Last week, Owens Corning hosted a forum, “Sustainable Infrastructure: Building to Last,” that provided an opportunity for a wide range of stakeholders, including Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz and dozens of engineers and other professionals from the Ohio and Michigan Departments of Transportation, to discuss how composites can help fix America’s D+ rated infrastructure.

“We were encouraged by the diverse audience we hosted – structure owners, design firms, general contractors, members of academia, and our colleagues here at OC; that this demonstrated a willingness to approach this vast challenge with fresh eyes,” Owens Corning told Composites Manufacturing.

During the forum, Arnaud Genis, president of composites at Owens Corning, emphasized that while the problems of corrosion and structural deficiencies in our infrastructure aren’t new, the steps we take to address it need to be. Genis noted GFRP can make a difference as a lightweight, cost effective and durable solution.

Owens Corning’s Ryan Koch echoed Genis’ sentiment, noting that current corrosion mitigation efforts focus on “delaying the symptoms” rather than “curing the disease.” He said that durability studies show that even after 15 years in service, GFRP reinforced concrete shows no sign of bond degradation or loss of contact and mechanical properties.

That message is even starting to reach contractors who work with competing materials. One of the panel’s presenters, Daniel Dymarkowski, general manager of Foundation Steel LLC’s rebar division, brought a composite rebar cage onstage to demonstrate its superiority to steel. Carrying it with one hand, he stated two major benefits of using the lightweight rebar product: its ease-of-construction and fewer worksite injuries when compared with working with steel.

Dymarkowski’s presentation resonated well with Patrick McColley, deputy director of the Ohio Department of Transportation’s District 2 (which includes Toledo), another member of the panel. McColley told Composites Manufacturing that ODOT is currently considering an “alternate bid” from Owens Corning for a resurfacing project for a bridge deck for the Anthony Wayne Trail in Toledo. While McColley was careful to note that there’s no guarantee that Owens Corning will win the bid, he believes the benefits of GFRP rebar are clear.

“If we have a structure where the reinforcement is much less corrosive, that’s a big deal up in Ohio where we really do pride ourselves on our snow and ice removal,” said McColley. “But snow and ice removal comes with a lot of salt, too, and salt causes problems with certain metals. That’s where we see a lot of promise [with composites].”