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A Look Back 25 Years

AWCI’s Last Quarter Century Has Been Nothing Short of Exceptional.

Look back 100 years and what do you see?


The Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry formed as the Contracting Plasterers’ International Association in 1918. The association survived world wars, recessions, the Great Depression. It adapted to new products—gypsum wallboard, snap-together T-bar suspensions, cold-formed steel framing and the drywall screw. It’s all great history.


Now look back just 25 years. What do you see? A few hundred AWCI members grow to become a few thousand. The association’s financial resources were extremely low in the early 1990s but they become financially strong within 12 years. Counting from 1993, about a year after Joe M. Baker Jr. retired as AWCI’s executive director, until Steven A. Etkin’s 23rd year as AWCI’s executive vice president & CEO, and you find 25 standout years.


“AWCI is now highly regarded by members of our industry as providing valuable technical and product information, education and training, industry contacts and the collaborations essential to operating a successful business,” says Etkin.


Let’s highlight this modern history.

An Explosion of Products

First of all, consider some industry milestones.


Synthetic gypsum: Technology pioneered in the 1960s gained traction in the mid-1990s. The technology, flue gas desulfurization, created synthetic calcium sulfate as a byproduct of coal-burning energy plants. USG first used FGD in the United States in 1986. A National Gypsum plant began using it in 1991. Today, USG and National Gypsum operate 19 plants at full or partial FGD capacity. Georgia-Pacific, CertainTeed, Continental and American Gypsum use the technology, too, says Construction Dimensions. It all saves natural resources with no compromise in gypsum board quality. “Synthetic gypsum board minimized the amount of water consumed in the manufacture of the panel,” Robert Grupe, AWCI’s technical director, says.


Glass mat gypsum board: G-P Gypsum introduced DensGlass Gold® exterior sheathing in 1987. By 1990, the company had several glass mat products. In 2002, the company introduced a group of interior products based the Dens technology. Today, most manufacturers offer gypsum panels with integrated biocides and faced with a non-organic glass mat, Etkin says. “Gypsum board panels have become more sustainable, durable and resistant to moisture degradation,” he says.


EQ metal studs: In 2005, Worthington Industries’ Dietrich Metal Framing (part of ClarkDietrich Building Systems today), brought UltraSTEEL™ to the United States. UltraSTEEL represented a new category of “equivalent” studs. Having stiffening elements, EQ studs use lighter steel to achieve the same, equivalent load capacities as high-strength studs. EQ studs also compete with wood and, thus, have become widely adopted in non-load-bearing framing, Etkin says. “A number of proprietary EQ studs are on the market today,” he says. “They account for 90 percent of all non-structural cold-formed steel studs manufactured in the United States,” according to Larry Williams, executive vice president of the Steel Framing Industry Association.


EQ corrosion protection: In the late 2000s, some cold-formed steel stud manufacturers began to use coatings developed by the automotive and appliance industries. These coatings combined a base metallic coat, an outer bonded coat and a supplemental coat of corrosion resistance. The new coatings are “equivalent” to traditional coatings, because they meet the ASTM A1003 requirements for steel sheet. “These new corrosion resistance processes improved the appearance and performance of metal studs,” says Williams.


Prefabrication: Prefabrication and panelization have increased during the past 25 years. A survey conducted by FMI Corporation found that prefabricated components appeared in 13 percent of 2010 projects. In 2016, prefabrication had nearly tripled to 35 percent of all projects. The benefit? Compared to stick-building, prefabrication improves quality and shortens the construction cycle, Etkin says.


Water-managed EIFS: New energy code requirements and standards came with the 2009 and 2012 International Energy Conservation Codes® and ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2013. They called for 1 to 4 inches of exterior continuous insulation, depending on the building location. Even warm climate zones had to start using foam board exterior insulation. The energy code changes were a boon for water-managed EIF systems. Water-managed EIFS have built-in drainage features to allow water that enters a system to exit without causing damage. Thus, EIFS manufacturers developed the ideal solution that, Etkin says, led to “explosive growth.”

A More Robust AWCI

In March 1993, Construction Dimensions asked Stephen Baker, president and owner of Baker Drywall Company (now Baker Triangle), and other AWCI members, to talk about some of the challenges they faced. “The greatest challenge facing our company and our industry is employee training,” Baker said.


Baker got the help he needed. Since 1993, AWCI has expanded the technical, educational and networking opportunities available to members.


More research: Since 2002, AWCI has teamed with the Foundation of the Wall and Ceiling Industry to produce 17 research reports. These technical studies have united the industry on important topics and provided clear action-steps. They include “Mold: Cause, Effect and Response (2002), “Using Labor Brokers: The Legal Issues” (2004), “Navigating Uncharted Waters: Understanding the Energy Codes and How They Impact the Role of the Contractor” (2012) and “Immigration: A Solution to Workforce Shortages” (2016). “These white papers have been exceptionally good for the industry,” says Joe Feldner, former president of McNulty Brothers Company, Chicago.


More education: The EIFS Education and Certificate Program for mechanics and inspectors (and later also for industry professionals) was first presented in December 1998 in response to poor craftsmanship. It became the EIFS—Doing It Right® in 2001, and is widely accredited with helping to grow the industry. It is available now online on AWCI’s website, In its first two years, 400 mechanics, inspectors and professionals took the EIFS course. By August 2008, 1,873 more mechanics, inspectors and professionals had completed EIFS—Doing It Right®. In 2014, AWCI launched the Project Manager Development Series. Baker Triangle, Marek, Grayhawk, Precision Drywall, Norb Slowikowski, Island Acoustics, Boyd Consulting Group and Performance Contracting were members involved in producing it. All programs have boosted AWCI’s brand awareness in the construction industry.


More opportunities to collaborate: Since 1995, AWCI’s membership has grown by 300 percent, Etkin says. During this time, the association added more chapters and garnered support from key regional associations. AWCI’s growth trajectory has been phenomenal. AWCI President Mike Heering of Mississippi enumerate this in 2002. At the 90th annual convention in Orlando, Fla., Heering told the audience that AWCI had grown from 800 members in 1995 to 2,200 members in 2007. He said AWCI’s financial base grew substantially over the same 12-year period.

Shared Vision

In the past 25 years, AWCI has broadened its international outreach bringing new products and tools to the North America, Etkin says. Sure, AWCI has missed some opportunities, he admits. “Cracking the nut on how to engage the millennial generation to the same degree as their predecessors has been hard,” Etkin says.


But on the whole, AWCI continues to work on creating a shared vision for the industry. Its accomplishments and reputation keep growing. “AWCI is the principal organization advocating the interests of contractors, suppliers and manufacturers in the wall and ceiling industries,” Etkin says.”

Mark L. Johnson is a construction industry writer and contributor to #AWCI100. Reach him at @markjohnsoncomm, and at

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