Scrambling to accommodate record-breaking enrollment, school districts across the country are spending an estimated $30 billion a year to build new facilities. At the same time, states’ fiscal crises are putting the squeeze on funding for these very important projects.

As districts try to juggle cost-cutting and fast-track construction of new schools, they have moved from using masonry, which is perceived as expensive and slow to put in place, to other materials. Consequently, masonry is losing ground in what should be a prime market.

“Most schools still utilize masonry in the veneer, but that’s about it,” said Christopher M. Huckabee, CEO of Huckabee Inc., an architectural firm based in Fort Worth, Texas. “Today, 85% of our schools are built with steel stud backup wall systems and sheathing, and 95% use steel studs and drywall for the interior walls.” Masonry has seen a steady decline in use since the mid-1980s, noted Huckabee, whose firm is devoted exclusively to school projects.

However, opportunities abound for the masonry industry to recapture this vigorous market.