Under a recently signed Memorandum of Agreement, the general management of the two Construction Materials Reference Laboratories (known as CMRL) housed in NIST's Building and Fire Research Laboratory—the AMRL and the CCRL—has been transferred from NIST to their sponsoring organizations after 70 years. The AMRL is the AASHTO Materials Reference Laboratory sponsored by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, and the CCRL is the Cement and Concrete Reference Laboratory sponsored by ASTM, the American Society for Testing and Materials. The memorandum supports the continuation of AMRL's and CCRL's ongoing programs, while strengthening the research linkage to NIST.
The CCRL began as the Cement Reference Laboratory in 1929 at the request of the Congress because of concerns about the quality of cement used in the construction of federal facilities. The program was expanded to include concrete materials and became the CCRL in 1960. The AMRL, modeled after the CCRL, was established in 1965.
Both reference laboratories promote the quality of laboratory testing by providing on-site assessment services and proficiency sample programs to participating laboratories that use either or both of ASTM and AASHTO test method standards. The services and programs help the participating laboratories by drawing attention to any problems with test equipment or departures from standard testing procedures.
Participants in the CCRL program test hydraulic cements, Portland cement concrete, aggregates and supplementary cementing materials, while those in the AMRL program test bituminous materials, soils and paints used in transportation projects.
Laboratory participation in AMRL and CCRL programs has grown slowly over the decades, but growth has been rapid in recent years in response to growing interest in quality assurance in construction. Together, the sister programs now provide quality assurance services to more than 1,200 construction materials testing laboratories in the United States, Canada, Mexico and more than a dozen other countries. AMRL and CCRL serve laboratories of commercial testing organizations, governmental agencies, material producers, educational institutions and trade associations.
Participating laboratories should not see any significant changes in AMRL and CCRL as a result of the change in management responsibility. They will continue to operate as before except for the strengthened research linkage to NIST. This linkage should be important to the industries of construction including testing laboratories, since it will lead to the development of improved test methods with an emphasis on performance.
The CMRL's role in the construction industry is significant because inadequate testing could lead to good materials being rejected, poor materials being accepted, construction delays and, perhaps, even structural failures. Under the new agreement among NIST, AASHTO and ASTM, AMRL and CCRL will continue to provide their highly respected programs promoting the quality of testing of construction materials, while benefiting from BFRL's construction materials research program.
As a non-regulatory agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce's Technology Administration, NIST strengthens the U.S. economy and improves the quality of life by working with industry to develop and apply technology, measurements and standards through four partnerships: the Measurement and Standards Laboratories, the Advanced Technology Program, the Manufacturing Extension Partnership and the Baldrige National Quality Program.