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Impending ownership changes of two concrete and cement businesses, one each side of the Atlantic, remind us how reasonably regulated free markets overwhelmingly trump those hamstrung by heavy-handed government agencies. Consider the investor-sanctioned Martin Marietta Materials–Texas Industries merger versus the British government-ordered creation of a portland cement, GGBF slag and ready mixed producer from the sale of existing players’ assets. The driving forces behind the transactions are the embrace or rejection of realities of a market rewarding efficiency versus fragmentation.

Merger and acquisition activity is off to a rapid clip in 2014, as a second year of broad-based housing starts kicks in, construction materials production assets recover from recession-skewed valuations, and major domestic and international operators stake claim to new markets, or rethink their scope.

The U.S. Green Building Council points to transparency as a guiding principle of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating program’s latest version. Unveiled at the 2013 Greenbuild International Conference and Expo last month in Philadelphia, LEED v4 responds to the increasing recognition of life cycle energy consumption by addressing buildings’ operating phases, but keeps provisions where concrete can contribute to credits on a scorecard for Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum level certification.

A new roadmap shows how European Union cement interests, with much customer assistance, can clip carbon dioxide output from 1990 levels by 80 percent at mid-century. The ambitious goal fits the European Cement Association, based in Brussels—ground zero of carbon trading schemes, voluntary initiatives and regulatory pursuits aimed at net CO2 emissions reduction across the business and consumer landscape. It hinges on improvements in fuel- and energy-intensive cement milling, coupled with promotion of the energy or fuel efficiency inherent in concrete building and transportation slabs or structures.

This year is winding down with signs of recovery throughout construction. Certain union locals might find 2013 wanting, however, as National Labor Relations Board authorities have determined that their attempts to come between concrete suppliers and contractors violate the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).