What is ASTM International?
ASTM is the abbreviation for American Society for Testing and Materials. ASTM International is a consensus standard writing organization that is involved with almost every type of material we, as engineers, work with. Soil, rock, geosynthetics, concrete, steel, plastic, etc. If you’ve worked on a tunnel, highway, deep foundation, dam, waste containment, canal, offshore, commercial development, or any number of other types of projects, you’ve certainly either referenced, specified, or used an ASTM standard. These standards are not just used in the U.S., they are used world-wide. Of the almost 13,000 standards ASTM has published, over 8,000 have been adopted or referenced outside the United States. In fact, 148 countries are represented in ASTM membership.
By collaborating with private businesses, governments, academia and other experts, ASTM harnesses its members’ expertise to produce relevant and technically exceptional standards. The best part about this is that each of us can participate and have a say in shaping these standards. ASTM encourages new members and new voices to be heard.
Joining a Committee
ASTM committees usually meet in person twice per year – but it is not mandatory for each member to attend. However, these meetings are where much of the business in “task groups” gets accomplished. A task group is a group of people who have an interest in a particular ASTM standard. Task groups are led by a task group leader. They facilitate in person meetings and after receiving direction from the task group, draft a new or edit an existing standard. The draft is then submitted to ASTM for balloting. ASTM sends out electronic ballots to its members to vote on standards. This is the real beauty of ASTM – all members of a subcommittee get to vote on the ballot and if a single person votes against the ballot, the ballot is paused and the person who voted against it can explain his/her reasons why. If those reasons are deemed persuasive (by the task group) then the ballot is stopped, and a different approach must be taken. This is how ASTM assures all voices will be heard.
I’m personally involved with and currently serving as Chairman for ASTM Committee D35 on Geosynthetics. It is an incredibly rich and robust group. Our next meeting was originally scheduled to be in Boston the first week of July but, due to the COVID-19 situation, has been switched to a virtual meeting. We write standards for all sorts of geosynthetic materials including geomembranes, geotextiles, geosynthetic clay liners, geocells, geogrids and more. Endurance, mechanical, and hydraulic properties are just some of the things these standards help measure on geosynthetics.
So, if you’ve had concerns about specifics of a particular test, have a need that hasn’t been addressed yet by ASTM, or want to help improve the industry and have a hand in shaping the future, you should consider joining ASTM! An extremely economical membership fee also gets you a free ASTM International standard volume of your choice. You will work alongside your peers in the industry, network, and earn PDH credits for your PE license.
Post by: Gary T. Torosian, Chief Operating Officer of Geocomp/GeoTesting Express
Gary T. Torosian is Chief Operating Officer of Geocomp Corporation. He has over 28 years of experience in laboratory and field testing of soil, rock and geosynthetics. For 25 years, he led Geocomp’s testing division, GeoTesting Express – first as laboratory manager then as director. He has authored and co-authored several papers on testing and automation in the laboratory. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
Gary has been active within ASTM International’s Committee D35 on Geosynthetics for over 18 years, currently serving as Chairman. He is also a technical contact for several ASTM International standards including ASTM D5321 – Interface Shear, ASTM D6496 – GCL Peel Strength and ASTM D6768 – GCL Tensile Strength.