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Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines: Cement and Concrete Specifications

The following recommendations address guide materials, state and contract specifications; performance standards; mix design; and quality control for cement and concrete.

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Materials Specifications

EPA recommends that procuring agencies use the existing voluntary consensus specifications referenced below for cement and concrete containing fly ash and/or ground granulated blast furnace (GGBF) slag.

Recommended Specifications for Cement and Concrete Containing Recovered Materials
Cement Specifications Concrete Specifications
ASTM C 595, "Standard Specification for Blended Hydraulic Cements." ASTM C 618, "Standard Specification for Fly Ash and Raw or Calcined Natural Pozzolan for Use as a Mineral Admixture in Portland Cement Concrete."
ASTM C 150, "Standard Specification for Portland Cement." ASTM C 311, "Standard Methods of Sampling and Testing Fly Ash and Natural Pozzolans for Use as a Mineral Admixture in Portland Cement Concrete."
AASHTO M 240, "Blended Hydraulic Cements." ASTM C 989, "Ground Granulated Blast-Furnace Slag for Use in Concrete Mortars."
-- AASHTO M 302, "Ground Granulated Blast-Furnace Slag for Use in Concrete and Mortars."

American Concrete Institute Standard Practice ACI 226.R1, "Ground Granulated Blast-Furnace Slag as a Cementitious Constituent in Concrete."

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State Specifications

EPA recommends that procuring agencies consult other agencies with established specifications for coal fly ash or GGBF slag to benefit from their experience. Procuring agencies can consult the Federal Highway Administration, which maintains a database of state highway agency material specifications. The states of Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia have adopted specifications that allow the use of GGBF slag in one or more applications. If needed, procuring agencies can obtain these specifications from the respective state transportation departments and adapt them for use in their programs for cement and concrete, as appropriate.

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Contract Specifications

EPA recommends that procuring agencies that prepare or review "contract" specifications for individual construction projects revise those specifications to allow the use of cement and concrete containing coal fly ash or GGBF slag as optional or alternate materials for the project, where appropriate, consistent with the agencies' performance and price objectives.

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Performance Standards

EPA recommends that procuring agencies review and, if necessary, revise performance standards relating to cement or concrete construction projects to insure that they do not arbitrarily restrict the use of coal fly ash or GGBF slag, either intentionally or inadvertently, unless the restriction is justified on a job-by-job basis:

  • to meet reasonable performance requirements for the cement or concrete, or
  • because the use of coal fly ash or GGBF slag would be inappropriate for technical reasons.

EPA recommends that this justification be documented based on specific technical performance information. Legitimate documentation of technical infeasibility for coal fly ash or GGBF slag can be for certain classes of applications, rather than on a job-by-job basis. Procuring agencies should reference such documentation in individual contract specifications to avoid extensive repetition of previously documented points. Procuring agencies should, however, be prepared to submit such documentation to analysis by interested persons, and should have a review process available in the event of disagreements.

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Mix Design

In concrete mix design specifications that specify minimum cement content or maximum water, the cement ratios could potentially unfairly discriminate against the use of coal fly ash or GGBF slag. Such specifications should be changed in order to allow the partial substitution of coal fly ash or GGBF slag for cement in the concrete mixture, unless technically inappropriate. Cement ratios can be retained, as long as they reflect the cementitious characteristics that coal fly ash or GGBF slag can impart to a concrete mixture (e.g., by considering Portland cement plus coal fly ash or Portland cement plus GGBF slag as the total cementitious component).

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Quality Control

Nothing in the Recovered Materials Advisory Notice (RMAN) should be construed to relieve the contractor of responsibility for providing a satisfactory product. Cement and concrete suppliers are already responsible both for the quality of the ingredients of their product and for meeting appropriate performance requirements, and will continue to be under the RMAN. Nothing in EPA's recommendations should be construed as a shift in normal industry procedures for assigning responsibility and liability for product quality. Procuring agencies should expect suppliers of blended cement, coal fly ash or GGBF slag, and concrete to demonstrate (through reasonable testing programs or previous experience) the performance and reliability of their product and the adequacy of their quality control programs. Procuring agencies should not, however, subject cement and concrete containing coal fly ash or GGBF slag to any unreasonable testing requirements.

In accordance with standard industry practice, coal fly ash and GGBF slag suppliers should be required to provide to users a statement of the key characteristics of the product supplied. These characteristics may be stated in appropriate ranges. Other characteristics should be requested as needed by the procuring agency.

Specifications for Cement and Concrete Containing Cenospheres and Silica Fume

For cement and concrete containing cenospheres, EPA recommends that procuring agencies contact cenosphere suppliers to obtain specifications, such as material safety data sheets for assisting with use of cenospheres in cement and concrete.

For cement and concrete containing silica fume, EPA recommends that procuring agencies refer to the following national specifications and guidelines, which enable procuring agencies to buy high-performance concrete containing silica fume of a standard quality, when purchasing cement and concrete with silica fume: ASTM C1240Exit, AASHTO M840, and ACI 234R-96Exit. ACI 234R-96 describes the properties of silica fume; how silica fume interacts with cement; the effects of silica fume on the properties of fresh and cured concrete; typical applications of silica fume concrete; recommendations on proportions, specifications, and handling of silica fume in the field.

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