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What makes a good Concrete Engineering Tech?
7

What makes a good Concrete Engineering Tech?

What makes a good Concrete Engineering Tech?

(OP)
I would like to know what the group thinks makes a good Concrete Engineering Technician.  What test methods should they be comfortable performing?  Should they be able to perform in the lab and in the field?  What gives you the 'warm and fuzzy' feeling when you read their test reports?

RE: What makes a good Concrete Engineering Tech?

This is a good question.  I wonder what the difference is between a good and adequate.  

I would say that an adequate concrete testing technician is one that will deliver you a representative sample of the concrete.  That is one that stores it in a safe location (free from vibration/molestation) cures it properly, and get it to the lab safely.  This allows you to properly judge the quality of your structure.  Now, assuming the concrete was properly sampled by the technician, but was it handled well by the contractor?  That's where the second partcomes in- reporting.  Was the concrete vibrated?  Where was the concrete that was sampled placed in the structure? was excessive water added- ect.  They should basically write down anything that happened, so you can look at that report and be able to tell the pour conditions as if you were there.  If anything was done that deviated from the plans/code, it should be in the report.  If these conditions are known, one can reasonably evaluate quality, and troubleshoot should something go wrong.  
 
So, everything above I consider to be the bare minimum.  You don't pay us to stand there and look pretty- you want to know the quality of the concrete, and that it was placed properly.  

I think a 'good' inspector would do all of the above, and also make sure that the quality is good- not just write down when it's not.  They would talk to the contractor beforehand about the mix, protect the quality of the concrete by not letting excess water be added, make sure the contractor uses a vibrator, tell the contractor when a truck has been idle too long, ect. ect.  They would know and care about the concrete, and ensure that everything goes well.  You wouldn't necessarily be able to tell the difference necessarily, because most times you only hear about what went wrong.  But here are a few things that I'd look for:   

-A call from the inspector on the pour with a question or comment, there I would be getting the warm fuzzies.  It means they cared enough beyond the trouble or aingst of making the call to get a problem ironed out.  

-Site-specific comments would be reassuring; method of conveyance, size of vibrator, ect.  There are always a few things to say about even the smallest pours.  

-Problems reported before low breaks occur- it's sometimes hard to seperate yourself out from problems on site, so any problems reported in the comments section would maybe score a warm fuzzy or two,  That means the person considers themselves accountable enough to take scrutiny for their actions and can attest to their witness, and that I think is a good thing.  

So, there are a few things.  It was a bit long winded, but hope that helps.     

RE: What makes a good Concrete Engineering Tech?

I believe very strongly in the ACI certifications, and I can pretty confidently say this:

ACI Field Testing Technician Grade I = Adequate Technician
ACI Concrete Construction Inspector = Good Technician

Of course, a person is not good or bad because they have or have not a certificate, but as an example, the ACI FTT covers the ASTM's for slump, air content, unit weight, temperature, casting and curing concrete cylinders, sampling concrete, all of the basics of concrete field testing.

The CCI, in contrast, covers some of the aspects of testing, but includes statistical analysis of concrete tests, inspection of rebar and forms, proper mixing, transporting, and placing of concrete, curing, pumping, much of the methodology required to produce concrete of excellent quality.

If a technician wants to further his/her career, I think that ACI offers a great opportunity through the FTT and then the CCI certification programs.  Study them hard and then take the tests!

RE: What makes a good Concrete Engineering Tech?

Boy, what a complex question.  ACI Certifications are great and I love to see project specifications require testing be carried out by ACI Field Certified technicians.  Better yet, who on the job ever asks a tech to produce his certification.  I have seen techs with hardhats with an ACI Certification "Sticker" on it only to find out the hats were given to them before they went out on site and the hardhats did not belong to them.  Maybe the approved testing agency needs to submit the names of all techs that will work on the project along with a copy of each applicable ACI Certification showing it is valid.  That solves half the problem.  Training competent field techs starts with their employer.  They have to know how to do the tests and then they have to act like this is a vocation they want to be in.  The cyclical aspects of the business in northern climates make it hard for testing labs to hold onto good people.  Most of your techs you will keep busy all summer and they will get laid off every winter as business slows.  It is very difficult to start off with a new workforce every year and expect them to enthusiastically take on the day.  It does happen but it is all too rare.  When it does, that's the tech I want to keep all winter.  Again, knowing how to do the tests is important but caring enough to do things right is equally important.

RE: What makes a good Concrete Engineering Tech?

2
Regardless of stickers on helmets, if the specs reference ACI-301, certified techs are required.  Both the IBC and ACI-318 appear to give some latitude in determining exactly what a “qualified technician” is.

Maybe the ACI-301 and ASTM C94 committees should have a powwow with the IBC and ACI-318 committees.  

ACI-301
1.6.2 – Field tests of concrete required in 1.6.3 and 1.6.4 shall be made by an ACI Concrete Field Testing Technician Grade 1 in accordance with ACI CP1 or equivalent.

ASTM C-94
16.2 – Tests of concrete required to determine compliance with this specification shall be made by a certified ACI Concrete Field Testing Technician, Grade I or equivalent.

ACI-318
5.6.1 — Concrete shall be tested in accordance with the requirements of 5.6.2 through 5.6.5. Qualified field testing technicians shall perform tests on fresh concrete at the job site, prepare specimens required for curing under field conditions, prepare specimens required for testing in the laboratory, and record the temperature of the fresh concrete when preparing specimens for strength tests. Qualified laboratory technicians shall perform all required laboratory tests.

R5.6.1 — Laboratory and field technicians can establish qualifications by becoming certified through certification programs. Field technicians in charge of sampling concrete; testing for slump, unit weight, yield, air content, and temperature; and making and curing test specimens should be certified in accordance with the requirements of ACI Concrete Field Testing Technician—Grade 1 Certification Program, or the requirements of ASTM C 1077,5.3 or an equivalent program. Concrete testing laboratory personnel should be certified in accordance with the requirements of ACI Concrete Laboratory Testing Technician, Concrete Strength Testing Technician, or the requirements of ASTM C 1077.

5.6.1 Laboratory and Field Technicians
The concrete test procedures prescribed in the code require personnel with specific knowledge and skills. Experience has shown that only properly trained field technicians and laboratory personnel who have been certified under nationally recognized programs can consistently meet the standard of control that is necessary to provide meaningful test results. In the ’02 code, provisions in 5.6.1 were added to require that tests performed on fresh concrete at the job site and procedures required to prepare concrete specimens for strength tests must be performed by a “qualified field testing technician”. Commonly performed field test which will require qualified field testing technicians include sampling of fresh concrete; testing for slump, air content and temperature; and making and curing test specimens. Field technicians in charge of these duties may be qualified through certification in the ACI Concrete Field Testing Technician – Grade I Certification Program. Section 5.6.1 also requires that “qualified laboratory technicians” must perform all required laboratory tests. Laboratory technicians performing concrete testing may be qualified by receiving certification in accordance with requirements of ACI Concrete Laboratory Testing Technician, Concrete Strength Testing Technician, or the requirements of ASTM C 1007.

IBC 2003 - 1905.6.1 Qualified technicians.
Concrete shall be tested in accordance with the requirements in Sections 1905.6.2 through 1905.6.5. Qualified field testing technicians shall perform tests on fresh concrete at the job site, prepare specimens required for curing under field conditions, prepare specimens required for testing in the laboratory and record the temperature of the fresh concrete when preparing specimens for strength tests. Qualified laboratory technicians shall perform all required laboratory tests.

RE: What makes a good Concrete Engineering Tech?

The tech must have KASH, the AWS coined acronym for Knowledge, Apptitude, Skills, and Habits.

As Concrete-Guru pointed out, the employer has a role to play in ensuring that the technician receives adequate training.

From what I have observed out here on the west coast, good (and even adequate) concrete technicians typically take the initiative to recieve further training and move on to become special inspectors, public works inspectors, or building inspectors. This is one of the reasons why testing laboratories engaged in testing concrete should have a training program in place to train new employees.

RE: What makes a good Concrete Engineering Tech?

I wonder if I'm a good concrete engineering tech...  Well, my company calls it concrete field inspections, but I think it amounts to the same thing.  I started in August, and my company put me through just one cert - for the Troxler nuke gauge.  It's one day & a no-fail test.

So I'm not ACI certified.  However, I try to do the testing right.  It's a game - my boss tells me not to say whether I'm certified.  Since I don't want to lie, when asked (it happened twice) I repeat what I was told that I just started & there hasn't been a course available yet.  The company probably wouldn't want me saying that, but they haven't sent me to training, and I'm not lying for an $11/hr job.

OK, so I have an attitude.  But I think it's required to be a good tech - sometimes I get jokes on how clean my equipment is & how well I wash it.  I view this as positive.  But I can only be as good as my training.  I was told to take samples as close to the pour as possible - which to me meant at the end of a pump truck hose.  A rep of the concrete supplier told me just about everyone else takes the sample straight from the concrete truck, and praised me for doing it "the right way".  On the same pour, I pumped the air gauge to initial pressure of 1, and recorded a surprisingly low 2.8%.  I don't know much about the air gauge except what I've been told.  At the office I find out that the gauge I took was calibrated to 4, rather than 1.  The manager added 3 to the result & said the result should be 5.8%.  I personally don't know if this is correct.  I should know more about the gauge.  I tried reading ASTM standards, but they can be difficult & I don't think it even mentions hitting with the mallet after rodding each layer.

I do try to record everything & let the office decide what is important - water added, time elapsed, exact spot of the sample, etc...  So am I a good concrete engineering tech?

Really, I'm looking for a way to move up to higher pay, better jobs.  Any advice?

RE: What makes a good Concrete Engineering Tech?

Workingpour wrote, “I repeat what I was told that I just started & there hasn't been a course available yet.”

ACI-301
1.6.2 – Field tests of concrete required in 1.6.3 and 1.6.4 shall be made by an ACI Concrete Field Testing Technician Grade 1 in accordance with ACI CP1 or equivalent.

No course available yet?  What the?!  Courses for the ACI Field Testing Technician Grade I exam are taught by the EMPLOYER (as in on-the-job-training).  Your employer is supposed to be training you by sending you out to jobs with experienced certified technicians.  The OTJ training process and a passing grade on the exam should take 3 months or less.

Employers are expected to train their technicians prior to sending them to take the ACI exam.  When you sign up for the ACI Field Testing Technician Grade I exam it may be possible to pay an additional fee for a training class.  But this class is a one-time class of only a few hours that covers just the highlights of the 7 ASTM standards that will be on the exam.  I seriously doubt that one could pass the exam if this one class was the totality of their training.  

RE: What makes a good Concrete Engineering Tech?

I personally knew folks who could not tell the difference between cement or concrete when they signed up for an ACI training course (Field Tech Grade 1) given by my local ACI chapter. Most passed the first time after about 15 hours of structured training which consisted of lectures and discussion (2 Wed evenings) and hands-on-training(1 sat). The training and exam was accomplished in 4 sessions over 10 days; exam was held in session 4. I hear other chapters offer the training and exam in just two back-to-back Sat sessions.

Nontheless, Boffintech is right regarding employer training. I feel even if an entry level tech is signed up to take training from a local chapter, it's still a good idea for him/her to have received some training from the employer..training which hopefully goes beyond aquisition of knowlegde of the 7 required ASTM Stds...training which also covers some concrete technology fundamentals .

Workingpour, you can use the following link to search for a local sponsoring group
http://www.concrete.org/CERTIFICATION/cert_grpsrch.asp

RE: What makes a good Concrete Engineering Tech?

Thanks for the posts.  I knew someone must be out there.

Course or Exam - I'm not sure which they tell me hasn't happened yet.  Obviously I've had OTJ - the 1st 3 pours with a certified tech, then on my own, for concrete pours & soil compaction (nuke gauge) inspections.  

Lots of standing around on these jobs - I've learned a bit from asking questions OTJ.  However, I try to stay clear of Qs that reveal too much ignorance.  Like the diff between cement & concrete - as far as I can tell, cement is a component of concrete, and has lots of lime, which dries out my hands.  Other components of concrete are aggregate (usually 3/4 inch), water, air, and sometimes admix.  Some concrete doesn't have aggregate.  Many folks call concrete cement which confuses the issue.  Did I get it right?

How about the 7 reqs? 1. turning with the scoop, 2. Temperature, 3. Slump, 4. Air, 5. making cylinders, and I'm stuck.  What are the other Stds?

My employer doesn't seem to be much into training - and everyone from my shop is usually off at a job.  Looks like I'll have to learn on my own initiative.

RE: What makes a good Concrete Engineering Tech?

workingpour, the following links will help you get started.

1. ACI Field Technician Certification Program: Concrete Field Testing Technician - GradeI...program is described
http://www.concrete.org/certification/Cert_pgminfo.asp?pgm=Concrete+Field+Testing+Technician+%2D+Grade+I

2. Cement and concrete basics...this will help you with some of the fundamantals
http://www.cement.org/basics/index.asp

3. Fundamentals of Quality Concrete DVD....this DVD cuts to the chase.
http://www.cement.org/bookstore/profile.asp?store=main&pagenum=1&;pos=2&;catID=3&id=8377

Do not forget to contact a local ACI field tech sponsoring group regarding your desire to become certified. The amount for the training, materials and exam is not that expensive..perhaps three to four hundred dollars...but it is well worth it. Even if your employer is not prepared to pay for it, pay for it yourself and after you pass start looking for another job.

IMO, it is highly unethical for an employer to send out a new tech and encourage the tech to misprepresent his/her qualifications. If there is a lawsuit regarding poor quality of concrete...and evidence emerges that you were not certified as required by codes and standards, you could get in to a big mess.

After you obtain certification, join the local chapter of the ACI. They'll inform you about seminars and workshops. At regular dinner meetings, there'll be a guest speaker who'll give a presentation on a topic related to concrete.

RE: What makes a good Concrete Engineering Tech?

OK, my 2 missed standards are Volumetric & Gravimetric.  Makes sense, since I don't do those & don't know anything about them.

So... You're saying 3 supervised jobs don't make me experienced?  Well, I got the feeling they wanted me on my own after the 1st.  Anyway I don't lie about having quals, but I say nothing unless asked, because I'm also not getting paid to advertise.

Actually I'm not getting paid much at all.  Is there money in this work?

RE: What makes a good Concrete Engineering Tech?

workingpour, how much money you can potentially make depends on several factors such as:

1. the part of the country you work

2. negotiating skills

3 how much experience, training and certifications you have

4 employer

5 type of jobs and projects...private sector vs public sector...union vs non-union...prevailing wage vs non-prevailing wage

There are people who make less than you and those who make way more than you in the six figure salary range.....depends inter-alia on some of the factors enumerated above.

It is important though, that you enjoy what you are doing.


RE: What makes a good Concrete Engineering Tech?

A true concrete technician is one who loves Zimms Crack Creme for dry, cracked hands, takes a specimen out of the compression machine and smells the inside of it if the result was low, never authorizes the addition of water to any load of concrete and hopes for the day when others see the difference between concrete pours and concrete placements.  Additionally this individual is a good guy and knows how to get along safely and at the same time have fun in his pursuit of knowledge and the ability to recognise the drying shrinkage vs. plastic surface shrinkage cracks at granmas house.

RE: What makes a good Concrete Engineering Tech?

I'd like to ask you to please accept my apology for my previous jovial comments.
I intend no disrespect to anyone. However; I like to see folks enjoy the science of concrete and concrete materials testing.
 I assure you, you guys will be the best of the best techs as is evident by your current search for knowledge and advice.  

I may have overlooked it, but an additional suggestion I might add is to consider NICET Certification in addition to ACI. Check out the website www.nicet.org.

I think that if you are asking questions and seeking knowledge share, then in my opinion you are a good technician now and any supervisor should be grateful to have the opportunity to assist you in your development. Hang in there and get into it, and learn from your mistakes.  Have fun.   

RE: What makes a good Concrete Engineering Tech?

superfreep wrote. "a true concrete technician is one who ... hopes for the day when others see the difference between concrete pours and concrete placements."

Amen brother, Amen.


RE: What makes a good Concrete Engineering Tech?

Thanks for the tip on Zimms Crack Creme.  Is there something out there called "barrier creme" - and does it work?

Can't go too much lower than my pay, least not in the USA, there's just not that much distance from minimum wage.  Can 6-figure salaries come from concrete inspections?  I want something to shoot for - and something that can get me out of a debt hole.  Also to get rid of "When do I get a real job?" type questions.

RE: What makes a good Concrete Engineering Tech?

workingpour, registered deputy building inspectors aka special inspectors with about 5 to 10 years inspection experience in Los Angeles can command that type of gross income if they are prepared to run like mad hatters from pillar to post performing inspections...but getting registered by La City in reinforced concrete inspection is a rigorous process which entails:

1. having at least 4 years of documented reinforced concrete construction experience,

2. passing the ICC reinforced concrete exam

3. passing a city written exam based on the LA City code, general construction knowledge related to the field in which you are qualifying and Bldg Dept regulations, and

4. passing a very tough oral exam

A lot of folks stumble when the get to either steps 3 or 4.


Furthermore, LA City bldg inspectors closely monitor the field performance and check paperwork of special inspectors...and if a special inspector in their jurisdiction does not perform in accordance with expectations, the license can be yanked.

Many registered deputy inspectors in CA typically obtain multiple certifications/registrations (concrete, masonry steel etc)..some move on to work for governmental agencies (building department/public works). Others become licensed by the state as an IOR (Inspector of Record) for schools and or hospitals...DSA and OSHPD licenses repectively.

The CA IOR license exam process is even tougher than LA City's. I believe you have to be recommended by a CA licensed structural engr or arch...and it is the Rolls Royce ticket as far as construction inspection licenses go. I'd say less than 10% of applicants ever obtain their top registration.

If I were you I'd get the ACI field tech Grade 1 first and then start mapping out which path you'd like to follow.

RE: What makes a good Concrete Engineering Tech?

Thanks - I don't live in LA, but it helps to get an idea of a career path.

Finding out where there's a future & mapping it out is the main thing.  If all I see in the future is moving up as a tech to a slightly higher hourly wage...well, that's not too inspiring.

My employer has me jumping around - concrete inspections, soil compaction, soil lab, a bit of computer stuff, too much driving around, and now something else I'll find out about tomorrow.  The range of experience is useful, but I want to specialize to get real good at something.  But specialize in what?  Where is the opportunity?  And as I indicated, I'm trying to dig out of a debt hole.

BTW, what is the difference between concrete pours and concrete placements?

RE: What makes a good Concrete Engineering Tech?

“…what is the difference between concrete pours and concrete placements?”

In-spec concrete is placed.  Out-of-spec concrete (usually high slump due to addition of water over the specified water/cement ratio) is poured.

RE: What makes a good Concrete Engineering Tech?

Either way the concrete must make it down the chute, right?  A few days ago I inspected a 100 yard slab pour (yep, I think pour is the right word here), where they needed to pump, and to keep the pump from clogging, they watered it plenty.  Slumps were about 8" - sloppy stuff.  Still, if the breaks are good, it seems everyone's happy.

oday I started landfill liner inspections.  Is it me, or have I jumped around jobs some in 3 months of work?  

I think a sense of humor is also desirable in a good concrete tech.

RE: What makes a good Concrete Engineering Tech?

I may have read about freshly mixed concrete being "placed" as opposed to "poured" in an ACI document, but cannot at the moment recall which one .  It could have been an opinion statement in one of the magazines.  But I remember recognizing it as a truth I wanted to amplify.
Now, I would guess that boffintech is on target in his most natural logic of "pouring" a "wet" concrete mix.  I mean to say, my mom never asked me to "place her up" a glass of sweet tea.  But be aware of other parameters associated with an out-of -spec mix.  I am imagining having to say the concrete was poured due to elevated mix temperature or something other than a violated w/cm ratio.  It seems to me, that some mixes, such as a SuperP with HRWR admixtures and/or Self-Consolidating Concrete, can certainly be in-spec and at the same time behave like wet mixes.  So now what do we have?  I think from this point forward we should be given credit, and hopefully cash for workingpours' debt hole, for the newly defined "Poured and Placed" concrete. It's a win/win in that it is "in-spec" concrete with the flavor of an out-of-spec mix.  Men, what do you think? 2thumbsup  

RE: What makes a good Concrete Engineering Tech?

Seems good to me - "Placed" means in-spec.  I tested concrete with SuperP for Natgun that was very high-slump, yet cohesive & in spec.   That would be placed.

The watery mess in the slab was poured.  Pumped & Poured.  I've had soup that was more cohesive.

RE: What makes a good Concrete Engineering Tech?

ACI 116 is entitled Cement and Concrete terminology. It appears that it as all the definitions in ACI 318 Chapter 2/IBC Sec 1902 plus a lot more.

I have an old version (1990) and here's what it says about these terms:

placement - the process of placing and consolidating concrete; a quantity of concrete placed and finished during a continuous operation; inappropriately referred to as pouring

placing - the deposition, distribution, and consolidation of freshly mixed concrete in the place where it is to harden; inappropriately referred to as pouring

pouring (of concrete) - see placement and placing

Based on that version of ACI 116, there are no definitions for the terms 'pouring' or 'pour'..other organization may have explanations for these terms. In essence, as far as ACI is concerned (at least back in 1990) these are inappropriate non-standard terms.

Regarding the term "pour", it is not uncommon to see it used to designate a quantity of concrete placed and finished during a continuous operation as explained below.

In floor plan views of installation drawings of post-tensioned concrete buildings/parking garages, "pour" designations are sometimes shown..i.e the plan is split into areas where a quantity of concrete will be placed and finished during a continuous operation/a monolithic placement and this area is designated a pour number. Construction joints will be shown at the interface of these "pours"...for example between POUR 1 and POUR 2, POUR 3 and POUR 4 and so on and so forth.

In the real world, we often have to deal with the use of terminology deemed inappropriate by ACI...and when it is not clear what is meant by non-standard terminology, it does not hurt to request clarrification.


RE: What makes a good Concrete Engineering Tech?

I have been a certified concrete tech for 23 years, I do not carry my card, I have no sticker on my hard hat. You want to know if I,m certified, try internet on the aci page. my names on the list. constuction inspector, have no used for it, company cannot make money with a construction inspector. Thats the job of the engineer, not the testing lab.

What makes a good tech, easy, being able to handle any job without having to have a buddy ride with you. piles, concrete, asphalt, density, undercut. lab work, concrete lab work, writing reports. There are easily 300 different task that need to be known. I, as a senior tech do not have time to hold your hand. what makes a good tech, knowelge and expriences. also when to shut up.

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