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[Building with Concrete]
May 9, 1997

Journal construction editor

A concrete waterfall outside the new REI Flagship store.
Photo by Robert Pisano

Concrete engineers are becoming more like master chefs these days, whipping up their latest concoctions like Reactive Powder Concrete and conductive concrete. While their ingredients may not taste as good as a pastry chef's, concrete engineers have been satisfying our aesthetic appetites since the Roman times.

This tabloid will investigate some new "recipes" for concrete as well as highlight award-winning concrete projects with the Washington Aggregates and Concrete Association.

According to Bruce Chattin, executive director of the Washington Aggregates and Concrete Association, industry people are excited about the future of both the residential and commercial concrete markets.

Some of that excitement in the Puget Sound area is from the passage of the Regional Transit Authority and the resulting infrastructure required under the act. Chattin said he expects a lot of public works projects as a result of RTA, but is also worried about a lack of funding for state Department of Transportation projects.

Current hot spots for concrete consumption in the state include Clark County and the Spokane area. Chattin said the Whatcom County area has also begun to heat up lately.

While short-term enthusiasm is strong, the long-term outlook for the local concrete industry is more questionable as sand and gravel sources continue to become scarce.

Chattin said permits for new plants are not as easy to come by anymore. He said in 1975 there were 105 permits issued to mine sand and gravel. That dropped to 30 in 1995. Chattin said it now takes a minimum of three to five years to get a permit for a facility of any significant size. He called the process "very long and arduous."

The plants that do get approved now face more environmental regulations. Chattin said batch plants will have to use more recycled water in the future. "Handling water is becoming difficult in many industries," he said.

Environmental concerns are also affecting work out in the field. Since concrete has a high pH level, cleaning trucks and other equipment is becoming more difficult because the residual concrete is washed into the ground. Some companies are now looking at washing out concrete mixers on-site in a lined pit to contain the wastewater. Chattin said the growing trend is to have zero discharge on-site.

Chattin said ordering concrete accurately is going to become more important on each job to cut down on waste.

More and more of today's concrete is being used in non-traditional applications, such as staining. The process involves color etching the surface of concrete while it is still in a plastic state.

Chattin said concrete staining is becoming an accepted feature from a decorative standpoint, in both residential and commercial applications. Inside homes, Chattin said it is being used everywhere from interior floors to countertops.

"It's difficult to say where it's going to lead," Chattin said about widespread use of staining.

Another concrete application gaining popularity is the use of styrofoam blocks for building foundations. The blocks are stacked and tied together, then filled with concrete to form sturdy foundations that boast high R-values.

Foam blocks have been on the market for several years, but only recently have they become popular with homeowners. Chattin said interest in the system is highest where extreme weather is encountered. He said they are also popular in second homes, especially island and beach homes.

"The public has accepted them (foam blocks) really well," Chattin said. But, he said, builders need to catch up with the public because they have been reluctant to try something new.


Olympian Precast likes breaking the mold
As a sociology student at the University of Washington Judy Jewell would walk right past her father's and grandfather's precast stone work on campus buildings without giving it a thought. "I wasn't even aware. It was like: Concrete? So what?" Today Jewell owns Olympian Precast, a Redmond-based company which manufactures architectural precast concrete building components. Now she proudly points out the stone work three generations of her family have done on the university campus.
Post-tensioned concrete for today's market
When selecting a structural building system, it is important for the engineers and architects to understand the appropriate application of post-tensioned concrete and the effects that may result.
British develop concrete that conducts electricity
Airplane runways, porches and driveways that de-ice themselves are just a few of the potential uses for a new concrete product that conducts electricity.
Special concrete may give steel stiff competition
Interest in advanced cement-based materials is not solely because of their increased brute strength. They possess other high-performance properties as well.
DuPont aggregate plant out to rock the world
Lone Star Northwest has built its new aggregate mining facility at DuPont. Now company officials are hoping the customers will come. Not only from the West Coast -- where concrete made with the gravel from its Steilacoom facility is prized for its ability to reach high compressive strengths -- but from around the Pacific Rim.
1997 Excellence in Concrete Construction
Washington Aggregates and Concrete Association's Excellence in Concrete Construction awards entered its 29th year when the 1997 winners were honored during a banquet at the Hyatt Regency in Bellevue.
1997 WACA award - Cast-in-place structures
The REI project had lots of competition in this category, but still managed to come out on top to win best cast-in-place project and go on to take the grand award.
1997 WACA award - Tilt-up structures
This category had the most entries, ranging from a community college's library building to a city's concrete restroom.
1997 WACA award - Concrete Paving
Beautifying public streets and sidewalks was the end result of the five projects entered in the concrete paving category.
1997 WACA award - Special applications
Only three projects were entered in this category, but they were very diverse in scope: a baptismal font for Holy Rosary Church; a crane footing for the University of Washington's Wind River Canopy project; and a fish transfer facility for the Bonneville Power Administration.
1997 WACA award - Public Works
It was "battle of the bridges" in the public works category this year.
1997 WACA award - Residential
Four homes battled it out for top honors in the residential category.
Company offers device to stop leakage from concrete trucks
Ready-mix truck chute closure has become a serious issue in many areas of the country. For most companies, claims for broken windshields are increasing as a result of inadequate chute closure or driver failure to employ a chute closure device.

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