction reduce the use of non-combustible materials like concrete in favor of installing sprinklers. “The concrete construction industries have long advocated for balanced design for property protection and life safety,” he notes. “This combines active systems, such as fire detection and suppression (sprinklers), with passive containment like concrete masonry and steel and provides an increased level of safety.”