Recently, both the industry and municipalities across the country have shown a growing interest in using flexible connectors to ensure watertight storm sewers. In more and more cities, flexible, also called resilient, connectors are being written into project specifications and becoming the choice of contractors.

Resilient connectors are appealing because municipalities save money in maintenance, contractors save money on time, labor, and materials, and precasters increase their sales and profits by giving customers a value-added product. Pat Camp, co-owner of Camp Precast Concrete Products Inc., Milton, Vt., estimates that company profits have doubled in 5 years due to its selling 50% to 60% of drainage structures with resilient connectors.

While listening to a local contractor telling the audience about the benefits of resilient connectors for storm sewers, Camp suddenly realized that his own well-rehearsed selling pitch applied to contractors and engineers, but not to precasters. He immediately modified his talk to stress higher profits and faster installation time connectors allow. He also points out, "Contractors will also have fewer callbacks from customers because they have a better-quality product in the ground that's not going to leak and cause undermining of roads."

Contractor Steve Blomeley, president of JMHC Inc. in Longwood, Fla., also spoke at NPCA's annual convention last year. He highlighted the advantage of knowing the fixed cost of resilient connectors vs. the varying costs of brick and mortar. Blomeley also spoke of the contractor's competitive advantage when using resilient connectors.

"There are advantages to keeping the storm sewer joints flexible and watertight," says Kent Halloran, senior project engineer with Malcolm Pirnie Inc., engineering consultants for the City of Fort Wayne. "You'll substantially reduce the potential for structural damage resulting from differential settlement."

Already ahead of the game regarding cleaner rivers and streams, Halloran stresses, "I think as environmental protection agencies and other regulatory agencies are looking to require treatment of storm sewers, resilient connectors are going to play a significant role."

With this new application snowballing, Dan Dallas, general manager of Atlantic Concrete Products Inc., Sarasota, Fla., says the company is now in the stage of educating engineers and municipalities. Requesting that engineers design catch basins with resilient connectors in mind, Dallas notes, "It takes a little time and effort, but you reap the benefits from the price you can charge for a better-quality product. It's a minor adjustment." He also reports that installing the connectors is difficult on only 5% or fewer storm structures not specifically designed for resilient connectors.

Paul O'Leary Jr., P.E., founder of O'Leary-Burke Civil Associates PLC, Essex Junction, Vt., says, "If I tell them it's a better product and it's not costing them any more money, it's a very short conversation."

Having promoted resilient connectors for storm structures since 1994, Dave Akin, president of Bluffton Precast Concrete Products in Bluffton, Ohio, says, "It's a no-brainer to use resilient connectors over grout. With all the mess and time involved, I'm sold on it all the way."

Connector manufacturers' marketing avenues include bringing in speakers to trade shows at both a local and national level.

The article describes how flexible connectors work and how watertight storm sewers are designed.