Can composite pavers be the next opportunity for manufacturers of alternative building materials to add a revenue stream and extend their reach into new markets?
That's what officials at Azek Building Products Inc. — one of the six leading manufacturers of composite decking — think. The Scranton, Pa.-based company is betting that its distribution network and marketing muscle can turn the pavers made by its strategic business partner, Vast Enterprises LLC of Minneapolis, into a solid revenue stream for the two companies.
“It's a game changer,” said Mike Gori, Azek's director of product management, as he stood near a sample outdoor landscape made from Azek Vast rubber-plastic composite pavers at the International Builders Show, held Feb. 8-11 in Orlando. “They can go over patios. You can resurface decks” and they can be used on driveways, pool areas and for flat rooftop walkways, he said.
Azek began rolling out the pavers nationwide earlier this year, said Gori, after forming a strategic alliance in September with Vast, which first introduced the product in mid-2008. However, prior to the alliance, the pavers, for the most part, were only available regionally — largely when architects specified them, mainly for commercial projects. They will now be available to remodelers, deck builders, landscapers, and homeowners for do-it-yourself projects.
Vast CEO Andy Vander Woude declined to comment on sales or how the alliance might boost sales of the composite pavers.
But based on the news release that announced the alliance, Vast had sold — prior to the partnership with Azek — enough pavers for 114 landscape installations, if each of those were 5,000 square feet in size.
“It is a new category for deck builders” and a market-changing product, Gori said, adding that the pavers can be installed three times faster and resist stains, scratches, moisture and chips.
“Traditional concrete pavers are hard and can be chipped when installed,” explained Gori. “These composite pavers are very forgiving” and come with a lifetime no-crack guarantee for residential installations.
Another advantage: They snap into a grid and can be cut using a regular miter saw or jigsaw rather than the typical $900 masonry wet saw needed to cut concrete pavers or molded clay pavers and whose replacement blades can cost $300-$500.
“You don't need a special tool,” Gori said. “And you get tremendous savings in handling because they are one-third the weight of concrete pavers.”
Gori declined to project the sales the two companies anticipate in the first year of the rollout under the alliance. But he said Vast “has the capacity to widely expand manufacturing” as sales increase.
“Now we can replace concrete pavers the same way we have replaced wood on deck, railings and trim,” he said. “This is another opportunity for wood substitution.”
The composite pavers have a lower carbon footprint than concrete pavers, according to Azek: The manufacturing process uses 94 percent less energy and releases 96 percent less carbon dioxide than concrete products.
The two companies also said that every 5,000-square-foot Azek Vast landscape installation keeps 2,500 scrap automobile tires and 75,000 plastic containers out of U.S. landfills. Through last July, Vast said it had used 285,000 scrap tires and 8.5 million plastic containers to make its pavers and diverted more than 5 million pounds of rubber since it began selling the pavers.
“Vast Composite Masonry products represent the future of alternative paver materials, a category with enormous growth potential,” Eric Jungbluth, CEO of CPG International Inc., Azek's parent company, said in a news release when the alliance between Azek and Vast was announced. “This partnership elevates the Vast brand and brings it to a much larger audience of architects, project planners and contractors.”
The pavers measure 4 inches by 8 inches and weigh 9 pounds per square foot, vs. 30 or more pounds per square foot for concrete permeable pavers. They come in five colors and snap into a patented grid system that ensures straight lines and assists with a level layout, Azek said.
The product line includes standard landscape pavers for patios, driveways and walkways; resurface pavers to use over cracked patios or concrete slabs, existing decks, flat roofs and balconies; and permeable pavers designed for use in high water-table or storm-water-prone areas.
Some of the installations that were made prior to the alliance were a driveway and parking area for the historic Cable House in Sitka, Alaska; rooftop patios for a United Way office building in Cleveland and a restaurant and pub in Kamloops, British Columbia; a rooftop installation at a hospital outside Chicago for the purpose of providing patients a more pleasing view; and a rooftop installation done at a mall in Omaha, Neb., to improve rooftop access for maintenance work.
“We are constantly looking at ways to innovate through the entire organization,” said Gori. “We expect our decking business will pull in pavers business, and the pavers business will help our decking business.”