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CSA and ASTM Portland Cement Standards

Closing the Gap

by Robert A. Helinski

With fundamental changes to the Canadian Standards Association’s operations, both CSA and ASTM Committee C01 realized it was time for an all-out effort to harmonize their cement standards.

While ASTM Committee C01 on Cement is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) cement standards likewise have been around for a long time. The CSA standard for portland cement (CSA A5) was first introduced in 1922. This article provides the reader with an overview of the recent progress that has been made to bring the cement standards of both countries closer together.

Although Canada may be a long way from many parts of the United States of America geographically, people who live in the neighboring states and those connected through marine transportation have to work with both CSA and ASTM cement standards on a daily basis. There are many differences that exist in the specifications and test methods. Combined coordination efforts over the last several years are minimizing those differences.

Harmonization Efforts

The accelerated effort to bring the specifications and test methods closer together began in the mid-1990s as a result of two changes that took place in the CSA standards development arena. The initial change was strategic redirection within CSA. This redirection included a policy to promote international harmonization where possible, focusing first on North America and then globally. The second change within CSA that affected the effort was the amalgamation of the Hydraulic Cement and the Supplementary Cementing Materials technical committees. This amalgamation generated the new CAN/CSA-A3000-98 Cementitious Materials Compendium publication that included:

• CSA A5 – Portland Cement; CSA A8 – Masonry
• CSA A23.5 – Supplementary Cementing Materials;
• CSA A362 – Blended Hydraulic Cement;
• CSA A363 – Cementitious Hydraulic Slag;
• CSA A456.1 – Chemical Test Methods for Hydraulic Cement, Supplementary Cementing Materials, and
Hydraulic Slag;
• CSA A456.2 – Physical Test Methods for Hydraulic
Cement, Supplementary Cementing Materials, and
Hydraulic Slag; and
• CSA A456.3 – Test Equipment and Materials for
Hydraulic Cement, Supplementary Cementing Materials, and Hydraulic Slag.

This change put all of the CSA cementitious materials specifications into one publication and separated the test methods and equipment from the previous standards. When this effort began, in excess of 100 differences were identified between the CSA and ASTM portland cement standards and corresponding test methods. The CSA technical committee supported changing a number of those differences to be consistent with ASTM during the development of the new CAN/CSA A3000-98 compendium edition.

Differences between CSA and ASTM

Some of the initial primary differences between the CSA and ASTM standards were the allowance of up to five percent limestone additions in some of the CSA cement (dating back to the early 1980s), maximum air contents on all types of ASTM cement, different values for most of the specifications, and numerous differences in the test procedures and equipment specified.

CSA Amalgamation and the Compendium Process

The evolving CSA amalgamation and the compendium process began in 1994 to focus on the optimization of the end product “concrete” through the “cementitious system.” The focus of the process was partly to be performance-oriented where applicable and to harmonize for consistency with ASTM where appropriate.

Formal Linkage with ASTM

In 1996 the CSA director of Built Environment requested that some form of formal linkage be arranged between the CSA and ASTM Hydraulic Cement Technical Committees to support harmonization efforts. This was followed by communication and correspondence between CSA and ASTM staff. The ASTM C01 executive committee arranged for that linkage to be put in place in 1998 through the formation of a task group reporting to C01.74, International Standards. This arrangement with continuing support of the C01 executive committee has provided an ongoing effort to bring the CSA and ASTM standards closer together.

Closing the Gap

The initial phase toward closing the gap was to have the CSA technical committee provide rationale to ASTM as to why CSA found the ASTM position unacceptable. This process pared the list of 90-plus technical items remaining after the new CSA 1998 standards edition to approximately 60. CSA chose to ballot for approval about half of those selected items for consistency with ASTM for inclusion in the upcoming CSA 2003 edition and return the other half of the selected items to the appropriate subcommittee for further review.

The next phase was to provide the CSA rationale to ASTM for review. This was done in late 2001 and early 2002. The goal of this phase is to have ASTM review the CSA rationale for possible changes to ASTM; or to have the ASTM rationale provided to CSA to review again for possible additional changes.

Current Status

The ASTM subcommittees and task groups are reviewing the CSA rationale for possible changes or are establishing written ASTM rationale to provide to CSA.

The new edition of the CSA standard scheduled for publication in 2003 will incorporate further changes that will make the standards more consistent. The CSA subcommittees continue to re-evaluate the technical differences as part of the standards development process.

The Way Forward

Many of the differences that existed in the mid-1990s have been harmonized with ASTM for consistency. The continued awareness of the differences and the joint effort to minimize them through formal linkage will help to bring the specifications and test methods as close together as the two countries are geographically. The way forward requires that written rationale for the differences be provided and communicated so that seeds for future efforts are available. The dedication of both technical committees to minimize the differences will make life easier for those involved in the use and development of both CSA and ASTM cement standards. //

Copyright 2002, ASTM

Robert A. Helinski is CSA/ASTM Task Group Coordination chairman, member of the ASTM C01 Executive and CSA Strategic Steering Committee on Concrete and Related Products, and a past-chairman of CSA Technical Committee on Hydraulic Cement and Supplementary Cementing Materials. Helinski is Quality Program specialist for Lafarge North America.