Chemical testing of aggregates and soils within the construction and civil engineering industry has wide ranging implications for the re-use of materials, remediation works and general project timelines and budgets. With so much potentially riding on the outcomes, it is important that the tests themselves deliver the results you need and, when required, comply to national standards.
Some materials testing laboratories can provide chemical analysis of sulphates, sulphides, PH measurement, chloride levels and organic matter. However, not all of them can provide the additional option of testing to recognised construction industry standards.
In many cases, testing to acknowledged best practice or standard operating procedures will deliver the results you need to make an informed decision. Most facilities will test to an in-house standard that is recognised across the industry.
However, in some cases, project requirements may state that tests need to meet a specific standard. In these instances, you need a testing facility that can also offer specific, standards-compliant chemical analysis. In the case of chemical testing, these are most likely to be BS 1377 for soils, BS EN 1744 for aggregates and TRL 447 reports covering sulphate specification for backfills.
Most civil engineering and earthworks contract specifications are based on the Specification for Highways Works – in particular, series 500 (drainage), 600 (earthworks), 700-1000 (pavements). For each class of materials detailed in these documents, there are a set of required properties, tests and methodologies.
Series 600, for example, includes a comprehensive list of tables, detailing Acceptable Earthworks Materials: Classification and Compaction Requirements. These specify that materials need to be tested to recognised standards. Within the notes for guidance on these schedules, the specification goes one step further and recommends what tests should be carried out in accordance with UKAS standards.
Although chemical analysis may be seen as a niche element of materials testing, it is an essential one. Any main contractor required to test to highways works specifications should be sourcing UKAS accredited tests for chemical composition, not just physical.
It is worth bearing in mind that not all tests will need to be standards-based. UKAS compliant testing is likely to be more expensive, so invest in the right tests when needed and take advantage of cheaper alternatives when available.
If your testing house can do both, then keeping everything together makes sense. You will have one contact, one invoice, one set of results and the chance of better value if you are putting greater volume through a single supplier.
Whether you are looking for standard or standards-based testing, make sure you use a reputable testing house. Scrimping on testing is a false economy, as it can lead to escalating costs and project creep further down the line. When it comes to chemical analysis, think twice and test once.
To discuss your testing requirements in more detail, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 01302 352652.