Code Development: The ASTM Process

I spent a few days last week traveling to attend the Spring ASTM International meetings held in Phoenix, AZ. When I was working as a building designer, I always used ASTM standards in my project specifications or testing and special inspection requirements on a job. But I did not know how these ASTM standards were developed, nor did I know that I could participate in the process.

ASTM standards are voluntary in the sense that ASTM does not require their use. However, since ASTM standards are referenced in building codes and design standards that are adopted by states and local jurisdictions, compliance with those standards is required. So it might be useful for structural engineers to know a little bit about how these standards are created.

ASTM International’s website has a lot of information about it on their FAQ page, so I’ll quote a little from there:

Standards development work begins when members of an ASTM technical committee identify a need or other interested parties approach the committee. Task group members prepare a draft standard or work item, which is reviewed by its parent subcommittee through an electronic balloting system. After the subcommittee approves the document, it is submitted concurrently to the main committee and the entire membership of ASTM.

All negative votes cast during the balloting process, which must include a written explanation of the voters’ objections, must be fully considered before the document can be submitted to the next level in the process. Final approval of a standard depends on concurrence by the ASTM Standing Committee on Standards that proper procedures were followed and due process was achieved.

Two nice things about this process are that any ASTM member can give input or voice their objections to any portion of a standard, and the committees must consider all the comments they receive. The committees are also made up of technical experts representing producers, consumers, government, and academia, which ensures balance between the different interests.

How do you use ASTM Standards in your day-to-day work? Let us know by posting a comment.

– Paul

Paul McEntee

Author: Paul McEntee

A couple of years back we hosted a “Take your daughter or son to work day,” which was a great opportunity for our children to find out what their parents did. We had different activities for the kids to learn about careers and the importance of education in opening up career opportunities. People often ask me what I do for Simpson Strong-Tie and I sometimes laugh about how my son Ryan responded to a questionnaire he filled out that day:

Q.   What is your mom/dad's job?
A.   Goes and gets coffee and sits at his desk

Q.   What does your mom/dad actually do at work?
A.   Walks in the test lab and checks things

When I am not checking things in the lab or sitting at my desk drinking coffee, I manage Engineering Research and Development for Simpson Strong-Tie, focusing on new product development for connectors and lateral systems.

I graduated from the University of California at Berkeley and I am a licensed Civil and Structural Engineer in California. Prior to joining Simpson Strong-Tie, I worked for 10 years as a consulting structural engineer designing commercial, industrial, multi-family, mixed-use and retail projects. I was fortunate in those years to work at a great engineering firm that did a lot of everything. This allowed me to gain experience designing with wood, structural steel, concrete, concrete block and cold-formed steel as well as working on many seismic retrofits of historic unreinforced masonry buildings.