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Management and staff optimism resonated in recent visits to Texas precast/prestressed producers, old and new alike. As with many of their neighbors and peer operators, they find much to like about their home turf these days: Business-friendly government, strong investment in public and private transportation infrastructure, plus healthy commercial and residential building levels. 

For the third year in a row, we visit a pavement project VCNA Prairie Material helped convert from all asphalt to partial (base slab) or 100-percent roller compacted concrete. More than a routine switch, the Maryhill Cemetery maintenance shop (pages 28-31) marks the commercial debut of RCC Surface Pro, a silica agent emanating from the field of nanotechnology, where particles are measured in billionths of a meter.

On the strength of its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system, the U.S. Green Building Council has rapidly become one of the more influential groups in architecture, engineering and construction. What USGBC lacks in codified standards or contract guidelines akin to those of the American Concrete Institute, American Institute of Architects or American Society of Civil Engineers, for example, is balanced by LEED, a brand greatly solidified during the past decade.

Two symbolic developments this past month spotlight heavy building materials' wide-ranging contributions: to urbanization across the world as well as the portfolio of an operator in the business for the long haul.

Lafarge SA and Holcim Ltd. officials see financial benefits and integration possibilities in their proposed “merger of equals,” netting LafargeHolcim—present in 90 countries with $44 billion in sales; 470 million and 384 million tons of cement and aggregate shipments, respectively; plus, 90 million yd. of ready mixed production. The strategy they outlined in Zurich and Paris last month leads to a mid-2015 1:1 share exchange, the merged business operating under executives and directors drawn equally from both companies.