Basic Ingredients

    By ICPI Technical Director David Smith

    Every spring, the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute (ICPI) conducts a survey of sales by paver manufacturers in the U.S. and Canada. The survey is sent to all paver manufacturers. The response is consistently from a mix of manufacturers. These include family-owned companies, regional organizations with several manufacturing facilities, and national scale companies. Besides concrete paver sales, information is gathered by a third-party survey company on sales of paving slabs, grid units and other paving products. The ICPI has conducted the survey for the past 20 years. Here are some trends:

    From 1997 to 2000, the industry sales grew about 47%. Sales increased to about 70% residential with the remaining going to commercial and municipal uses. 1999 saw over 400 million sf of concrete pavers made in the U.S. and Canada. 2002 saw residential sales decrease to 65% and commercial/municipal increase to 35%, then residential sales flipped back to over 70% the next year. 2004 saw that percentage increase to 77%. 2006 saw that increase further to 80%.

    That year, ICPI began surveying slabs and pavers made for permeable applications.

    Slabs held about 7% of all sales and permeable pavers were around 2%. Sales had almost doubled to about 800 million sf. Then the great recession of 2008-2011 saw a 40% contraction of the entire construction industry including those who make and install concrete paving units. A bright light among some companies while struggling to restructure was the continued sales of permeable interlocking concrete pavement (PICP) and paving slabs.

    Coming out of the recession, we’ve seen the industry come back to pre-recession paver sales levels between 700 and 800 million square feet. Since 2012, the percentage sold to residential uses has been consistently in the high 70s to 80%. Last year, paver sales were estimated at around 750 million sf with over 6% of paver sales being that suitable for PICP applications and almost 10% of sales was paving slabs.

    While sales have been restored to pre-recession levels, the industry is facing two shortages, one that can be impacted and the other cannot: i.e. contractor labor shortages and increased rainfall which equals fewer work days. Since the start of 2019, labor shortages are being aggressively addressed three ways by ICPI. First Bootcamp training programs provide training for novice installers to see who might be interested in moving into paver installation. Seven of these have been held with approximately 40 participants.

    Basic Installation Training near Atlanta, GA. Hosted by Goodwill Industries.

    A second program aims at delivering instruction to landscape instructors in colleges and universities. Instruction includes a free license to use ICPI installer certification instructional materials in classrooms. ICPI classes have engaged 49 instructors from 43 U.S. and Canadian post-secondary colleges in licenses. If interested, contact ICPI.

    Finally, a significant social media campaign will soon be launched toward high school students. The message extolls the benefits of a hardscaping career and how to enter it. Benefits include working outside, seeing projects built from start to completion (with associated bragging rights), and eventually owning a hardscaping company. The message of self-sufficiency is particularly salient to the rising workforce. A potential career path with ICPI training is presented here.

    Where will be ten years from now? Sales around 1.5 billion sf? Another 5,000 folks in the workforce with many owning hardscaping companies? Commercial/municipal sales at 35%? The basic ingredients to help ensure a bigger future are taking shape so this future is more than likely. In the meantime, let’s hope it doesn’t rain quite so much.