Concrete Pipe and Precast Concrete Certifications Help Ensure Quality
By Randy Reimer
HK Director of Sales
Reinforced concrete pipe (RCP) and precast concrete are major building blocks for state departments of transportation (DOTs) and municipalities, with many thousands of miles and structures laid beneath the feet of urban and suburban residents of every city in North America. With the high quality and innovative manufacturing practices currently used by RCP and precast manufacturers, we now leverage this technology to manage not just the required drainage and wastewater needs, but to support sustainability and resilience when our cities are faced with extreme weather conditions.
This dependency doesn’t come cheap. Billions of dollars from the public purse are spent each year on new infrastructure and repairs to existing pipe. This is why, over the years the concrete pipe and precast industries have worked with regulators to establish standards and certifications surrounding the quality and performance of their products, as well as the manufacturing processes used to produce them.
Plant Certification Programs
The American Concrete Pipe Association (ACPA) offers a volunteer quality assurance program called the Quality Cast Plant Certification Program, known throughout the industry simply as “QCast.” The National Precast Concrete Association has a similar program covering the products manufactured by its members. Both programs consist of three main elements:
Companies that produce concrete storm sewer and culvert pipe, manholes, sanitary sewer pipe, box culverts, three-sided precast structures and other precast concrete products are expected to maintain “sufficient procedures and documentation” to demonstrate their products are consistently manufactured and tested according to the certification guidelines.
Participating plants are evaluated and graded by a third-party auditor to ensure compliance with the certification elements. Auditors are highly qualified and well-versed in the program requirements, and the ACPA will provide an auditor’s resume to any manufacturer interested in knowing more about that particular auditor. The certification programs also include an appeal process for manufacturers, should they disagree with the outcome.
Obtaining and keeping the QCast or NPCA certificate depends on maintaining full compliance with its procedures – and trying to use an expired certificate is a big no-no. It will attract all sorts of unwanted attention from the associations and their lawyers.
Voluntary but recommended
“We already know factory produced concrete products are very strong, that’s why they are used extensively,” says Alan Siebenthaler, marketing/territory manager at Hamilton Kent. “As an industry, they have to make sure the quality is good and the joints are good. This certification is a tool that companies use to improve their quality, and to document it for their customers.”
Indeed, this is not a mandatory certification, though there are many DOTs that require certification in order to supply to their projects, and there certainly are manufacturers renowned for their quality who have not participated in either program. But there are also many companies that have already benefited or would benefit greatly from the process improvements these certification programs can initiate.
“There are producers out there already doing the right things as part of their regular business practice even though they don’t have a QCast or NPCA certification,” says Jason Maristanez, product development manager at Hamilton Kent. “But certification sets them apart from companies that don’t have it. It ensures the quality standard of the precast concrete products, which not only helps the company and the municipality ordering the work, but it also helps us, as a gasket manufacturer, because we know a gasket will be a good fit because of the quality required by certification.”
According to the associations, precast concrete products are expected to have an average functional lifespan of 100 years or more, and the same goes for the gaskets connecting the pipe segments and sealing manhole and box culvert joints, as well as the rubber pipe-to-manhole connectors. This is an important feature, and not just because digging up and replacing pipe is a big deal that causes a lot of disruptions, but because it costs gobs of money.
So, getting the quality right isn’t just about a company’s reputation, it’s also in the public’s best interest. Municipalities and DOTs don’t have the funds to keep digging up pipes and replacing them before their expected life span is over.
“The big focus for a while used to be green, but now it’s more about resilience,” explains Siebenthaler. “You absolutely need resilience in your infrastructure. By having good quality materials, hopefully you have good resilience so that you’re not having to go back and replace it in five, 10, 15 years. It’s almost a public service.”
There are three main factors that go into making a quality drainage system. The first is that the pipe and structure manufacturer produce good products that meet the project’s tolerances and standards, which are often a reflection of national standards like ASTM, AASHTO and CSA. Secondly, specifying and using a quality gasket that is the right size and meets the specifications. Thirdly, is making sure the contractor handles both components correctly, installs them correctly and backfills correctly.
“If you have all three of those elements, then you’re going to have a good quality joint and good quality pipeline, and that should last more than 100 years,” says Siebenthaler.
Looking for more information on how Hamilton Kent works with the certifications’ framework when producing gaskets? Read about the company’s ongoing quality assurance program here, or visit the contact us page to find the closest representative here.