Integration Success

A visit with 2024 Concrete Masonry & Hardscapes Association Chair Sam Hoehner


Sam Hoehner

Two years out from the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute and National Concrete Masonry Association unification, the successor organization’s board chair sees a groundswell of indicators favoring members, allied interests and architectural, engineering and construction parties, concluding, “I can’t think of a better time to be a part of this industry.”

A regional vice president with Kentucky-based Lee Building Products Inc., Sam Hoehner was elected as the second Concrete Masonry & Hardscapes Association chair earlier this year. His enthusiasm for concrete building, retaining wall block, paver and manufactured stone veneer is well founded: Lee Building Products is entrenched in concrete or clay building enclosure and hardscape unit production and distribution; through 26 plants, showrooms, design centers and yards, it enjoys a multi-state presence along a major Interstate (65) corridor like few peers. His CMHA Board leadership dovetails a new era for members and staff, especially in their work with traditional allies, the International Masonry Institute, Mason Contractors Association of America and The Masonry Society, as well as new partners in code and carbon messaging.

Hoehner, inaugural CMHA Chair Matt Lynch (Oldcastle APG), along with CEO Robert Thomas and fellow executive committee members, have overseen two years of ICPI and NCMA integration and harmonization efforts aimed at aligning the organization around Masonry and Hardscapes Committees plus their CMU, Manufactured Stone Veneer, Segmental Pavement and Segmental Retaining Wall Marketing, Technical and/or Construction subcommittees.

“CMHA is so much stronger with this collection of talent and industry knowledge under the same roof at the former NCMA headquarters in Herndon, Virginia,” says Hoehner. “Eliminating staff overlap and combining shared services such as accounting, investment management, and annual auditing have enabled us to redirect resources. But the greatest efficiencies are for members. CMHA is now better aligned with the industry, making us more valuable to producers, associates and contractors, and better positioned to promote concrete masonry, hardscape units and stone veneer.” While two legacy entities, the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute and National Concrete Masonry Association Foundations, continue operating separately in support of their respective markets, he adds, “we are also in the process of harmonization efforts to better manage their endowments and grants.”

The CMHA Manufactured Stone Veneer Subcommittee continues to move the needle with respect to adhered masonry veneer practice. The recently released 2024 International Building Code references changes in the 2022 version of TMS 402 and 602. As local jurisdictions begin to adopt these codes in the near term, MSV Subcommittee members are working hard to update the CMHA MSV Installation Guide to reflect the 2024 IBC references. They will include changes with respect to polymer-modified mortars, unit weight and size allowances, veneer wall height considerations, and natural stone considerations.

CMHA is hitting its stride as the Concrete Masonry Checkoff—a technical, market and workforce development support mechanism unprecedented in cement-based products—enters prime time. The CMC Board (CMCB) has observed annualized collections upward of $10 million, consistent with estimates attending the April 2023 start of 1 cent per building block assessments on all U.S. concrete masonry producers. At present collection levels and Department of Commerce escrow requirements, the CMCB is able to commit about $7 million annually to national or regional programs abiding a “Research, Education and Promotion” charter defined in federal law underpinning the Checkoff. The Board is awaiting Commerce approval on inaugural national and regional programs whose contracts total more than $5 million.

“As the Checkoff gears up, we have taken the time to work with the CMCB to clarify our respective lanes of responsibility to ensure effective collaboration. CMHA will focus on areas like codes and standards, research, technical support, and educating members and their employees,” Hoehner explains. “CMCB will lead in areas such as marketing, sales and market metrics, and working through other national or regional partners on educating design professionals and contractors. We are committed to supporting each other and breaking down old ‘fragmented industry’ barriers. The CMHA Masonry Committee and CMU Technical and Marketing Subcommittees will support programs CMCB identifies as priorities. The first of those will be to expand past efforts to ensure that building codes recognize the value concrete masonry provides.”

CMHA plans to appoint a codes director to manage a seven-figure, multi-year program with equal or near-equal Association and CMCB funding. The program entails traditional advocacy work ensuring proper recognition of concrete masonry walls on structural, fire safety and energy code matters, plus measures advancing block materials and methods as the codes and standards arena expands to embodied carbon. A CMHA codes director can deliver compelling data and messages to carbon-wise audiences or groups. For AEC community members increasingly focused on carbon factors in project specifications, concrete block interests have a unique value proposition: Products of high load-bearing potential and low cement content, coupled with structural or architectural wall assemblies prone to sequestering atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Registration is under way for Hardscape North America, October 16-18 at the Kentucky Exposition Center, Louisville. Beyond the opportunity to see and test the latest equipment, tools, products and technology, attendees will also benefit from expanded education, new features, networking events and after-hours fun that Concrete Masonry & Hardscapes Association has planned for the nation’s largest annual hardscape and landscape event.

“We’re building on the energy from last year to bring an even more incredible experience for attendees in 2024,” says CMHA CEO Bob Thomas. “There’s no other place where you can come together with so many of your hardscape and landscape peers to discuss business and have a blast while doing it. Of course, you’re going to find new products and education to boost your bottom line, but at HNA we add unique features to make it the experience of the year.” Highlighting HNA 2024, he adds, are these new or continuing features:

  • Opening keynote from “This Old House” host Kevin O’Connor;
  • Free arena concert with country music icon Trace Adkins;
  • Expanded West Wing exhibits and activities, including Drone Zone and Cornhole Tournament;
  • Tuesday Welcome Reception at Churchill Downs, Kentucky Derby venue;
  • Happy hour at Kentucky Expo Center following Wednesday exhibit floor close;
  • Women’s Leadership Reception, Thursday; and,
  • Hardscape House and Outdoor Demonstration Yard, with live demonstrations and Installer Championships.

HardscapeNA registration covers access to the co-located Equip Exposition. Additional registration and event details can be obtained at or from show management, 888/580-9960. CMHA produces Hardscape NA with Brick Industry Association and Natural Stone Institute endorsement, plus chief sponsors Belgard Hardscapes and Keystone Hardscapes.

Ahead of CMHA, NCMA was at the forefront of quantifying gray or architectural concrete masonry units’ CO2 sequestration potential or carbonation tendencies. The CMU Technical Subcommittee continues to support research proving how concrete block specifications go hand in hand with AEC interests tracking or budgeting carbon metrics. Masonry Committee Chair Blair Harter (Basalite Concrete Products) and CMCB Board Member and Programs Committee Chair Heidi Jandris (Jandris Block) have prioritized concrete block CO2 sequestration performance measurement plus wall system analyses comparing dry cast CMUs’ carbonation, resiliency and sustainability properties against wood, steel, and wet-cast concrete alternatives.

“While CMHA has been leading the effort to document our carbon footprint and sustainability contributions, Concrete Masonry Checkoff programs will transition that information into effective and impactful messaging,” Hoehner observes. “This type of collaboration is a great example of how we can partner to drive our industry forward. Further collaboration with our industry allies, including the Concrete Sustainability Hub at MIT, will enable us to push beyond a block production ‘cradle to gate’ analysis to demonstrate the relative value of concrete masonry construction after you consider other factors like a building’s operating carbon (electricity consumption, heating and cooling) along with biogenic carbon (gas released during wood product decomposition). High marks in the use of localized materials, minimal site impacts, energy efficiency, low maintenance, adaptable reuse, fully recyclable end of use products, flexible design opportunities, and efficient construction all contribute to the benefits of designing and building with concrete masonry. We need to finish up preparing this information, then leverage the Checkoff program to convey these facts and resources to decision makers.”

“CMHA has always prided itself at being beyond reproach on engineering and technical matters. Carbon metric measurement and reporting are no different,” he adds. “With carbon accounting a relatively new field of study and a lot of public pressure to reduce carbon footprints, there is a strong, positive push to innovation. While we recognized early on that the void structure in our block products resulted in an improved ability to absorb and permanently sequester carbon from the atmosphere, it was critical that we establish baselines and standard processes for evaluation.”

Vice President of Engineering-Masonry Nick Lang and Director of Material Science Craig Walloch have led CMHA work on quantifying CMU carbonation rates. Data collection and validation will augment a deliverable they have set for this summer: an Industry Average Environmental Product Declaration for Concrete Masonry Units. The document will factor CO2 emissions or global warming potential figures from producer surveys and concrete mix material sources. The Industry Average EPD for CMU will be published by California-based Climate Earth, the first mover in manufactured and ready mixed concrete declarations.

“We are focused on collaboration and coordination in this area, becoming more active in forums such as Building Transparency, which developed the Embodied Carbon Calculator from the construction industry’s EPD library, to ensure that we are supporting responsible environmental decisions, both by designers and our producer members,” notes Hoehner. “We have partnered with others in the industry, including the Concrete Advancement Foundation, to submit a proposal to secure Environmental Protection Agency funding that would be used to incentivize our producer members to publish EPDs for their own products. A grant would accelerate our efforts and we expect to hear about the proposal status shortly. We have a great story to tell public and private construction parties through a widely recognized vehicle like an Industry Average EPD.”

CMHA is entering its third year, following the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute and National Concrete Masonry Association unification in July 2022. CMHA serves building and retaining wall block, segmental pavement and manufactured stone veneer producers and their allies through Masonry and Hardscapes committees plus six Marketing, Technical or Construction subcommittees. The Association organizes and manages Hardscape North America, an annual October gathering of producers, suppliers, contractors and installers at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville (note companion sidebar, opposite page). CMHA is also a partner with the National Precast Concrete Association and Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute in The Precast Show, staged in February or March. It serves as North America’s largest annual event for manufactured concrete interests, with attendance upward of 5,000.

One of the final deliverables in a nearly two-year ICPI and NCMA integration,, went live earlier this year. “The website solidifies CMHA’s role as the trusted source for segmental concrete products and systems, which are the best value and preferred choice for resilient pavement, structures, and living spaces,” says CEO Robert Thomas. “The site allows our members and other visitors to quickly find technical resources related to masonry and hardscapes; learn about membership opportunities, our events, courses and certification opportunities; search for member company information in directories; and, stay current on association and industry news.”

Carefully built by a team of designers and developers from Matrix Group International, the site’s modern, clean look is visually appealing, relying on photography to tell CMHA’s story, he adds. New navigation and content areas provide an intuitive user experience, including a powerful new search function, comprehensive technical resource calendar, industry calendar, and project profiles.