MOVING PRECAST TO THE TOP
- Written by Josephine Smith
Dean Gwin Is 2014 Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute Chairman
Since taking the helm from Tom Kelley, P.E. as the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute Chairman, Dean Gwin, president & COO of Gate Construction Materials Group, has been eager to assist and challenge members to “move the needle” of the percentage of times precast is chosen for construction projects in a rebounding market. Moving the needle was his recurring call for action as he addressed last year’s PCI Convention and National Bridge Conference in Grapevine, Texas: “I challenge each of you to spend more time talking about the attributes our products have over competing products in the early stages of design rather than focusing your efforts just before and after bid day. After such a downturn, we all have become guilty of this. Our industry is in the midst of a turn and we need to increase the percentage of times architects, engineers and owners choose precast.”
Gwin has recently noted competitive advantages that will help move the needle, including: PCI Research and Development, which continues to demonstrate that precast concrete can meet a multitude of design challenges; new building codes that create opportunities for precast methods’ versatility, efficiency and resilience; and, increased implementation of Building Information Modeling and prefabrication that encourages greater use of precast concrete. But the biggest way to move the needle, he contends, is through more well-planned collaboration. PCI members are more powerful as a united industry than as individual companies.
One of the ways they can work together to move the needle in a positive direction, Gwin notes, is through the PCI Foundation. It has made great strides in providing for the industry’s future success by growing the list of universities integrating precast/prestressed concrete programs into their curriculum. The most recent universities to partner with the foundation are the Rhode Island School of Design and South Dakota State University.
“For 2014, the PCI Foundation is working with seven universities,” explains Gwin. “An invaluable part of these programs is the interaction between the students and industry. Hands-on plant workshops open the eyes of students, making them more comfortable with using precast concrete as working architects and engineers.
“The time is now to share the body of knowledge with these young men and women who rely on us for guidance in designing and building precast concrete structures. An increase in contributions to the PCI Foundation would provide the traction we need to launch programs at 50 universities by 2025.”
Moreover, PCI Board of Directors has endorsed a plan for collaborating with the National Precast Concrete Association to capitalize and leverage the strengths of both PCI and NPCA (see “Plant certification initial focus of PCI, NPCA strategic partnership,” page 41). When asked about member response to the certification partnership, Gwin responds: “Right now we are offering NPCA and PCI certification from one inspector during one inspection period. I don’t think anyone who is both NPCA- and PCI-certified has a problem with less inspections, less inspectors, and smaller inspection fees in the future.”
The Discover High Performance Precast marketing campaign, which was launched last year, has made more than 6 million impressions. The campaign increases awareness of performance benefits of precast concrete with decision makers and influencers, and is fully integrated into all of PCI’s marketing programs. The multi-media plan, which is coordinated with PCI Regions and members, is the most comprehensive marketing effort the Institute has ever undertaken. Some of the tactics include: advertising in major industry publications; digital ads on target websites; having a strong presence at primary industry gatherings such as the American Institute of Architects Convention and Greenbuild; and, holding monthly webinars and other continuing education opportunities.
PCI provides more than 15,000 continuing education units per year. “Learn, promote, and incorporate PCI’s marketing campaign, Discover High Performance Precast, into your company’s sales and marketing activities,” urges Gwin. “This unified message will increase awareness and interest in precast concrete, causing the needle to jump.” PCI producers can visit the members-only section of the newly designed www.pci.org—launched last September at the PCI Convention and National Bridge Conference—for campaign resources and tools. Since the new version went live, more than 40,000 unique users have visited the site, which offers an enhanced experience and improved information architecture than prior versions. It also provides new resources such as videos, project profiles as well as advanced engineering, envelope, parking and transportation resource sections.
GATE CONSTRUCTION MATERIALS GROUP AT-A-GLANCE
Jacksonville, Fla.-based Gate Petroleum Co. was founded by Herbert Hill Peyton in 1960. Gate Construction Materials Group (Gate Precast Co. and Gate Concrete Co.) was established in 1980 after Gate Petroleum began acquiring non-petroleum businesses. It is now one of the nation’s largest producers of architectural precast concrete, prestressed hollow core slabs, transportation/infrastructure and marine components. With eight manufacturing facilities in six states and a strong market presence in 26 states, Gate has become a leader in design-assist and manufacturing of architectural and structural precast concrete systems.
At its advanced plants, architectural and structural concrete are designed, manufactured, delivered and installed to customers in over two-thirds of the United States. All of Gate’s plants are PCI certified and undergo thorough, unannounced audits to maintain certification. Gate’s drive for product quality improvement requires that its enclosed manufacturing facilities and processes are constantly monitored by PCI-certified Quality Control inspectors.
|Gate Precast’s Oxford, N.C., plant supplied 44,700 sq. ft. of precast (470 pieces) for the Old Point National Bank in Hampton, Va.|
Through the use of BIM and 3D modeling, Gate engineers and detailers can develop an infinite number of shapes, textures and finishes. The company has the ability to create master molds that comprise compound radiuses and multiple levels. For instance, Gate Precast’s Hillsboro, Texas, facility molded over 10,000 sq. ft. of undulating forms—rigorously systematic but seemingly random—for the Perot Museum of Nature and Science that opened in December 2012 in Dallas (“Gate Precast clads Perot Museum,” Concrete Products, April 2013, pages 6-7). The project, which featured over 100,000 sq. ft. of as-cast precast cladding, won a 2012 PCI Design Award for Best Government or Public Building. Additionally, Gate Precast was recognized by ENR for its performance on the Perot Museum in the Specialty Contracting category of 2012’s Best of the Best in the U.S.
OSHA SILICA RULE
Few regulatory measures have commanded precast/prestressed interests’ like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s proposed rulemaking to reduce the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for crystalline silica in General Industry and Construction. Along with the PCI Executive Committee and Board, Gwin tasked Institute staff with informing the agency of the proposed rule’s flaws and negative effects on members’ plant operations and construction sites.
PCI President James Toscas is scheduled to address public hearings OSHA is hosting in Washington, D.C., this month on the proposed silica rule revision—appearing along with representatives from Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute, National Ready Mixed Concrete Association and Portland Cement Association. He will arrive with data from an 11-page document submitted on behalf of precast/prestressed interests during the September–February public comment period on the rule. His commentary challenges the legal basis behind the rulemaking and details proactive employer measures that have sharply curtailed the incidence of silicosis attributable to workplace respirable crystalline exposure—annual deaths linked to the disease dropping from 1,157 in 1968 to below 100 at present.
“PCI strongly disagrees with OSHA’s proposal to make fundamental changes to an apparently successful effort by significantly reducing the PEL for crystalline silica,” Toscas contends. “OSHA reinforces its argument to lower the crystalline silica PEL through an exhaustive analysis purporting to show that exposure levels can be reliably measured at the proposed lower level. Besides stating, but then ignoring, the significant uncertainties in this analysis, making such an argument clearly indicates that the regulatory philosophy behind the proposed PEL reduction is to reduce exposure to the lowest level that can feasibly be attained by industry.
These two branches of the rationale demonstrated in OSHA’s justification (i.e., that there is no known safe exposure level and that the PEL should be reduced to the lowest level that can feasibly be attained by industry) are precisely what the Supreme Court [has] found to be “a misinterpretation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act … In short, it is OSHA’s mandate to eliminate significant workplace hazards; it is not OSHA’s job to reduce workplace risk to near-zero levels.”
Citing high noncompliance rates for existing crystalline silica PEL thresholds in General Industry and Construction workplaces, Toscas notes, “It would appear that inspection and enforcement of the current regulation have been sporadic … Implementation of more stringent PELs will not affect already-noncompliant workplaces, where workers will continue to be overexposed to silica. They will only affect compliant firms. If 30–50 percent of industry cannot comply with the current PEL, how is it feasible to comply with reductions of 50–75 percent in the new PELs?
“How many lives could be saved and how many cases of silicosis prevented by more widespread compliance with the current PEL? Logic dictates that in a market-driven economy, to reduce the frequency of noncompliance you need to reduce the cost of compliance (or, alternatively, increase the cost of noncompliance). OSHA’s approach, with PELs set to the lower limits of reliable measurement, would increase both the frequency of noncompliance and the cost of compliance.”
“OSHA should enhance its enforcement efforts, concentrating on industries that have posed the greatest risks to workers, and increase the cost of noncompliance,” Toscas concludes. “The Precast Concrete Structures Industry is committed to the health of its workers, and willing to work with OSHA to achieve real reductions in worker exposure. We see the proposed Rule as reflecting an impractical regulatory philosophy, flawed science, and a generally contemptuous attitude toward industry.”
Proposals for onerous regulations aside, Dean Gwin has a positive outlook for 2014, based on Gate Precast’s presence in multiple PCI regions and feedback from members around the country. “We feel that things are really picking up across the country. Some areas faster than others but that’s how it always starts,” he says. “Our backlog is growing, the future projects list is growing, and most of the economic indicators are suggesting the same. We really put a lot of weight on ABI (Architectural Billings Index) since we provide a lot of architectural precast, hollow core flooring, and structural garages—all items that require architectural services. This index is showing continued growth.
“What we would really like to see is vast improvement in the office market. Most PCI members in that market suggest they are experiencing the same increase in activity.” Gwin also notes that the transportation sector has a lot to be excited about due to the Federal Highway Administration’s continuing push for prefabricated bridge, pavement components and structures, adding, “The introduction and growth of curved U-beams and precast pavements should only get stronger.”
Furthermore, Gwin points to PCI’s work with ASTM International—in coordination with the Canadian Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute and NPCA—on a Product Category Rule (PCR) for Precast Concrete. The resulting PCR will then be used to develop industry-average Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) for several broad precast concrete product types (including solid and sandwich wall panels). The PCR may also be used by individual companies to develop their own EPDs. Gwin expects the PCR to be complete within the next couple of months and resulting EPDs by late summer or fall.
PRECAST/ PRESTRESSED CONCRETE INSTITUTE AT-A-GLANCE
President & Chief Operating Officer
Gate Construction Materials Group
|IMMEDIATE PAST CHAIRMAN (2013)
TOM KELLEY, P.E.
Gage Brothers Concrete Products
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Founded in 1954, The Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute (PCI) is the technical institute for the precast concrete structures industry. PCI develops, maintains, and disseminates
the Body of Knowledge for designing, fabricating, and constructing precast concrete structures and systems. It is from this Body of Knowledge that building codes, design guides, education and certification programs are derived.
PCI publishes a broad array of technical manuals, reports, periodicals, and other informational documents. The institute provides technical resources, certification for companies and individuals, continuing education, as well as conducts research and development projects, conventions, conferences, awards programs and much more.
PCI also has 11 regional affiliates across the United States, and maintains relationships with other industry organizations, both national and worldwide, having interest in
Members include precast concrete manufacturers, companies that provide products and services to the industry, precast concrete erectors, and individual members such as
architects, consultants, contractors, developers, educators, engineers, materials suppliers, service providers, and students.
To learn more – visit www.pci.org or email email@example.com.
|(from left) National Precast Concrete Association 2014 Chairman Brent Dezember (StructureCast) and President Ty Gable joined Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute President Jim Toscas and 2014 Chairman Dean Gwin (Gate Precast) during a reception for the formal signing of the partnership agreement supporting certification programs and other common interests.|
PLANT CERTIFICATION INITIAL FOCUS OF PCI, NPCA STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP
The Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute and National Precast Concrete Association formalized a partnership during The Precast Show (February 13-15, Houston) to reduce duplication and increase collaboration in several program areas, starting with plant certification and trade shows.
For the first time, PCI and NPCA will coordinate their plant certification programs, which are both widely recognized throughout the United States. NPCA will continue to administer precast certification for its members, while PCI will certify plants conducting prestress operations for members of both organizations. PCI will also manage certification audits for plants presently certified under both the NPCA and PCI programs.
“Our certification partnership will create efficiencies for the plants that are certified by both NPCA and PCI. Instead of having two separate certification audits to prepare for, we will now have just one combined certification,” says 2014 NPCA Chairman Brent Dezember, whose company, Bakersfield, Calif.-based StructureCast, is a member of both groups and carries plant certification from each. “It will save both time and money for those plants.”
“This is a very exciting time, as we come together as an industry to provide more clarity in the marketplace,” adds 2014 PCI Chairman Dean Gwin, president of Gate Construction Materials Group in Jacksonville, Fla. “The partnership will make it easier for specifiers and designers to understand which certification program to specify.”
In addition to the certification partnership, PCI will join NPCA and the American Concrete Pipe Association in production of The Precast Show beginning in 2016.
“Industry organizations working together just makes good sense,” affirms PCI President James Toscas, P.E. “This partnership not only creates the precast industry’s largest trade show, but will foster better interaction and collaboration among the various sectors within the industry.” (PCI will stage its 2014 Convention, with trade exhibit, September 6-9 in Washington D.C.; the Institute’s next trade exhibit will be part of 2016 Precast Show.)
“A joint task group from both organizations has been working on the partnership for more than a year,” notes NPCA President Ty Gable, NPCA president. “The task group believes that our future collaborative efforts will significantly benefit the members of both organizations and strengthen the position of precast and prestressed concrete manufacturers in the competitive construction marketplace.”