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Have Plant, Will Test

Long the nucleus of technical support for block & paver interests, the National Concrete Masonry Association has taken a quantum leap in testing and engineering

Don Marsh

Long the nucleus of technical support for block & paver interests, the National Concrete Masonry Association has taken a quantum leap in testing and engineering capabilities with construction of a small-scale, commercial-grade production line. The centerpiece of an expanded and upgraded NCMA Research & Development Lab, the equipment enables producers, material suppliers, agencies and other stakeholders to test a wide variety of current or prospective mix designs, unit shapes and optimized curing methods.

NCMA officials note that the production line, anchored by a three-at-a-time Masa machine, is especially suited to testing commercial viability of new generations of admixtures; recycled materials in mix designs formulated for LEED rating points or green building goals; and, an evolving variety of aggregates and cements funneling into markets across the industry. Small scale material handling and transfer, product machinery and curing create a real world block or paver plant environment, complete with tight quality control. The configuration also adds up to testing economy when compared to the costs that would be incurred with a very limited production run in a typical block or paver operation. NCMA officials also cite the critical benefit of production and testing uniformity realized from involving the same lab professionals throughout a testing program. Prior to the lab expansion, those functions were split between producer and association staff.

In addition to the new production capabilities, the NCMA Lab continues to perform standard testing on structural wall assemblies; paver and segmental retaining wall unit freeze-thaw durability; masonry mortar and grout; water absorption of blocks and water repellency of a full-scale wall sections. The production line will also augment offerings within the Concrete Products University's Testing Procedures Course for field and laboratory materials testing technicians and production quality control personnel, and the Certified Concrete Masonry Testing Technician program.

An expanded and upgraded NCMA Research & Development Laboratory was dedicated during a May 15 open house at the Herndon, Va., headquarters. The gathering of about 250 members, allied industry representatives and staff also provided an opportunity to celebrate the association's 90th anniversary. NCMA Chairman Bill Holden (Block USA) oversaw festivities and acknowledged especially 13 associate members who donated plant equipment or provided installation and design services. Major NCMA producer member, Oldcastle APG, was recognized for its donation of 25,000 sq. ft. of Belgard paving stones spanning the association headquarters' new parking lot plus outdoor lab service areas.

Among past NCMA chairmen on hand for the dedication and anniversary observance were Steve Doty (2007, Peerless Block); Jim Weber (2006, Bend Industries); Scott Weber (2004, Basalite Concrete Products); Pat Dubbert (2002, Midwest Products Group); Peter Hoyt (1998, Betco/Oldcastle APG); Norbert Rappl (1996, Comac Builders Supply); Bill Oberfield (1994, Oberfield's Inc.); Harry Horn (1990); Don Foster (1988); and, Don Lampus (1974, R.I. Lampus Co.)

Also joining the festivities were these allied industry group representatives: Brick Industry Association's Brian Trimble; Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute Chairman Ed Fiorini (Pavestone) and Executive Director Charlie McGrath; National Ready Mixed Concrete Association President Robert Garbini; and, Portland Cement Association President/CEO Brian McCarthy.