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Structural Concrete ConstructionConstruction industry standards can become as cumbersome as the federal tax code, growing more unwieldy over time as incremental changes are made.

ACI 318, “Building Code Requirements for Structural Concrete,” governs the design and construction of structural concrete members. The document is issued by the American Concrete Institute (ACI), a non-profit founded in 1904 as a standard developing organization.

Undertaking Comprehensive Reorganization

Since 1971, the ACI 318 Code has grown from 750 provisions covered in 78 pages, to 2500 provisions covered in 500 pages. These increases reflect decades of new technologies and evolution in our understanding of the behavior of structural concrete. As the current code cycle began six years ago in 2008, ACI Committee 318 members were tasked with the massive reorganization of the code with a simple goal in mind, greater ease of use.

The process has not been for the faint of heart, requiring years of meetings, ballots and public discussion. But the finish line is finally near: the publication of ACI 318-14 is planned for fall 2014, and it will be referenced in the 2015 edition of the International Building Code.

Adopting a More Efficient Standard

ACI 318-14 will be easier to use than the former standard. Requirements will be grouped more logically, giving designers confidence that they are in full compliance when a design is completed. According to ACI’s website: “When designing a member, such as a column, all relevant design and detailing requirements will be noted within that member chapter. Similar topics, such as minimum reinforcement, will be located in a consistent fashion across all member chapters.”

Other notable changes include:

  • More graphs and tables in place of text.
  • Language edited to be more consistent.
  • Intuitive chapter titles
  • Better flow of information through each chapter
  • Two new chapters: Diaphragms and Building Systems

Invaluable Commitment from Expert Volunteers

Randall W. Poston ACI 318 Committee ChairRandall W. Poston has served as ACI 318 Committee Chair through the entire 6-year reorganization process. Throughout this cycle he led a multi-national team of approximately 90 expert volunteers distributed among eight subcommittees. These individuals represent a strong diversity of experience, knowledge, and interests, and they include materials engineers, structural engineers, contractors, building officials, and university faculty members. Their goal is to protect public safety through the minimum requirements expressed in ACI 318, based on the best knowledge available. The code’s wide purview includes concrete material, design and construction, so each committee member was carefully selected to ensure all subject matter covered by ACI 318 is thoroughly understood by an expert.

When asked about ACI Committee 318, Poston communicated the level of commitment each expert member invests: “I imagine if the many hours devoted by ACI’s volunteer committee members were accurately valued and quantified, the dollar figure for those efforts in a code cycle would probably be more than 10 million U.S. dollars.”

Completing the Process

As the fall 2014 publication of ACI 318-14 has grown closer, ACI Committee 318 has not wavered on the importance of soliciting public input. From summer 2013 to spring 2014, ACI staff engineers delivered over 50 presentations across 29 states and 3 different countries. They communicated the benefits of the reorganized code and acquired early feedback from code users. Of those surveyed at the conclusion of these presentations, 99% indicated they believed ACI 318-14 would be easier to use.

May 1-June 17, 2014 was a public discussion period. ACI communicated to Tuffwerx that the number of downloads of the Code during that time exceeded their expectations, as designers were eager to review the changes and provide technical comments.

ACI 318-14 Public Presentation

Poston commented on the importance of public input: “Committee members aren’t the only sources for input for this and other ACI documents. All committee meetings are open to the public. Each change to an ACI standard goes through a thorough review by the committee members, followed by a rigorous consensus balloting process and an overall technical review provided by other experts.

“Finally, the changes are subject to public discussion. I am convinced that this process results in the highest quality structural concrete standards possible – an essential tool used by the design community in more than 20 countries to engineer safe structures.”

Now that the public discussion period is over, ACI Committee 318 must prepare and ballot a response to all comments received from the public. Committee approved closure must be approved by the Technical Activities Committee, then the Standards Board. When the Standards Board releases ACI 318-14 for publication, it will be officially adopted.

Embracing the Future and Modeling Success

ACI Committee 318 is on the cusp of a highly respectable accomplishment. They are providing the industry with a more efficient and intuitive code that will continue to keep the public safe, and they have not compromised on the depth of the process despite the time and energy that was required of them.

Other organizations and agencies would do well to emulate ACI’s reorganization process as it applies to them. They should also consult ACI’s embrace of current modes of communication and consumption of information. ACI 318-14 will be available as an ebook and for iPad use. ACI has also taken advantage of webinars and even Twitter chats to involve the public and garner feedback.

Committee Chair Randall W. Poston shared, “I have estimated that the reorganization that will result in 318-14 has taken a combined total of more than 14 engineer years worth of effort.” That’s a breathtaking statistic, one we applaud.


Photos courtesy of Trevor Patt via Flickr CC and American Concrete Institute. Tuffwerx would like to express gratitude to ACI Marketing Communications Specialist Jeff Ponder for his research assistance.