Testing concrete is the key to a trustworthy concrete production system
Concrete testing is both the policeman and the prophet of a functioning concrete supply chain.
A concrete break test can expose bad procedures and can predict the success of good practices. Without a quality control system that uses approved standards the concrete construction process is nothing more than a roll of the dice.
In developing countries they have used simple ways to mimic the standard concrete break test practiced in the industrialized world. There is the much touted “drop the block” test for concrete masonry units (CMUs) that is used to determine if a building block should be put into service or not. This drop-test is completed by lifting the block up about 3 to 4 feet into the air and then dropping it to the ground. If it breaks apart it is rejected, if it holds together then it is used. These methods of concrete testing would never be employed in the US or the UK, so why do we continue to accept them in Haiti and Honduras?
Improving the entire concrete supply system is critical to building a sustainable infrastructure within these poor nations. If we don’t provide appropriately scaled and accurate testing solutions, then we will continue to see the crushing death and destruction from poor concrete construction methods.
The interesting part of this issue is that there is years of experience using testing equipment and other quality control procedures that could be applied to this problem. These programs and tools are not rocket science and could easily find their way into a concrete supply development program within any country. The business of testing concrete, aggregates and soils would make a fine entrepreneurial opportunity and would provide safer structures at the same time.
Adding to the simplicity of offering better quality control in concrete is the fact that there are international testing standards that can be used to benchmark the work. The ASTM (see description in red below) has thousands of testing standards and procedures, and hundreds just for concrete quality. The standard concrete break test is called the ASTM C39 / C39M, and it requires a relatively simple machine and easy procedure to complete the test.
By leveraging the knowledge and quality control practices that have been developed over the past 50-years, we should be able to assist developing nations build with better concrete and develop more economic security as well.
I would suggest that there are a number of manufacturers who would be willing to produce the testing equipment at a scale that would work in developing nations. In fact, we have reported here in CementTrust that one US engineering firm is scaling a testing facility for Liberia.
The concrete supply chain needs good testing to police and to prove the quality of cement-based products like blocks and foundations. We continue to argue that the poor deserve the benefits of a functioning concrete construction industry. This effort would save the world enormous resources and heartache.