Raising the bar in the construction industry

I grew up in the construction site, spending weekends playing on heaps of sand and gravel and picking up scattered nails for a fee. My grandfather, you see, had a small real estate business. He built affordable homes, enabling young families to have a house of their own. As the company grew bigger, he built bigger houses, sometimes in big compounds. 

Unfortunately, when he passed away, the business died along with him.  

I remember the family’s construction business now as I ponder on the Philippine construction industry of today. It has come a long way, becoming more competitive now and even at par with its counterparts in other countries. 

ASTM International

I had an email interview with ASTM International president Katharine Morgan on how the Philippine construction industry has evolved with the help of ASTM standards. ASTM International provides a set of construction standards globally. 

“ASTM standards, individually, play key roles in different aspects of Philippine infrastructure on a daily basis, including those under the administration’s Build Build Build program, which consists of thousands of infrastructure projects nationwide involving highways, airports and hospitals. Collectively, the standards address larger critical issues such as resilience, sustainability and innovation,” Morgan says. 

The construction industry, she said, is evolving — applying new tools and emerging technologies to better plan and manage projects.

“Some examples of such advancements are the use of unmanned aircraft systems or drones for infrastructure inspection, exoskeletons to support construction personnel and additive manufacturing for 3D printing of structures,” Morgan says.

Disaster preparedness

Aside from digitization, ASTM also assures that standards address different public safety concerns such as extreme weather conditions. 

Typhoons and earthquakes have increased in intensity worldwide, and the Philippines is no exception. As such, the committee on environmental assessment, risk management and corrective action develops standards to address a range of resilience concerns, including environmental fate, durability and moisture management.

“One example of an ASTM standard the Philippines adopted is C1564-20 or the Standard Guide for use of Silicone Sealants for Protective Glazing Systems. This standard provides direction to architects, manufacturers and others working with protective glazing systems to prevent damage on structures due to hurricanes, earthquakes and other hazards,” Morgan notes.

Vision for the Philippines

ASTM International wants to continue seeing a better construction industry in the Philippines, Morgan said.

“In ASEAN, where ASTM maintains an MOU with the national standards bodies in all 10 member economies, we work closely with selected economies, including the Philippines. Through this direct engagement, we build long-standing and strong relationships with our MOU partners. We also spearhead conversations with industry, research, academic and government representatives to benefit from their experiences and opinions and expand their awareness of the values and benefits of ASTM standards,” Morgan says.

ASTM technical committees develop standards that address 90 industry sectors. 

Based on reports provided by the Bureau of Philippine Standards of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI-BPS), the ASTM standards referenced, adopted and used as the basis for national standards come from 88 of ASTM’s 146 technical committees.

DTI-BPS reported that there are more than 1,300 citations to ASTM standards with more than 50 percent considered construction-related.

These standards include the Standard Specification for Zinc and Epoxy Dual-Coated Steel Reinforcing Bars under Standards A01, which aims to support the production of high-performing and corrosion-resistant steel for roads, bridges and infrastructures. 

In all, Morgan says, the ASTM standards impact multiple facets of building construction and road infrastructure.

The private sector is also able to use ASTM standards for domestic and international purposes.

Globally, ASTM has more than 2,500 standards pertaining to building, transportation and water infrastructure developed by about 40 ASTM International technical committees, with each standard having a positive impact on the sector. 

Every standard aims not only to address market needs and boost technological advancements, but also to enhance output quality and efficiency, reduce costs, speed up technology transfer and improve the safety and health of the public.

Indeed, standards are one way to ensure that we are doing things right. With these globally accepted benchmarks, things are looking up for the construction industry.