When I started some concrete and materials research work at the University of Calgary back in 2001, I was introduced to the ASTM standards. I found it slightly amusing that Canada often deferred to what I thought were US standards, particularly considering that everything was in Imperial Units. But I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the methodology and standard tests that were available for research and quality testing purposes.

Later, I found out that ASTM is not just American, but an International Standards body…

ASTM International is one of the largest voluntary standards development organizations in the world-a trusted source for technical standards for materials, products, systems, and services. Known for their high technical quality and market relevancy, ASTM International standards have an important role in the information infrastructure that guides design, manufacturing and trade in the global economy.

ASTM International, originally known as the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), was formed over a century ago, when a forward-thinking group of engineers and scientists got together to address frequent rail breaks in the burgeoning railroad industry. Their work led to standardization on the steel used in rail construction, ultimately improving railroad safety for the public.

ASTM International – Standards Worldwide

Why do we need standards? For many thousands of years, the Caveat Emptor ruled…

Caveat emptor – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Before statutory law, the buyer had no warranty of the quality of goods. In many jurisdictions, the law now requires that goods must be of "merchantable quality". However, this implied warranty can be difficult to enforce, and may not apply to all products. Hence, buyers are still advised to be cautious.

Standards were introduced as a way to oversee the quality of construction of goods and the supply of services. Many standards bodies are separate from the Government, but are given regulatory powers over areas of responsibility. Child Booster Seats are a great example of a product that is regulated through standards organizations, and upheld by legislation.

From Consumer Products to Energy, Health and Environment to Construction materials, ASTM continues to provide technical assurance, guidance and quality standards for many areas of our built environment.

With the recent awareness in climate change and global warming coming to the fore, industries will have to meet ever stricter standards and guidelines for materials and production methods to reduce, reuse and recycle all that we consumer as a species.

Published by Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada.