On-Site Magazine

From the CRMCA: Concrete on the Economy

By On-Site Magazine   


The cement and concrete industries face the many challenges of any economic force driving the prosperity of the country today. These include being corporately responsible and profitable in an increasingly regulated marketplace influenced by government, media and public opinion.

Land usage, environment, sustainable development, infrastructure, new construction and rehabilitation of existing construction all fall under several categories influenced by regulation and public policy. An industry needs to be forward thinking to address all the concerns impacting your business models. This happens on two levels; the company itself and the health of its own markets, and the collective industry as a whole, leveraging the strength of a sector to maintain successful operation despite the external factors affecting the market through associations.

Industry associations must continually act on behalf of their members in order to demonstrate value to maintain membership. One key area is to ensure members’ concerns are heard at all levels of government. There are a number of examples, such as the wood and asphalt industries, where the outward strength of a sector is measured by its government relations and advocacy actions. The wood industry has been successful at obtaining heavy government subsidies (Canadian tax dollars) to promote their products in Canada as renewable, recyclable and sustainable. Their success is apparently measured with sector specific legislation being proposed in federally and provincially to implement biased selection criteria for wood products on government construction tenders. These actions politically impact the construction market, removing any competition with little thought as to the technical accuracy of the claims. All we have to do is look at the wasted wood on any job site to know recycling of their products remains a huge unanswered issue. The wood industry promotes carbon sequestration as the key to using wood products but that is only one side of the story. With deforestation causing 25 per cent of global C02 what is the true cost?

The asphalt industry has been so successful that municipalities continue to build new roads that do not meet the durability requirements and then spend millions on repairing the product that fails. Policy makers are unwilling (or don’t know) to look for smarter solutions to solve this never ending cycle of debt. They would rather use the same product that just failed resulting in a backlog of billions of dollars of failing infrastructure. The asphalt industry has convinced politicians over the years that they should spend money on short-life products that will get them through their four or five years, and then repair with the same material that failed in the first place. And asphalt recycling is at a point where municipalities have too much and they have no way of using it all up – a result of too much product with a short life. 


The capital cost of concrete paving versus asphalt has now changed to favour concrete, but municipalities still use their old methods and then talk sustainability and green without a true understanding. The asphalt lobby is so successful we build our sidewalks, which carry the lightest load, out of concrete and we build our roads, which carry the heaviest loads out of asphalt. On top of this concrete is 100 per cent recyclable every time saving virgin materials, where asphalt can only be recycled as a small percentage (perhaps 20 per cent). Once again the asphalt industry was so successful that during the years of the heavy infrastructure subsidy funding following 2008, they sold a recycled cold-formed product to municipalities to resurface roads as a green solution. Most of these roads had to be replaced shortly after construction and they are still being replaced today. Success for the asphalt industry no doubt, but absolutely no benefit to the taxpayers of this country.

The concrete and cement industry is now providing even smarter solutions—you might say the economic downturn in recent years has woken a sleeping giant. The C and C industry under the banners of the Canadian Ready Mixed Concrete Association and Cement Association of Canada are becoming more active (and successful) at all levels of government, and decision makers are listening. Buildings or Infrastructure—the cost, life and environmental benefits of concrete and concrete systems are attractive to policy and decision makers. The honest messages of energy efficiency, sustainability, durability, resilience, fire, wind and water protection, longer life, lower cost, recyclability, performance and creative products are having impact as decision makers understand that they now have choices to get better products that save money, last longer and are better for the environment – and better for the taxpayers too.

Provided by the Canadian Ready-Mixed Concrete Association. Send comments to editor@on-sitemag.com.


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