ASTM

Donald E. Smith, CCS

June 2008

After seven days on the road I realized it’s that time of the month again to pound out 800 words for Wachuwannano. My most recent travels took me to Denver, where ASTM Committee Week was held. It was good to see more contractors at the meeting and even more exciting was when I was updating the C11.03 membership roster, I found several new members on the list of the main committee from AWCI. In recent months I have included a membership application for Committee C11, Gypsum and Related Building Materials and Systems, in the AWCI Members Only newsletter, and many of you have responded by joining ASTM.

With the economy in its current state, I know many of you are probably asking, Just what are the benefits of joining ASTM, and why I should spend the money? This can best be answered by relating a conversation I had with Chip McAlpin of Mader Construction in Elma, N.Y. Chip queried me about the cost of ASTM Standards relating to drywall construction. He apparently had been investigating the purchase of a set of standard and was taken aback at the price.

There are two collections of standards that he looked at, the Building Codes/Construction Combo Collection, which includes 1,300-plus building code standards and 2,300 construction standards, and the Construction Collection, which includes 2,000-plus construction-related standards from all 13 volumes of Section of the Annual Book of ASTM Standards. If you purchase these on DVD, it is in excess of $2,000 for each. Nice to have in the library, but not really necessary for an AWCI member.

For individual membership in ASTM, the cost is $75 per year, and with this membership comes a either a hardcopy or DVD of Volume 4 of the ASTM Standards. Volume 4 covers at least 99 percent of the standards that are required by an AWCI member to have at his fingertips. In addition, if you need a standard not covered by Volume 4, individual standards are available at the member price of $32 each and can be downloaded from the ASTM Web site.

Why is ASTM so important to the conduct of your business? Most of you are probably aware that the 2006 edition of the International Building Code and the International Residential Code are somewhat different from the legacy codes you are accustomed to using. The 2006 editions use references to the ASTM Standards in lieu of using the prescriptive method of defining the requirements of any given items of construction. An example is for portland cement plaster (stucco). The legacy codes would spell out in detail all of the steps required for the installation of portland cement plaster. In the IBC reference is made only to ASTM C1063 for the installation requirements.

The other advantage of ASTM membership is that you can influence the standards. As a member you can vote on the changes proposed to the standards. In fact, in order to maintain your voting privileges, you are required to cast a vote on all ballots issued. You also can initiate changes based on your expertise of a given system. The input of users is very important to maintain the viability of the consensus standards produced by ASTM. If you as a member of ASTM do not like a proposed change, you can vote against it by stating the technical reason you do not think the change is the way to go. If the task group responsible for the ballot item finds your negative to be persuasive, the change will not go forward until your concerns are addressed. The voting members of a given subcommittee are balanced to ensure that no one membership classification holds sway on a given change. The classifications are producer, user and general interest. The input of all classifications is very important to maintaining a well-rounded view of the ASTM Standards.

The ASTM C11 committee meets twice a year to review ballot items and go over proposed changes face-to-face. As a member, you are not required to attend the committee meetings, but it is a good way of developing a clearer understanding of how the process works and who the main players are.

In an effort to reduce travel expenses, ASTM has developed what they call a "virtual meeting.” This is basically a Web-based conference call that allows you to see the documents displayed on your desktop. This meeting method has been successfully used by the task group for C1063 and has allowed the task group members to increase their efficiency in dealing with many of the revisions to C1063. The physical meeting location rotates around the country, and this offers a chance to attend without spending big bucks.

This is your chance to have a lasting effect on the industry for very little money and as little or as much time as you want to spend. When your fill complete your application, be sure to indicate that you want to be on Subcommittee C11.03. I’ll be looking for all of those AWCI members who join up.

To join, just go to www.astm.org and sign up online.