My son knows he's a lucky soul. As a new college graduate, he is fortunate realizing how he will start a new job as a product manager later this month for a national repair and engineering consulting firm. He's a bit nervous. So we had dinner last week to help settle his nerves. My son asked if I had any advice.

I told him that making a good first impression is probably the most important aspect of any new start. “Begin by offering a firm grip on your handshake when meeting someone,” I said. Later that night, I had a nagging thought about my suggestion. Handshakes are more than tactile messages of greeting. They can reveal more than we think.

When I shake a mason's hand, I often feel that I'm at the disadvantage. This is an industry whose leadership is dominated by tough-handed men and women. While my firm grip may suggest my conviction of the meeting, my soft hands immediately identify me as a masonry industry supporter, rather a practitioner.

While masonry's craftsmanship is solely based upon the toughened hands of the trained men and women who work the walls, there are many important industry contributors with soft hands, like mine. These folks often provide our industry some of its greatest boosts in technology, design, and market share.

There's a great example of how our industry benefits from those who work with softer hands happening now. Last month, several engineers who strongly support masonry construction began an important scientific experiment at the University of California San Diego. If the results meet the predictions of the researcher's expectations, the final report could be a great boost for the cause of residential masonry, just when we need it most.

For many years, several national masonry industry organizations have been supporting a research effort to prove that masonry veneers perform well during a serious seismic event. This important effort is funded largely through a grant from the National Science Foundation.

The research team built a full-sized wood-frame/masonry veneer structure on a large outdoor shaking table. By examining what happens during failure, the engineers will provide valuable guidance on design and detailing of masonry and masonry veneer in zones of high seismic risk. The hope is that more masonry will be specified in areas with a high seismic potential. (We will provide more information on this project in our May edition.)

These researchers aren't the only non-masons providing support for the industry. In this month's issue, we outline two other supporting efforts. First, thanks to work of the PCA staff, municipalities, and zoning officials, we are recognizing how masonry can ensure the safety of their citizens.

Second, we are offering some of the science on one of our industry's hottest topics. The BIA is supporting a change to the ASTM standards that specifies the physical parameters of solid brick. There's scientific proof that bricks made with higher voids perform as well as those with less voids. The void change will help our industry make a more sustainable product with a “greener” unit.

As the industry works hard to gather our fair share in today's tough construction market, it will require that all hands be on deck. Fortunately, the masonry industry has a strong grasp on the types of hands with which to rebuild our industry