If you were to walk into an Engineer’s office and tell him to reduce the reinforcing steel in a structure or to cut back on the design strength he would probably think your were crazy (or part of the Mafia). However, many engineers, owners, contractors and laboratories routinely violate the building code and possibly endanger workers and the public. It is time to put an end to this unsafe practice and comply with the Code. What heinous crime am I referring to that endangers the public? It is the practice of not providing concrete test results to the concrete producer.

I know. You’ve heard this complaint before and are on one side of the fence or the other. Either you feel that concrete producers need and deserve to receive this information or you feel that the owner/engineer/contractor has paid for the testing and gets to use the results as they see fit. If you agree with the last part of this statement you are wrong! I know of no section in the building code or related standards that allows acceptance tests to be withheld from the concrete producer.

Of course not all concrete is governed by the building code but, except for paving or government work, almost all concrete is covered by one of the documents below. Despite this, it is a good idea to let the concrete producer know how his concrete is performing so he can improve his concrete and make it more cost effective and environmentally friendly. Even so, I routinely hear complaints from concrete producers that the labs and their clients refuse to send copies of the tests to the producer.

ACI 318-14, “Building Code Requirements for Structural Concrete”
I don’t think that anyone would argue that the ACI 318 Building Code is not mandatory and part of the law for buildings. In Para (e) the Code states, “All reports of acceptance tests shall be provided to the licensed design professional, contractor, concrete producer [emphasis added], and, if requested, to the owner and the building official.” I don’t think the Code can be any clearer than that.

Furthermore the Commentary to the Code states, “R26.12.1.1(e) The Code requires testing reports to be distributed to the parties responsible for the design, construction, and approval of the Work. Such distribution of test reports should be indicated in contracts for inspection and testing services [emphasis added]. Prompt distribution of testing reports allows for timely identification of either compliance or the need for corrective action. A complete record of testing allows the concrete producer to reliably establish appropriate mixture proportions for future work.”

ACI 301-10, “Specifications for Structural Concrete
Section 1.6 of ACI 301 needs to be clarified by ACI. First, it states that the owner may hire a testing lab to do inspection and testing. If so, section states, “The Owner’s testing agency will report test and inspection results of the Work to Owner, Architect/Engineer, Contractor, and concrete supplier within 7 days after tests and inspections are performed.”

However, Section 1.6 states that the contractor will retain a testing lab to do tests as required by the contract documents. However, there is no specific requirement in ACI 301 that the contractor’s lab report test results to the concrete producer. However, there are statements in several ASTM documents that any test for acceptance of the concrete must be reported to the concrete producer.

ASTM C94, Standard Specification for Ready-Mixed Concrete Para. 6.1 of ASTM C94 contains the following statement, “The purchaser [of the concrete] shall ensure that the manufacturer is provided copies of all reports of tests performed on concrete samples taken to determine compliance with speci?cation requirements.” The only problem is that sometimes the purchaser does not hire the testing lab and does not control the distribution of tests. In that case it is the responsibility of the purchaser to specify to the organization that hires him that the tests be provided to the manufacturer.

Lots of baby elephants, too
There are lots of baby elephants running around the living room, too. All too often requirements for ASTM test methods are ignored. ASTM C31, “Standard Practice for Making and Curing Concrete Test Specimens in the Field”, requires that concrete specimens initially be cured between 60 and 80 deg. F (16 to 27 deg. C). There is a major discussion going on at ASTM over who is responsible for providing the curing environment – the contractor or the laboratory. Also C31 requires that a high-low thermometer be placed next to the cylinders during the initial curing period and the high and low temperatures reported on the strength report. I don’t often see those temperatures on reports. Each of these aspects of testing, and more, need to be dealt with, but not in this document. The important thing is to get the concrete tests to the concrete producer.

What to do
Owners, designers and construction managers: If you are an owner, designer or manager who hires a testing lab, make certain the concrete producer is on the distribution list for the concrete tests. If more than one concrete producer is on a job make certain that the laboratory sends the right tests to the right producer. If you are preparing contract documents, including terms and conditions, specifications or drawings, make certain that the documents include a requirement in the testing section that all concrete tests for acceptance be sent to the concrete producer.

Contractors and other construction companies: If you are a contractor and are hiring the testing lab, include the concrete producer on the distribution list. Don’t plan on distributing the reports yourself. It probably won’t happen on a regular basis. It is easy for the laboratory to add another name and email address to the distribution list.

Testing labs: If you are testing concrete for strength and the person that hired you didn't put the concrete producer’s name on the distribution list, inform your client that it is required in the building code that the test results be sent to the concrete producer. If the client will not authorize direct distribution, get a signed statement from the client stating that the client assumes responsibility for distributing the tests to the concrete producer (or any other required recipient).

Concrete producers: If you are not receiving test results for a project, I hereby grant permission for you to print this article and provide it to the owner, designer, contractor, and laboratory and let them know that you are required to receive the concrete test results.

This is one elephant that doesn't belong in our living rooms any longer. Let’s get rid of it.

Jay Shilstone is a Concrete Technologist with Command Alkon, Inc. He has been in the concrete industry for over 35 years. For 28 of those years he has been working on quality control software for the concrete industry. Shilstone is a Fellow of the American Concrete Institute and a member of multiple ACI, ASTM and NRMCA committees.