All Projects Are Local

Spring 2013

How guerrilla tactics can further the cause of segmental paving

by David R. Smith


All Projects Are Local

With our world awash in conventional asphalt and concrete, what does it take to get more interlocking concrete pavements built? Former Speaker of the House (1977-89) Tip O’Neill said, “All politics is local.” Much design, construction and permitting happens locally as well. The transition of society to interlocking concrete pavement (ICP) and permeable interlocking concrete pavement (PICP) begins and remains local. The incremental process of change involves convincing one designer at time, one city at a time. Over time the industry mission grows, impacting states and eventually entire nations.

This incremental process of change is analogous to guerrilla warfare where what matters most is the ability to shape the story, not the facts on the ground. This is how guerillas are able to lose battles but win wars.

The segmental concrete pavement industry probably has about 300 sales representatives working with designers in Canada and the U.S. This sales army represents around 100 companies, from family-owned to multi-nationals. Collectively, these salespeople make up a guerrilla army. Ideology energizes most guerrillas, and this one believes ICP and PICP provide a cost-effective, environmentally friendly way to pave.

China’s Mao Zedong, a master of guerrilla theory and practice, taught that guerilla warfare has three stages. First, there is localized war. This involves ad hoc groups spontaneously forming and resisting local forces. The second stage is a war of movement with small, trained and agile groups of lightly armed soldiers striking strategic enemy positions. The final stage is a general uprising, a war fought with a three-tiered force consisting of local militias, full-time mobile guerillas and a regular army.

The industry seems between the first and second stages. The first stage began with projects from local guerrilla sales force efforts. An early example is the cover story about a road project in Illinois. In the early ’80s, a paver installation contractor convinced the developer and eventually the local municipality to accept ICP. For over 30 years now, the only maintenance required on this installation has been the replacement of around 500 pavers. According to the developer, the same roads would have required repaving twice in that same period of time had asphalt been used.local2

As paver manufacturers and contractors’ businesses have grown and matured, some have worked together in promotion and sales. Occasionally, designers have joined with them to convince a client to use ICP or PICP. This continues to be an effective approach. When proposals from manufacturers, contractors and designers become ICP or PICP projects, these warriors are working in the second stage of guerilla tactics. Their success is often replicated for use outside of a single geographic area. Evidence of this success and the geographic impact abounds in the transformation of hundreds of residential streets, downtowns, industrial and port pavements to ICP across the U.S. and Canada.

While there are nations where segmental pavement rules and is not the exception, the industry in North America has further to go. With a range of powerful sales tools, ICPI is working directly with the full-time sales militias who have the mobility to strike in several geographic markets simultaneously. The work consists of additional technical training to better understand where and how to address competitors’ weaknesses, and to better satisfy client needs. To bring down the asphalt empire (or coexist by moving it over), state and federal governments must be presented with ICP and PICP specs, guidelines and performance information, as in this issue.

The ultimate goal is to have a regular national army that can
accelerate the institutionalization of segmental paving. Even at that point, such an army with its supporting local sales guerillas will work invisibly, continuing to shape the ICP and PICP story, and with facts on the ground.