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Thinkers> Brett Ruffing  
 
Brett RuffingAt age 25, Brett Ruffing of the Kentucky Ready Mixed Concrete Association is already a Concrete Thinker. Active in his local USGBC chapter, Ruffing helps spread the word about concrete applications for sustainable construction across the Bluegrass state. He notes that innovative applications such as pervious pavements and insulating concrete forms (ICFs) can put concrete’s unique characteristics to work for a number of sustainability building projects.

Growing up, Brett Ruffing never thought he’d be in the concrete business. His dad worked in the ready mix industry for nearly 30 years and he’d help his uncle pour concrete around town on the weekends during college. He didn’t want to have anything to do with it.

Now?

“I won’t go to another industry,” said Ruffing. “I’m learning from the best and I’m going to stick with it, continue on, and hopefully be a national leader.”

The young man with big ambitions is now the education and technology specialist for the Kentucky Ready-Mixed Concrete Association, based in Frankfort, Ky. Since joining KRMCA, Ruffing has developed a major interest in sustainability.

When he started at KRMCA, Ruffing’s boss asked him to get involved in the local USGBC chapter. He went to meetings, became a member, and soon found himself volunteering. First it was the education committee, and then membership, and he’s now the chapter secretary.

Another budding interest for Ruffing is the political side of business. In February, the Kentucky chapter held a legislative day at the Capital prompting him to get involved in the Kentucky’s USGBC advocacy committee as well.

When Ruffing isn’t volunteering, he’s helping spread the word about concrete by producing KRMCA’s newsletter, creating marketing and promotional materials, setting up exhibits and working trade shows, and assisting the association’s management and staff. It’s not uncommon to find him assisting on a pervious concrete pour one day or with a room full of engineers and architects alongside KRMCA’s executive director on another.

As a sustainable building material, Ruffing thinks most people don’t think of concrete because it’s used in nearly all construction projects. “It’s second nature [to use concrete], so they don’t event think about it.”

But Ruffing points to the superiority of concrete’s thermal mass and energy efficiency properties. He adds, “You can’t deny pervious concrete for its sustainability and environmental attributes.”

To detractors who lament the CO2 output of cement production as a critique of concrete, Ruffing has a simple comeback. “My car puts out more pollution than my driveway.”

He’s witnessed a growing interest in insulating concrete forms (ICFs), especially in schools and commercial construction projects.

But it’s longevity and durability that he believes to be the most sustainable attribute of concrete. He’s now getting the sense that his design industry peers are taking note.

“My generation grew up and was ingrained in the idea of reduce/reuse/recycle. For my generation, it’s almost second nature – we don’t have to think or quantify why. When my generation is at the point where we are leading, it will just be common sense for us to do it and not even question it.”

Looking to the future, Ruffing sees a “net zero” building and the concept of biomiciry as the next frontiers in sustainable structures. He’s confident he’ll see a “truly” sustainable building within his lifetime with those characteristics.

With Ruffing’s passion at work, the possibilities are endless.