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TAKING A CUE from Pierre Villere's Concrete Returns on page 16, I have my own take on The Emperor's New Clothes.

I would describe the emperor in the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale as a senior vice president. And rather than discussing new clothes, I'd focus on the unrealistic expectations he and his corporate planner had forced on the good knight's region. The good knight would show the courage to alert the vice president that his advisers didn't understand how things really happen in the field. The vice president would revise the strategic plan and all would become right.

The concrete industry needs a few good knights right now. Our product's position as the world's most durable building material is at risk. And if we don't rally to address the issues of alkalisilica reaction (ASR) in a clear and concise manner, the concrete industry may not participate in the upcoming economic rebound to its fullest extent.

In its Vision 2020 report, ACI's Strategic Development Council, the concrete industry's innovation think tank, estimated the size of the concrete repair industry is approaching $20 billion. Yes, they meant billion. One key growth factor is our infrastructure's age and our society's lack of reinvestment. Big numbers like this scare me. On one hand, repair contractors may have plenty of future business. But more realistically, unless we focus our efforts on creating more durable structures, owners will turn from concrete to other materials.

Our industry's haphazard approach to mitigating ASR is a shortcoming. There are at least three industry initiatives focused on solutions to this problem. ASR's foreboding shadow is becoming ever more widespread. Our customers are demanding longer service life to match their level of investment. As our quality aggregate resources become depleted, we need to be more consistent on ASR evaluations and mitigation procedures.

Help on the way

Fortunately, there's a way to involve the good knights who work in quality control in developing a consensus approach. ASTM International Committee C09 on Concrete and Concrete Aggregates is hosting the "Workshop on ASR Testing, Specification Management and Mitigation from a Ready-Mix Producer's Perspective" on June 24. The workshop will be held in conjunction with the standards development meetings in San Diego.

Richard Szecsy, president of the Texas Aggregates and Concrete Association, and Steven Parker, CHRYSO Inc., Rockwall, Texas, are the co-chairs. They hope the event will provide a forum for ready-mix producers to discuss their unique issues with ASR specifications.

The presentations will showcase the challenges a producer faces when confronted with real-world situations. "We have several examples in which standard uses of ASR test methods and specification limits are in conflict with production means and methods," says Szecsy.

To register for the workshop, visit www.astm.org. There is no fee for ASTM members, presenters, and students. The fee for non-ASTM members is $50 for online and $75 onsite.


For More on ASR...

At ACI's 2012 Spring Convention, committees 201, Durability of Concrete, and 236, Material Science of Concrete, hosted two sessions on recent advances in ASR Test Methods and Understanding Mitigation Mechanisms. Several leading researchers presented updates. Among the most pertinent of these presentations were:

  • Alkali-Aggregate Reaction: What Our Current Approach Tells Us and What it Doesn't.
  • A Proposed New Test Method for Determining ASR Potential: The Concrete Cylinder Test.
  • Developing a Rapid and Reliable ASR Test Method Based on Determining ASR Activation Energy from Aggregate-Solution Tests.
  • Can Acoustic Emission Detect Alkali-Silica Reaction Earlier than Other Tests?
  • Miniature Concrete Prism Test — A Practical and a Reliable Test Method to Evaluate Alkali-Silica Reactivity of Aggregate.
  • Understanding the Role of SCMs in Mitigating Alkali-Silica Reaction.

You can view these and other presentations at www.aciconvention.org/handouts.