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Code-sanctioned plant certification helps New York City producers write their own tickets to performance specs

By Don Marsh

On its first Chicago project, the 1,034-ft. Trump International Hotel & Tower (2005-09), the construction team for New York developer Donald Trump saw firsthand how a ready mixed producer can exert more influence on a major reinforced-concrete structure in the Windy City than in the Big Apple.

Since then, the protocol enabling Chicago’s Prairie Materials to design and deliver a full schedule of high performance concrete mixes for Trump International in the Second City is now second fiddle to New York City’s—thanks to the Concrete Industry Board (CIB) of New York’s Concrete Producer Certification Program. Through it, New York City has set a new standard for concrete suppliers with the nation’s most stringent quality control and assurance program.

Under the leadership of current president and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey/Materials Engineering Division Manager Casimir J. Bognacki, P.E., CIB has dramatically changed the landscape for concrete producers as well as contractors, engineers and owner/developers in New York City. The CIB Certification Program has given producers an opportunity to shed traditional roles as prescriptive-mix suppliers tethered to testing labs, and bring their own mix design expertise and quality control/assurance to the construction and engineering value chain.

With its vast and varied membership of design, engineering, city and state agency officials, vendors and suppliers, and construction and real estate professionals, the CIB is the industry’s only group of its kind. Since 1951, it has been dedicated to promoting the highest quality in all phases of the concrete industry, from design to production to placement. Thus, it was a fitting catalyst to develop a producer certification program to coincide with a recent update in the New York City Department of Buildings’ 2003 Building Code as it pertained to concrete.

The Department of Buildings solicited CIB input to modernize the Building Code with provisions that recognized the many technological advancements and practical applications of high-performance/high-strength concrete materials, plus the need to be assured of quality throughout the production and delivery process in both private and public sector construction projects.

To instill engineer and agency confidence in product quality and consistency, the CIB crafted a two-part certification plan with input from the Association of New York City Concrete Producers and other stakeholders. The CIB Producer Certification Program consists of a Quality Control/Quality Assurance Plan–Minimum Standards and a 28-point QC/QA Producers Checklist. The criteria of the CIB’s program incorporates—and goes well beyond—the standards of agencies and organizations including the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association, ASTM/AASHTO Cement and Concrete Reference Laboratory, New York State Department of Transportation and New York City Department of Buildings.

The program significantly raises the bar for New York City producers, notes Carmine Valente, CEO of Bronx-based Jenna Concrete Corp., supplier to the new Yankee Stadium as well as many other high-profile construction projects. Valente and Bognacki were the driving forces behind the CIB Certification project. They spearheaded this innovative and industry program with a Board committee of fellow producers, structural engineers, as well as public agency, material supplier and testing lab representatives. Many meetings, discussions, seminars and comments from 200-plus stakeholders that responded to the committee’s “Minimum Standards of the Quality Control/Quality Assurance” plan spawned a working outline.

“Certification requires a serious investment in personnel, equipment, and constant monitoring and testing of every detail in the production process,” says Valente. “The monetary commitment will yield producers and their customers dividends for years to come.”

In addition to staff payroll, CIB estimates a $50,000–$60,000 upfront investment in required testing lab equipment and a $2,000–$4,000 annual budget for staff certification and equipment maintenance. Jenna Concrete attained the first CIB Producer Certification in February 2011; Ferrara Bros. Building Materials Corp., with batch plants in Queens and Brooklyn, became CIB certified in October. Seeing the inherent benefits of the CIB Certification Program, several other producers are following suit and are well on their way to achieving this elite status in the industry.

“This is an independent verification that a New York City ready mixed producer meets the most rigorous and demanding quality control and quality assurance standards in the nation,” says Joseph J. Ferrara, vice president of Ferrara Bros., who eagerly embraced the CIB program. “It is like the ‘Good Housekeeping’ seal of approval for ready-mixed concrete. CIB Certification gives owners, architects, engineers and agencies the utmost confidence that quality concrete will be delivered to their projects.

“Specialty, high-strength and high-performance concrete—and the interaction and sensitivity of mix constituents—requires that extra special care be given to every phase of production, delivery and placement. The CIB Certification Program ensures that producers are equipped to meet quality control and quality assurance challenges as specification of premium concrete mixes increases.” The engineering and construction communities have welcomed and embraced this approach to concrete production, he adds.

Program requirements
CIB Producer Certification builds on the NRMCA’s Quality Control Manual, ready mixed plant certification, and P2P (Prescriptive-to-Performance) initiative. Producers need to commit to a) meeting strict, measurable standards and making the necessary investments to formally train and test personnel; and, b) upgrading plant and fleet equipment for strict batching tolerances and applicable NRMCA and NYSDOT criteria.

By testing, monitoring and documenting raw materials, then maintaining statistical data, a producer gains—and can truly prove—it really knows its concrete. In order to become CIB certified, a producer must also employ a full-time manager to oversee all phases of quality control and assurance. The QC manager must be an NRMCA Level 3 Technologist and hold ACI Concrete Construction Special Inspector certification, among other credentials. All producer testing lab personnel are required to be ACI Laboratory Certified Technicians Grades I & II.

Most importantly, CIB-certified producers must have their own in-house lab—and achieve AASHTO Accreditation Program Laboratory (AAP) certification for concrete and aggregate testing—to perform cylinder breaks plus other concrete specimen and raw materials testing. Producers must also comply with the 28 specific items on the CIB’s Quality Control Checklist covering materials testing, acceptance and storage; plant equipment signage and maintenance; and, record-keeping of certification, accreditation, and testing regimen and results.

Once the producer’s lab has been AAP certified, compliance with the CIB’s QC/QA Plan–Minimum Standards requirements and 28-point checklist must be independently verified. CIB’s independent auditor, Concrete Engineering Group, LLC of Northbrook, Ill., then inspects plants and labs for conformance and compliance. The Concrete Engineering Group audit independently verifies that the concrete producer has met all of the CIB’s requirements; a report and recommendation to the CIB Certification Committee follows.

Although CIB Certification is not required in the current NYC Building Code, the Department of Buildings endorses the program and offers certified producers special status as Approved Concrete Fabricators, which allows them to apply for a Testing Laboratory license. As a NYC DOB Approved Concrete Fabricator and Licensed Testing Laboratory, a CIB-certified concrete producer can:

  • Develop and submit its own concrete mix designs (on a special TR-3P form), without the use of an outside licensed concrete testing laboratory.
  • Can develop a library of mixes with accompanying data for hundreds of mixes with different properties and material combinations.
  • Use their mix design library and new Department of Buildings forms to submit additional mixes at any time for unanticipated applications and needed changes in the mixes. Mixes can be submitted for approval within days.
  • Meet the needs of contractors by jointly developing new mixes with characteristics best suited to the application needed by a particular contractor on a specific project.
  • Easily adapt to changes in sources of materials. If change is contemplated, new mixes can be run at any time with potential new sources.
  • Readily compare the data results of mixes with different sources, which enables the producer to better realize the optimum choice of materials for quality, cost efficiency or LEED credits.

Beyond Jenna Concrete and Ferrara Bros., other ready mixed producers serving the five New York City boroughs are in various stages of the certification process, notes CIB Executive Director Bill Lyons. “Those involved in the program recognize the substantial upfront expense certification represents,” he adds. “The return on investment comes as producers identify new paths to production and delivery efficiency, and realize greater flexibility in mix designs using a wider variety of raw materials available in a coastal market like New York.

“Compared to other construction project principals, ready mixed producers are more aware of new materials, admixtures and technologies in concrete production, as well as cost factors in various mix designs. By generating their own mixes, there is a built in and continuing incentive for them to create more efficient and sustainable mixes on all projects,” he adds.

“If P2P concrete specifications are to gain greater acceptance in the construction industry, concrete producers must demonstrate they are qualified to take on this  responsibility,” says CIB President Cas Bognacki. “The CIB concrete producers  certification gives the engineer and owner the assurance that the concrete producer has the staff and tools to comply with a P2P specification.”

 

See the CIB website, www.cibofnyc.org, for the Quality Control/Quality Assurance Plan—Minimum Standards and the 28 point QC/QA Producers Checklist.