What does alphabet soup have to do with Cast Stone? A major initiative of the Cast Stone Institute (CSI) is to interact with peers to affect mutual benefit for the concrete products industry. Two initiatives – implementation of a refined plant certification program and a change of executive directors a few years ago – brought to light the need to reach out and broaden our horizons. Credibility and accountability became more than buzzwords as we put teeth into the requirements for membership.
New “Mission, Vision and Value” statements were developed to guide our commitment to improve and validate our position as the Cast Stone industry’s recognized authority.
Development of standards necessitates a co-operative process including producers, design professionals, engineers, code officials and installers of the product to properly serve the end user. This process often is lengthy and complex, but necessarily inclusive of many entities when properly executed. CSI brings credible representation to the table on several fronts, but recognizes and values the opinions and skills of other organizations. Hence – alphabet soup.
It is not possible to participate in this realm without being overwhelmed by the acronyms. CSI Executive Director, Jan Boyer, brought well-established relationships to her new position with the Cast Stone Institute. Jan believes that “creating liaisons with related national associations is important to the Institute as it raises awareness of Cast Stone’s properties and attributes to these industries, while showing how our products can work together with others in the building system.”
In addition to other product manufacturing associations, we have reached out to several organizations that develop and implement the standards by which our respective products are used. Liaison with our specifiers creates a forum for the exchange of knowledge that is critical so that Cast Stone is accurately designed into and installed on the project. Likewise, interaction with standards writing organizations is vital so that the properties and installation of Cast Stone are correctly developed to satisfy the end users’ requirements and needs.
While greater involvement with this alphabet soup of related organizations is necessary and important, it is secondary to the core requirement of assuring accountability within our own members. The Cast Stone Institute producer members submit to a rigorous certification process conducted in part by an independent, national inspection firm. A checklist consisting of 89 mandatory and primary items are surveyed and documented. Historical record keeping and exhibits are integral and important facets of the process so as to ensure that the inspection is more than a snapshot in time, as opposed to a committed regimen.
Freeze/thaw testing is now a mandatory requirement for all Cast Stone Institute producer members. It is our belief that the ASTM 1364 (Cast Stone) requirements of 6,500 PSI and no greater than 6-percent absorption lead to a product that performs well in all climates. Conversely, a product that performs well in a test such as ASTM 666 (Standard Test Method for Resistance of Concrete to Rapid Freezing and Thawing) inherently indicates good basic structure. It is yet another value-added for the specifier and end user, a trust-but-verify element that reputable producers are willing to provide. (In this context, the ASTM for Cast Stone does not necessarily require physical testing if the producer can demonstrate historical performance, but CSI has mandated physical testing to establish further credibility and accountability.) Testing results again are provided by outside testing agencies, rather than by the respective producers.
Manufacturing can be a challenging endeavor, particularly in a less than ideal economic cycle, but adherence to sound business practices, attention to detail, and above all doing business ethically goes a long way toward making the effort worthwhile. The Cast Stone Institutes “Code of Ethics” was adopted by the Board of Directors in 2001 and evidences principals that are basically about treating others as you would have them treat you. There also is a process in place whereby any violator can and should be held accountable. Business is not and should not be only about what can be gained. It is important to give, and these tenants are a part of the Mission/Vision/ and Value Statements of the Cast Stone Institute.
The website, www.caststone.org, is undoubtedly one of the Institutes greatest resources and provides considerable information for any and all interested parties. You will find a complete listing of all of our Producer and Associate Members as well as many helpful Technical Bulletins. Award winning projects are showcased to demonstrate the diverse capabilities of our producers and various applications of Cast Stone as one of America’s most durable and versatile building products. Associate member Kiley Marcoe of Metro Precast & Stone Services, Woodbridge, Va., recently wrote to CSI: “The Cast Stone Institute’s website is unlike any other organization’s website in the architectural stone industry; it is very user friendly. The website offers various technical resources such as specifications, tolerances, patching instructions and technical bulletins just to name a few – all at no cost to members and non-members.” Be sure to consider the merits of doing business with a Certified CSI Producer for your next project.
Gary Fry has served as chairman of the Ethics and Membership Committees and held the offices of secretary/treasurer and vice president of the Cast Stone Institute. He is currently CSI president and is looking forward to retirement in 2009 from Sun Precast Company after 11 years as vice president and president/CEO. His tenure at Sun followed a diverse background in general construction and manufacturing.