This past fall, the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute (ICPI) reported 2005's paver sales. North American paver sales totaled 775 million square feet, a 9.2% increase over 2004. The concrete paver market has more than doubled since 1999.
While growth has remained steady since 1997, there hasn't been a significant change in paver sales by market segment over the past several years (see charts). Residential work still accounts 76% of paver sales, not ideal considering today's housing market. Fortunately, demand for residential landscaping products does not solely depend on new home sales or construction.
Homeowners have discovered the aesthetic and resale value of hardscapes. The availability of pavers in stores, the popularity of home improvement shows (HGTV reaches 88.9 million homes), and low interest home equity loans have inspired home remodeling projects, or “retrofitting,” over the past few years.
However, the paver industry still needs to think outside the “big box” to keep growing. Strong non-residential activity, which accounts for about a quarter of all paver sales, will be crucial in offsetting any impact of the residential slump. Public works projects are expected to increase in 2007, which could mean greater demand for pavers in urban revitalization projects and parks.
Economists also forecast a 5% to 9% increase in commercial construction this year. This includes hospitals, shopping centers, hotels, and office buildings. All are ideal prospects. “Owners are investing more in the curb appeal of their multimillion dollar projects,” says Jerry Liner, Carolinas marketing director for Cemex. “The cost difference between pavers and concrete is not that significant, so they realize the benefit of using pavers to enhance landscaping and entryways.”
Education is key
In some areas, sources already report an increase in non-residential paver use, citing producers' efforts to educate the design community, and city zoning ordinances. This activity may translate into a noticeable increase in nationwide sales. The ICPI also provides education through its contractor certification program.
These combined efforts should result in more collaboration between contractors, builders, and designers who are comfortable designing and working with pavers.
The industry also continues to find its place in the environmental sustainability movement. Permeable pavers are now an accepted alternative to traditional paths and parking lots. Research by the Biological and Agricultural Engineering Department at North Carolina State University has shown permeable interlocking concrete pavement (PICP) reduces water runoff and pollutants.
“[Surface runoff] reductions suggest that impervious asphalt is a thing of the past for parking lot surfaces,” says David Smith, technical director for ICPI. We hope the emerging water quality data will be sufficient to convince the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources and other states to credit PICP with pollutant as well as water quantity reductions.”
The U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program already encourages paver use. The rating system offers credits for PICP in several categories.
New environmental regulations have also generated more interest in permeable pavers. The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program requires sources of water runoff to obtain permits and submit stormwater management plans.