A couple years after supplying colored concrete to the award-winning New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, Jim Shoop, vice president of sales and technical services for Colonial Concrete, begins work on a self-storage facility with a dry floor.

To the south, Weldon Materials has changed its approach to mix design by becoming a niche supplier of combined-graded-aggregate concrete mixes.

Just as the new arts center has emerged as a cosmopolitan symbol of the city's revitalization, producers at northern New Jersey companies are revitalizing their versatile building material-and their role in concrete construction. One particularly hot construction market they've driven is the commercial one, which has benefited from the statewide addition of 360,000 jobs since 1994 and the relocation of 116 businesses to New Jersey in 1998 alone. The demand for new office buildings, warehouses, and storage facilities has resulted in a building boom, and these producers have found ways to improve quality while driving project costs down in this market niche.

With 750,000 to 1 million square feet of floor space, Northern New Jersey warehouse owners "are very picky about the way floors look," notes Mike Welch, regional sales representative for Euclid Chemical Co. and president of the New Jersey chapter of ACI.

In order to position themselves as the starting point of value in concrete construction, producers such as Colonial and Weldon have picked up where promoters such as Welch leave off.

Two years ago, Colonial expanded its line of reinforcement supplies by selling steel-fiber-reinforced concrete floors using a "system sale" approach. Now Shoop is selling an integrated floor system to engineers long before ground breaking.

Shoop says of system selling, "Our customers never want to go back to wire mesh or rebar. We can save them a fortune because they can use a laser screed, and they can keep the slumps tight because they're not pumping it." He adds that when midrange water reducers are used and air entrainment is eliminated, building owners get the smoothest possible floor.

Shoop has emphasized system-selling steel-fiber-reinforced floors on large warehouses, office buildings, and self-storage facilities. Part of the company's system-sale approach is recommending to the engineer a concrete contractor with experience on large steel-fiber-reinforced floor projects.

Another way of adding value to concrete is to change the proportions of standard materials in the concrete mix, as Weldon Materials has done. Proponents of combined aggregate gradation have found a partner in Weldon, which supplied concrete designed for shrinkage control to three projects honored last May at the New Jersey Concrete & Aggregate Association/New Jersey Chapter of ACI 37th Annual Concrete Awards.

Going the extra mile is part of Weldon's philosophy, explains Larry Bream, account manager. Weldon's blends are difficult to stockpile at the quarry but can be batched at the concrete plant next door. The concrete plant has seven overhead aggregate bins, plenty of capacity for a combined-graded mix.

Blending aggregates during the batching sequence gives Weldon the flexibility to adjust aggregate percentages by weight. After a few projects, Ricardo Arocha, technical services manager, is sold on the benefits of combined aggregate gradation in concrete.

If more area producers practice combined aggregate gradation as standard procedure, concrete might be more commonly specified as a building framing material.

The article also includes information on architectural precast panels used on the Morris County Correctional Facility and the 8-story Connell Corporate Center.