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Shana Young, of Smith's Ready Mix, Hot Springs, Ark., talks to attendees about the benefits of pervious concrete at the 2008 Women in Concrete Luncheon and Forum.

Three women from different parts of the country who had never met before came together before an eager crowd to deliver a message of hope and opportunity. At the Women in Concrete Luncheon and Forum at the World of Concrete in Las Vegas in January, panelists and audience members discussed how building green is the future of concrete and the construction industry.

Although building green and sustainability are words being thrown around a lot today, it was apparent that this group wanted more than “feel-good” definitions. They wanted to know how to make it work for their companies when they got home.

Shana Young of Smith's Ready Mix, Hot Springs, Ark., has worked closely with the Arkansas Ready Mix Concrete Association to spread the news of pervious concrete and help organize training sessions. Pervious is not like other mixes and requires training to understand it. In one example, she talked about how pervious is not troweled after placing, since that would seal the surface; pervious concrete needs open voids for water drainage.

This led into the industry problems with handling runoff from asphalt parking lots and roads. “Pollutants from cars run off and pollute our waterways,” Young said. The drainage directs the water or pollutants where it needs to go. In addition to its environmental advantages, it also saves money by eliminating the need for retention ponds. “Pervious concrete helps us to keep the world a little cleaner and a little greener for those coming after us,” she added.

“The green building movement is here to stay, and women can play a key role,” explained Kristin Cooper-Carter, director of the Concrete Industry Management program at California State University, Chico.

Cooper-Carter noted that women throughout history have been resourceful and innovative. Now, she stressed, is the time for women to continue that trend and use that resourcefulness to be leaders in sustainability. Think of all angles of green, including using pervious, reducing the urban thermal heat island effect, and reusing materials. Buildings also must be constructed for 50-year, not 10-year lifespans.

Playing a role

Concrete will play a long-term role in construction. “We're coming into a recession period, especially for the residential segment,” said Michelle Wilson, manager of education and development at the Portland Cement Association. “However, you need to look at the long-term impact of concrete. We need concrete, and will continue to need concrete to keep up with the growing population.” Concrete's role will also become more important as society continues to emphasize sustainability, she added, echoing others.

These women are definitely ready to make sustainability part of their future agenda.

“Women in Concrete” brings you stories about women who are making a difference in the concrete industry. Each month, we will bring you profiles, studies, or surveys to show the latest on women in the concrete industry. Send your comments or ideas to Kari Moosmann atkmoosmann@hanleywood.com.