Every year our industry spends millions of dollars to promote brick, block and stone sales. Despite these promotional efforts, we are still suffering from erosion in our markets.
As mason contractors, we have relied on our friends on the material side of the industry to promote masonry and, of course, they were more than happy to promote their materials. This relationship may be thrown into question, though, with an alarming new trend called "Chameleon Cast Wall Systems."
For those not familiar with this system, Chameleon Cast Walls allow tilt-up contractors to embed specially engineered CMUs, called "facers," onto the wall panel. The facers are available in a variety of textures, shapes, sizes and colors, and can be arranged to mimic a real masonry wall or in other patterns, such as tiling or mosaics. According to the developers web site, "The total cost of adding the veneer, including all materials and labor, is approximately $5 per square foot, depending on the facer color and finish chosen."
In the November issue of Concrete Construction is an article entitled "Masonry or Tilt-Up?" Author Dr. Pieter VanderWerf, who also happens to be the design team coordinator and Director of Market Development for the Chameleon Cast Wall System, discusses an effort by the tilt-up industry to partner with concrete masonry producers to promote tilt-up with CMUs embedded in the wall system. E. P. Henry, a major block manufacturer in New Jersey, has become the first licensed Chameleon Cast Wall System.
Block producers are looking seriously at the Chameleon System as a way to gain back some of their lost "big box" markets. But this movement is without their traditional ally, the mason contractor. Tilt-up contractors will now be installing these masonry-like facers instead of mason contractors installing the real deal. Our skilled labor will now be replaced by unskilled labor.
This movement is a wake-up call that, as mason contractors, we have little choice but to step-up and nationally promote our systems. Not just brick, block and stone, but the entire masonry system. If we don't, who will?
A favorable alliance has begun to emerge over the past six months. Staff from sixteen mason contractor associations have met with the Mason Contractors Association of America (MCAA) to discuss masonry promotion. Discussions have centered on the need for a nationally coordinated campaign to promote the use of masonry systems systems that mason contractors and our employees would build.
The executive directors from these associations recognized that the contractor segment of our industry is a vital component for masonry promotion. Collectively they agreed that to effectively promote and expand the use of masonry, mason contractors needed to get into the game, more than ever before. In light of the Chameleon system development and the support it is receiving from block producers, such as E. P. Henry, if we want to be in business as mason contractors in the future, we must become more involved in promotion.
Not only do we need to be involved in promotion, we must identify our true friends and allied partners and work more closely to advocate the use of masonry built by mason contractors and our more than 190,000 skilled craftsmen.
At the MCAA Annual Meeting on March 22, 2004, at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, representatives of each of the sixteen contractor associations will participate in the official roll-out of the first ever contractor sponsored national masonry promotional campaign. This campaign will utilize a dedicated web site and a national advertising campaign to promote masonry systems, provide education to our customers, price comparisons and comparative advantages of masonry over other systems, including the Chameleon system.
I believe that this coordinated alliance by our contractor associations is the first real effort to take back our markets, while providing customers with the knowledge and understanding to build with nothing but the best masonry.
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