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A Century-Long Partnership for Progress

ASTM Committee C01 and the Cement Industry

by Paul D. Tennis and John M. Melander

Over the past century, standards developed by ASTM Committee C01 have established a foundation for continued development of the U.S. cement industry. From the inception of Committee C in 1902, key cement industry representatives have recognized the tremendous value of standardized test methods and uniform national specifications and actively participated in the standards development process. With the formation of the Association of American Portland Cement Manufacturers, later the Portland Cement Association, an opportunity for enhanced cooperation and growth of an industry was created and has continued to this day. The industry has evolved along with ASTM.

Joint History

It is not coincidental that ASTM Committee C (1) came into being in 1902, about the same time as the Association of American Portland Cement Manufacturers (AAPCM). Industry leaders at the time initiated cooperative efforts on what was known as “the sack problem.” At the time, cement was distributed in reusable cloth sacks, and gathering and returning empty sacks to the manufacturer for refilling became problematic, as sacks were stolen from construction sites, damaged by handling, or lost in transport. One of the primary functions of the original AAPCM was to collect, clean, repair, and re-distribute the cloth sacks to manufacturing facilities. The advantages of marketplace competitors working together for the good of the industry and the consumer were demonstrated through the efforts of the AAPCM.

Also at the time, cement specifications were being developed by a variety of individuals and organizations, leading to confusion and difficulties in assuring, or even defining, standardized, quality cements. R.W. Lesley, in a paper presented at the Engineers Club of Philadelphia in May 1899, noted more than 200 different specifications for cement in the U.S. In some cases, different specifications for cement were issued by engineers from the same department of government. Clearly, this placed the cement manufacturer in a quandary—to which specification should a cement be produced? Industry leaders, having seen the benefits of industry-wide cooperation in solving the sack problem, realized that participation in the standards development process held tremendous potential for improvements in uniformity and quality through standardization on a national level. Standardization also offered benefits to the manufacturer in providing consistent marketplace requirements for cement. With today’s global market, the increasing internationalization of standards and acceptance of ASTM International’s standards continues to expand those benefits.

The benefits of the balanced representation and voluntary consensus process was evident from the beginning, as noted by Robert W. Lesley, then-chairman of ASTM, at the 1907 Annual Meeting:

“This specification [ASTM C 9, Standard Specifications for Cement] was made to meet the views of the conservative people on all sides of this question. It should be remembered, too, that while it is the policy of this Society to accord equal representation on all committees dealing with commercial matters to the manufacturers and the consumers, this Committee consisted of about eight manufacturers and twenty representatives of the consumers; so that the latter were in a majority of two to one; which I think speaks for the fairness and broad-mindedness that have served to make this a real living specification.”

Robert Lesley’s sentiments have been echoed recently by Louis Spellman, member of Committee C01: “The voluntary consensus standards developed by ASTM bridge the gap between buyer and seller. It’s much better to have a usable specification devised in cooperation with customers.” Thus, even after 100 years, ASTM’s standards development process remains pertinent and valuable. The preparation of the first edition of ASTM standard C 9 in 1904 was a classic example of ASTM’s balanced consensus process. By 1909, the specification was used in “practically all branches of engineering except under government contracts.” (2) Meetings with ASTM Committee C 1 and U.S. Government representatives led to other revisions so that by 1917, both parties were satisfied with the specification’s provisions. The value of this accomplishment is hard to overstate: from a chaotic situation of several hundred specifications, a single specification, built through the consensus process, and voluntarily accepted by manufacturers, engineers, architects, and government specifying agencies, covered all cement used in general construction in the United States.

In 1916, the AAPCM reorganized to become the Portland Cement Association (PCA), with a mandate to “raise the standard of concrete construction, to improve the quality of concrete work, to increase the quantity of cement used in established fields, and to develop new fields.” In the years that followed, ASTM and PCA have benefited from the cooperation that has been a hallmark of their relationship.

Benefit to Industry

Cement shipments increased dramatically in the years following the creation of ASTM specification C 9. In 1904, portland cement consumption was about 5.3 million metric tons. From 1904 to 1913 domestic consumption nearly tripled to 15.4 million metric tons. This dramatic increase in the size of the U.S. market reflected the rapid growth of a young concrete construction industry in the U.S. This growth was facilitated by the benefits of standardization, as is evidenced by the fact that cement industry personnel (and PCA staff) continued to actively participate in stan- dardization activities. These benefits have continued to be realized today. The U.S. market is about 25 times larger than it was 100 years ago, as shown in Figure 1.

Participation by Cement Industry Members

Perhaps the most telling example of the esteem with which the industry has held ASTM activities is the time and dedication of industry and PCA staff who have been members of Committee C01. Indeed, R.W. Lesley was the first president of PCA and vice-president of ASTM in its early years. This recognition of the benefits of ASTM participation continues to this day: as of June 2002, there are 61 producers participating in ASTM C01 activities, along with 50 users, and 98 general interest voters. (Non-official voting members also are active with 136 producers, 18 users, and 20 general interest members.) Roughly 80 percent of the cement companies in the U.S. have representatives on C01, along with PCA staff, who actively participate as well, at the request of their membership. The vast majority (about 70 percent) of ASTM C01 subcommittee chairmen are currently or formerly employed by cement manufacturers, indicating the continued importance placed by the industry on ASTM participation, and the importance of industry participation in developing the future leaders of ASTM Committee C01.

Research and Round-Robin Investigations

Interlaboratory investigations are critical for standards development, in preparing new test methods and their precision and bias statements as well as for demonstrating the significance of changes to test methods. The first true cement specification, C 9, Standard Specifications for Cement, was adopted in 1904 only after evaluating data from a round-robin investigation involving five portland cements and 30 “prominent laboratories” (from the 1905 Report of Committee C). Certainly among those laboratories were those associated with cement manufacturers.

In 1916, recognizing the importance of research and development, the Portland Cement Association established research laboratory facilities at the Lewis Institute in Chicago. In 1926, PCA moved its laboratory operation to the newly constructed headquarters at 33 West Grand Ave. in Chicago, and in 1950 expanded R&D facilities were opened in Skokie, Ill., the present home of Construction Technology Laboratories, Inc. Through the years, PCA continued to conduct both basic and applied research on cement and concrete properties, contributing both to the development and refinement of ASTM test methods.

Cement and concrete technology has been further advanced by the work of cement company research laboratories that have been operated over the years by various manufacturers. The participation of cement industry laboratories in standards development activities has historically been considered routine. Indeed the role of cement industry laboratories has been so prominent that current C01 Chairman Ronald Gebhardt comments, “I don’t think there is a standard test method that you could point to in ASTM Committee C01, and probably C09, that wasn’t developed with participation by cement company research laboratories.”

NBS–Industry Relationship

In 1923, PCA finalized an agreement with the National Bureau of Standards (NBS, now the National Institute of Standards and Technology, or NIST), to begin a fellowship program aimed at investigating fundamental characteristics of cement. The basic research on cement composition and hydration characteristics contributed to standards development and the creation of ASTM C 150, Test Method for Autoclave Expansion of Portland Cement, in 1940, with five types of portland cements based on performance-related compositional characteristics. Distinct improvement in ASTM standards resulted directly from industry sponsorship of this basic research, which continued through the mid-1960s.

In 1929, PCA and the U.S. government co-funded the establishment of the Cement Reference Laboratory (CRL) at NBS, with ASTM Committee C01 as its sponsor. The CRL’s mission was primarily the inspection of testing laboratories, which continues to be a major activity of the Cement and Concrete Reference Laboratory (CCRL), as it is now known (in 1958, Committee C09 became a sponsor as well and the name was changed and the activities expanded). In addition, the CCRL proficiency sample program allows quality assurance testing between laboratory inspections and has been important in test method development by providing estimates of precision and bias.

These joint ventures among industry, governmental agencies, and ASTM show continued support for ASTM activities by all parties through Committee C01’s century of progress.

More Recent Examples

The cement industry, both through PCA and by direct participation in interlaboratory test programs, continues to support research into ASTM standards, with the goal of improving existing test methods or developing new ones. Current and recent PCA-sponsored research includes basic research on accelerated sulfate resistance testing (for potential new test methods), improved characterization using Rietveldt analysis of X-Ray diffraction patterns (for possible use in development of standards like ASTM C 1365, Test Method for Determination of the Proportion of Phases in Portland Cement and Portland-Cement Clinker Using X-Ray Powder Diffraction Analysis), and research on mechanisms of expansion in the autoclave expansion test (in support of potential improvements to ASTM C 151, Test Method for Autoclave Expansion of Portland Cement).

Trends in Cement Standards Development

Cement manufacturing, concrete technology, and the cement market have all evolved over the years. It is a tribute to the ASTM process that C01 standards have been an integral part of that evolution. Recent C01 standards activities reflect a move toward a more global perspective within ASTM and within the cement industry. These include the development of performance-based specifications and transition to SI units from U.S. customary units. Adoption of SI units, in particular, has likely aided the use of ASTM International’s standards in other countries and will continue to spread the benefits of standardization globally.

Development of performance-based standards represents another significant trend. Originally, cement specifications were largely prescriptive; that is, (relatively) easily measured chemical and physical requirements have been presumed sufficient to assure performance of cements in concrete. As an example, tricalcium aluminate contents have been limited in C 150 for Type II and Type V cements to provide resistance to sulfate attack. In a performance-based specification like ASTM C 1157, Performance Specification for Hydraulic Cement, Type MS and HS cements assure resistance to sulfate attack through a performance-based test (in this case ASTM C 1012, Test Method for Length Change of Hydraulic-Cement Mortars Exposed to a Sulfate Solution). Performance-based specifications are predicated on the principle that acceptance should be based on how a material performs, rather than its composition, thus promoting innovative development of products.

A concern often expressed about performance standards is the effectiveness of available test methods in measuring performance. Short-term tests don’t always predict long-term performance well and long-term tests are impractical for acceptance criteria. In addition, concrete field performance is not always well-predicted by cement properties (also being affected by environmental conditions, other concrete materials, and construction practices). This points out the need for future development of more rapid test methods that exhibit firm correlations with performance. The cement industry and PCA continue to work with ASTM International toward that goal.

As one looks at the possible trend from prescriptive-based standards to performance-based standards, it is interesting to consider the future trends in standards development. Geoffrey Frohnsdorff, former ASTM Committee C01 chairman, sees predictive standards as evolving from the increased knowledge of materials performance and utilization of computer technology. Such standards would predict the actual field performance based on characterization of the materials rather than requirements for expensive and time-consuming performance tests. A significant effort under way in support of this concept is the Virtual Cement and Concrete Technology Laboratory (VCCTL), which seeks to generate computer-based predictions for a wide range of cement and concrete properties based on detailed characterization of the materials. The idea is to use a materials science-based approach. Frohnsdorff states, “If one truly understands the chemistry and physics of degradation mechanisms and strength development, and the effects of environment and placement, long-term testing would be unnecessary. Predictive specifications would allow optimization of materials in ways that are not possible today.” This is a stimulating possibility for research that PCA and other cement and concrete industry organizations are already supporting.

Future Opportunities for Cooperation

Will utilization of tools from VCCTL, and developments from research projects sponsored by PCA and elsewhere in the industry, drive a need for new cement standards or modifications to existing standards? The likely answer is yes, but the extent to which standards and specifications change will be determined by the activities of ASTM Committee C01 in the next century.

From its inception, the committee has been instrumental in the development of the cement industry in the United States. Continued cooperation will help ensure the future of the industry. As noted by Emery Farkas, “Committee C01 and ASTM have survived 100 years through recognition that the consensus process produces quality products. We need to encourage a new generation of participants to carry that process forward.” //


(1) When discussing historical ASTM activities on cement, there can be confusion with regard to nomenclature for ASTM committees and standards. In 1902, the third committee of ASTM formed: Committee C on Standard Specifications for Cement. This became Committee C01 on Cement in 1910, when other committees were formed, including Committee C02 on Reinforced Concrete. In 1907, the specification that Committee C developed became designated C 9, Standard Specifications for Cement, which was discontinued in 1941 with the adoption of ASTM C 150, Standard Specification for Portland Cement. A committee designated C09 on Concrete and Concrete Aggregates was established by 1915. Thus from about 1915 to 1941, both Committee C09 and specification C 9 existed.

(2) R. W. Lesley; J. B. Lober, and G. S. Bartlett, History of the Portland Cement Industry, International Trade Press, Chicago, 1924.

Copyright 2002, ASTM

Paul Tennis is program coordinator, Cement and Concrete Standards, in the Product Standards and Technology Group of the Portland Cement Association in the Department of Research and Technical Services. He has been a member of ASTM Committee C01 since 1996.

John Melander is director of Product Standards and Technology for the Portland Cement Association (PCA) in the Department of Research and Technical Services. A member of ASTM and Committee C01 since 1980, John served as chairman of Subcommittee C01.11 on Masonry Cement from 1986 until 1996 and received the ASTM Award of Merit in 2000.