The National Ready Mixed Concrete Association-aligned Build with Strength coalition has enlisted International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1291 and Mayfair Civic Association as its newest members. The Philadelphia groups join civic organizations, fire service professionals, architects, engineers and industry experts who are committed to a) enacting safer and more sustainable building standards; and, b) closely tracking an increase in fires damaging or destroying low- to mid-rise buildings designed with combustible materials.
ILA 1291 has served the Port of Philadelphia for decades, and is teaming with the coalition out of concern for fire safety. “Our dedication to Philadelphia extends beyond our Local, and at the end of the day it is essential for our members and community to live and work in fire-safe buildings,” says President Boise Butler. “Our alliance with Build with Strength has been a natural next step to solidifying our commitment to fire prevention.”
“[The] partnership gives us an opportunity to strengthen our understanding of local needs, work together to develop stronger building codes and educate the community on the importance of building with non-combustible materials,” affirms Build with Strength spokesperson Kevin Lawlor. “The Local, under the leadership of Boise Butler, is unwavering in their dedication to fire safety in the city of Philadelphia.”
The second new member parallels grass roots outreach through which the coalition has gained critical mass in Los Angeles, another major metropolitan area target. “Working alongside Mayfair Civic Association allows us greater access to local residents and community leaders, providing valuable insight into the needs of Philadelphia,” Lawlor observes. “There is undoubtedly a troubling trend of weakened building codes across the United States, and as a coalition we are dedicated to strengthening those standards for the benefit of neighborhoods like Mayfair.”
“The people of Mayfair, and Philadelphia as a whole, deserve to live and work in safe buildings,” affirms Kevin Leonard, vice president of Mayfair Civic Association, whose members support their northeast Philadelphia neighborhood with programs bridging the activities of residents, businesses and institutions. “As an organization, we understand from a programmatic perspective how stronger building codes can drive invest[ment] in a community long term.”
As the population of Philadelphia and other urban centers across the U.S. increases, the demand for housing continues to grow. To safeguard communities, particularly those that are home to low- and moderate-income residents at greatest risk of substandard building practices, Build with Strength members are working to tighten local and state codes to require the use of non-combustible materials.
COUNTERING CLAIMS OF ‘CONCRETE WEEK’
National Ready Mixed Concrete Association President Robert Garbini and Portland Cement Association CEO Mike Ireland assure members of their groups’ preparedness to address questions arising from recurring and primarily negative media coverage on the carbon dioxide aspect of cement production and finished concrete. A joint communiqué followed the late-February launch of Concrete Week by The Guardian, an online United Kingdom publication with extensive North American coverage and audience. Leading off the series is a report titled “Concrete: the most destructive material on Earth.”
“From a concrete perspective,” Garbini and Ireland noted, “the Build with Strength coalition, including NRMCA and PCA, is working to educate the public, key stakeholders, policy makers, and decision-makers on concrete’s roll in this discussion as a sustainable, resilient and durable product. The true story paints a much different picture. From a cement perspective … industry leadership is in the process of formulating a long-term strategy balancing advocacy, communication/education and technological advances.”
NRMCA and PCA are addressing negative, misleading media reports in North America and through the London-based Global Cement and Concrete Association. In a statement on The Guardian series, the latter observed: “‘Concrete Week’ is a great opportunity to look at a range of important issues associated with concrete, and it is right to examine some of the important challenges the world faces. However, inadequately covering the significant work already underway by the sector, as well as underplaying concrete’s critical benefits, gives an incomplete picture.
“We recognize there are challenges in cement and concrete production and have been working hard over many years to find solutions. By collaborating with partners in the built environment we can make an important contribution to reducing global emissions … Only putting across one side of the debate fails to address the realities of the needs of a significantly growing global population and increasing urbanization. Safe homes and buildings, clean water and resilient infrastructure will be needed in the future world—all of which concrete can provide.”