The Milwaukee City Hall project won the 2009 Project of the Year award.
The Milwaukee City Hall project won the 2009 Project of the Year award.

Quality masonry is standing the test of these times. Despite current economic woes challenging our customers and our contractors, our 2009 Project of the Year entries were an impressive group of successful endeavors.

Maybe the high quality displayed in the 2009 entries is a result of the slow construction activity. I suspect that only those projects which were sponsored by committed owners were allowed to move forward. And with committed owners come stringent requirements for high quality, timeliness, and a host of those little extras that weren't exactly spelled out in the original contract. When we reviewed our entries, we discovered all of these aspects, and more importantly, how they accomplished this with the help of the mason. You can see this for yourself by viewing our entries.

I spotted another interesting trend while studying the entries: There were more repair projects, not only in number, but also in size. I confirmed my suspicions while talking with several contractors at The Masonry Society (TMS) meeting last month in Evanston, Ill. They said that façade repair and moisture penetration mitigation were the leading types of repair projects in the current economy.

Naturally, the TMS meeting had a repair focus. In what could be described as a wall-breaking event, there were fruitful discussions between the TMS Construction Practices committee and representatives from the International Concrete Repair Institute (ICRI). Their focus was to co-develop and co-review standards and guidelines covering façade repair.

This may be the industry's most important initiative. Currently, there are three international standards groups trying to outline façade repair. In addition to TMS and ICRI, an ASTM committee is also developing standards.

This triplicity of efforts must be corralled. The masonry industry can't afford any more confusion in specifications, especially when operating margins are so tight. We must explain why owners should repair historic façades, not offer confusing or conflicting guides.

I commend the effort by Kelly Page, ICRI's executive director, to coordinate the ICRI document development with TMS. And I also hope ASTM leaders will be as open to this sharing.

This my be wishful thinking, but what if we put together a façade roundtable discussion at World of Concrete in February in Las Vegas? It wouldn't be a formal event, just a one-hour session where we could discuss the challenges our industry faces regarding façade repair. The discussion summary could be presented to ASTM, ICRI, and TMS committees.

I will coordinate this if enough people respond. We would like to try to do our part in making sure we keep putting our best face forward.

Again, congratulations to our winners. I hope to meet you at World of Concrete when you pick up your award.