We have reached into the past to help provide an understanding of the importance of data and facts when unraveling causes sometimes adjudicated by forensic discussions, mediation, arbitration, and the courts, or to simply gain better understanding and insight to avoid future problems. But these facts can lead to an exercise in futility when the smoothness of evaluation and interpretation are disrupted because they are distorted or missing. Darwin once said, “False facts are injurious to the progress of science, for often they endure long, but false views, if supported by some evidence, do little harm, for everyone takes salutary pleasure in proving their falseness.”

We finalize this series of articles with some miscellaneous items and wish you Godspeed should you ever encounter a problem that needs resolving one way or another.

A different aspect

Words convey what we mean, and also provide descriptive pictures of what is seen—“a picture is worth a thousand words.” ACI publishes the 74-page lexicon of the cement and concrete industries, “Concrete Terminology.” It was developed over 35 years and contains definitions for words and phrases used throughout these industries. ACI continues to change and add definitions as words and phrases become outdated and new ones come into fashion. It is an arduous task formerly handled by Committee 116 and about a dozen dedicated and devoted individuals.

It always is desirable to use defined terminology to avoid confusion and a war of semantics. However, even then, there are wording misuses that distort the truth for whatever purposes intended. Words and phrases used in litigation are of utmost importance because, like the verbal pictures they convey, they may eventually be used in interpretations of data to establish explanations and justify erroneous conclusions.

The term “unhydrated portland cement” was used once in a litigation to indicate that hydration of portland cement had not occurred, when, in fact, it really meant there had been little hydration of the cement. To the layperson, it meant the cement did not hydrate, which is attended by no strength. In this case, the paste was extremely hard and strong beyond that of most pastes because the “unhydrated cement” had indeed hydrated but at an extremely low water-cement ratio. The low water-cement ratio resulted because water and very fine material had been forced from the concrete through the contact interfaces between circumferential wires of 7-wire prestressing strand into the interior of the strand.

In somewhat recent petrographic and scanning electron microscopical examinations, there have been reported and pictorialized fine, continuous separations along perimeters of aggregate particles. That feature has been referred to as “gaps” around aggregate particles. The same word “gaps” also has been used to describe very “localized” void areas along perimeters of aggregate particles, which incorrectly implies that a complete peripheral separation exists around aggregate particles. A complete peripheral separation can result from shrinkage of aggregate particles or expansion of the mortar fraction of concrete. Using the word “gaps” alone causes misinterpretation of a phenomenon unless there is an accompanying appropriate description.

The court's involvement

An article written by Kenneth B. Bondy titled “Judging Building Codes” published in the May 2003 issue of Concrete International concerns a court-rendered ruling about a specific application of part of the Uniform Building Code to plain concrete that is referenced to ACI 318, which deals with reinforced concrete. The article concludes that as a result of the ruling most residential foundations in the State of California are illegal. A lengthy response, which can be found in the December 2003 issue of Concrete International, was made by attorney Michael D. Turner, whom was involved in the litigation for the plaintiff. Turner chastised the author, an engineer involved in the same litigation but for the defendant, for infringement in legal matters. It is indeed unfortunate when attorneys assist, and courts render, engineering-based decisions.