ACMA Codes, Standards and Guidelines Help Designers and Engineers Build with Confidence

In the world of construction, there is no such thing as blind trust. While composites have a significant advantage over …

In the world of construction, there is no such thing as blind trust. While composites have a significant advantage over traditional materials in construction applications, designers and engineers need hard scientific evidence. Furthermore, once they have that evidence, they need guidance to build effectively with FRP. Without technical guidance and standards to ensure composite structures can be made efficiently and provide superior strength and durability, constructors will defer to traditional materials.

Every year, ACMA works tirelessly to help fill the standards void for a wide range of construction applications. For decades, John Busel, the vice president of ACMA’s Composites Growth Initiative (CGI), has worked with members of the American Concrete Institute’s 440 Committee to create countless standards, codes and guidelines that specify the use of FRP to reinforce concrete.

“John joined the industry because internally, we felt there was a huge opportunity for the use of FRP in civil infrastructure,” says Charlie McClaskey, a long-standing ACI 440 member. “However, there is no such thing as ‘trust me’ in this business. You have to prove that the materials are safe. John’s leadership in ACI Committee 440’s work has significantly added to that proof.”

Busel and ACMA committee members have helped the lead way for standards and guides in many other applications as well. In 2014, CGI’s Fiberglass Grating Manufacturers Council issued a new FRP Grating Manual Standard with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to educate engineers, designers and end-users about the properties, performance and uses of FRP grating and stair treads used in pedestrian and industrial walkways.

“With the standard leading access to wider and newer markets, we foresee an eventual increase in new business for our company,” said Aldred D’Souza, P.E., Director of Engineering/Design at Fibergrate Composite Structures, Inc. in an interview with Composites Manufacturing magazine. “The standard also eliminates the subjectivity that exists in current specifications, thus making it easier and faster for our company to execute projects.”

In 2016, CGI’s Architectural Division published an updated version of Guidelines and Recommended Practices for Fiber Reinforced Polymer (FRP) Architectural Products – industry’s most substantial document guiding architects how, when, where and why to use composites. The document is result of the cross-disciplinary collaboration that makes the guidance accessible not only to engineers, but architects as well.

“I love it. Everyone’s interested in this, but if we made the document very technical and just for engineers, people who aren’t engineers would pick it up for five minutes and put it down,” said Robert Steffen, PhD, PE, who won ACMA’s 2017 Outstanding Volunteer Award for his leadership on the guidelines. “I think the beauty in this is that it’s a readable document that everyone can use.”

Currently, ACMA is working on a finalizing a standard for specifying FRP in utility poles. The standard is expected to make a very big impact in the electrical utility space, as there are no standards for utility poles for engineers to use today. More information will be available soon.