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199

NOTE / NOTE

Structural design properties of concrete for a


bridge in Alberta
Hamid R. Soleymani

Abstract: In this investigation, the structural design properties of concrete were characterized. Compressive, tensile,
and flexural strengths were measured at different ages. In addition, modulus of elasticity, Poissons ratio, creep, shrinkage, and various other properties were measured. Laboratory results were compared with several structural codes used
by engineers for bridge and structural design. The results serve as a reminder that assumed code values can be significantly in error and must be used only in the absence of better data.
Key words: concrete, creep, shrinkage, modulus of elasticity, strength, design.
Rsum : Cette tude caractrise les proprits de conception structurale d'un bton. Les rsistances la compression,
la traction et la flexion ont t mesures diffrents ges. De plus, le module d'lasticit, le coefficient de Poisson,
le fluage, le retrait et diverses autres proprits ont t mesurs. Les rsultats en laboratoire ont t compars divers
codes de construction utiliss par les ingnieurs lors de la conception de ponts et de structures. Les rsultats soulignent
que les valeurs prsumes dans les codes peuvent tre errones et qu'elles ne doivent tre utilises qu'en l'absence de
meilleures donnes.
Mots cls : bton, fluage, retrait, module d'lasticit, rsistance, conception.
[Traduit par la Rdaction]

Soleymani

205

Introduction
A concrete bridge across the North Saskatchewan River in
Edmonton, Alberta was planned with a cast-in-place threespan balanced cantilever design. The superstructure construction would start at the piers and proceed by free cantilevering
toward mid-span. It is important that the two cantilever arms
meet with proper alignment at mid-span. This is achieved by
predicting concrete deformations and adjusting the forms accordingly. After the mid-span closure pours are completed,
time dependent deformations in the bridge will cause stresses
to redistribute. To consider these effects with adequate precision, it is necessary to know the modulus of elasticity, creep,
shrinkage, and other properties of the proposed concrete.
It is known that Edmonton concrete properties vary significantly from textbook values. For example, it is known
that the modulus of elasticity of Edmonton concrete is about
20% lower than typical textbook values. This translates into
25% more deflection than typical textbook concrete properReceived 20 July 2004. Revision accepted 16 September
2005. Published on the NRC Research Press Web site at
http://cjce.nrc.ca on 19 January 2006.
H.R. Soleymani. Department of Civil and Environmental
Engineering, University of Alberta, 220 Civil Engineering
Building, Edmonton, AB T6G 2W2, Canada (e-mail:
hsoleymani@ualberta.ca).
Written discussion of this note is welcomed and will be
received by the Editor until 31 July 2006.
Can. J. Civ. Eng. 33: 199205 (2006)

ties. In addition, creep causes deflections to increase by a


factor that ranges from 2 to 4. While a typical textbook
value of 3 may be adequate at the preliminary design stage,
it is not adequate for final design. There are insufficient data
available on Edmonton concretes to know with confidence
what specific values to use for the design of the proposed
bridge.

Objectives
The purpose of this testing program was to establish the
structural design related properties for a typical concrete
bridge and to allow design and construction to proceed in a
cost effective and expeditious manner. In addition, the results were compared with several codes and standards used
by engineers for bridge and structural design including Canadian Standards Association (CSA), American Concrete Institute (ACI), and Comit Euro-international du Bton
(CEB) - Fdration Internationale de la Prcontrainte (FIP),
(CEB-FIP).

Materials and concrete mix


The Alberta Ready Mixed Concrete Association
(ARMCA) supervised the development and production of a
generic mix that would, at least approximately, provide the
following characteristics: 55 MPa compressive strength at
28 d (fc), 30 MPa compressive strength at 2 d, maximum
water/cement (w/c) ratio of 0.34, maximum aggregate size

doi:10.1139/L05-092

2006 NRC Canada

200

of 20 mm, 5% to 8% air content, meeting air void spacing


factor requirements of Alberta Infrastructure and Transportation, suitability of slump for workability and placing in moderately congested forms without segregation, less than 1000
Coulombs permeability as required by AASHTO T-277
(1986), and a 100-year design life.
Type 10 Portland cement, Type F fly ash, and silica fume
were used in this mix. Physical and chemical properties for
cement, fly ash, and silica fume are presented in Table 1.
The w/cm for this concrete was 0.21. A coarse aggregate
with maximum size of 14 mm and two fine aggregates were
incorporated in this mix. The final aggregate gradation is
shown in Fig. 1. Three admixtures were used: an air entraining agent, a superplasticizer, and a water reducer. The mix
proportions for a 1 m3 batch with aggregates at saturated
surface dry conditions are summarized in Table 2. The concrete had a 180 mm slump, 6.8% air content measured with
a pressure meter, a temperature of 20.7 C, and a unit weight
of 2227 kg/m3.
Two sets of curing conditions were used. For most standard reference tests, continuous moist curing at 23 C 2
was used, which is the standard moist curing and is based on
CSA A23.2 (2000). For the creep and other selected tests,
the specimens were moist cured for a period of 14 d or until
the age of loading, whichever came first. After the initial
moist curing, the specimens were kept in a laboratory environment at, on average, 23 C and 50% relative humidity.
This curing regime is referred to as standard creep curing
conditions and is based on AASHTO (1999). The annual
mean relative humidity for Edmonton, Alberta is 50% (CSA
S6 2000). Thus, creep curing conditions are more representative of field conditions in Edmonton, Alberta than moist
curing conditions.

Concrete testing results


Strength
Compressive strength tests were performed on nominal
150 mm 300 mm cylinders at various ages under standard
moist curing conditions. Table 3 presents the measured compressive, flexural, and splitting strengths of cylinders at different ages. Figure 2 shows the gain in measured
compressive strength (fc) with time and the best-fit curve for
the measured results, ACI 209 (1986), and CEB-FIP Model
Code 1990 (CEB-FIP 1993) strength gains models. As can
be seen, the ACI 209 prediction model gives closer results
than the CEB-FIP prediction model for ages less than 28 d.
Both ACI 209 and CEB-FIP models underestimate the compressive strength of this concrete for ages less than 28 d;
however, CEB-FIP suggests higher and ACI 209 suggests
lower strengths than measured for this concrete after 28 d. It
is worth noting that the particular mix tested would be at the
lower limit of acceptability for a 55 MPa concrete, based on
the concrete compressive strength acceptance criteria of
CSA A23.1 (2000).
Flexural strength tests were performed on triplicate beams
at ages of 7, 28, and 56 d for standard moist curing conditions.
Splitting tensile strength tests were performed on triplicate cylinders at ages of 7 and 28 d with standard moist curing conditions. The splitting tensile strength is expressed as

Can. J. Civ. Eng. Vol. 33, 2006

fct = a(fc)n. For n = 0.5, the data from Table 3 give a best-fit
equation for fct as fct = 0.52(fc)0.5. For all samples tested in
this experiment, the CEB-FIP model underestimated the
splitting tensile strength of concrete. This code uses a =
0.214 and n = 0.69 for this purpose.
Modulus of elasticity and Poissons ratio
The modulus of elasticity and Poissons ratio were determined in accordance with ASTM C469 (1994) from triplicate cylinders at various ages. Figure 3 presents the
measured modulus of elasticity, along with predictions by
CSA S6-00 and CSA A23.3-94. Equation [1] below gives
the best fit to the measured data with a maximum of 5%
deviation as per CSA S6-00 code.
[1]


Ec = (3000 fc + 6900) c
2300

1.5

The next best fit is obtained with Equation 8-6 in CSA


A23.3 (1994), and it is represented by eq. [2] as follows:
[2]


Ec = (3300 fc + 6900) c
2300

1.5

The worst fit was obtained with Equation 8-7 in CSA A23.3
(1994), and it is represented by eq. [3] as follows:
[3]

Ec = 4500 fc

While CEB-FIP modulus of elasticity prediction model


gives very similar results to those given by the measured
modulus of elasticity at the early age of concrete (7 d), it
overestimates the modulus of elasticity after 28 d.
Poissons ratio ranged from 0.145 to 0.203, with a mean
value of 0.18. This is in line with CSA S6-00, which specifies that, unless determined by an approved physical test,
Poissons ratio for elastic strains shall be taken as 0.20. The
value of 0.18 for the mix in question rounds off to 0.20, as
indicated in CSA S6-00, and is within the range of typically
expected values.

Creep
Creep tests were performed on triplicate cylinders in accordance with ASTM C512 (1994). Loading started after 3,
28, and 92 d. The sustained compressive stress was approximately 11.2 MPa for all ages, which was below 40% of
strength for all ages at the time of loading. The results are
shown in Fig. 4. Each data point plotted represents the average of approximately 27 individual readings. Following the
analysis method of ASTM C512, a semi-log plot was used
and normalized to give values per kPa of sustained stress.
The strains include the initial elastic deformation due to
the applied stress. The creep rate is the slope of the trendline and the reciprocal of the intercept is the apparent instantaneous modulus of elasticity, which are 16 500, 23 900, and
26 200 MPa for 3, 28, and 92 d ages at loading, respectively.
Using the creep test data to estimate the modulus of elasticity resulted in lower values than those measured using
ASTM C469 (1994).
Figures 57 compare test results against the creep predictions obtained from CSA S6-00, ACI 209 model, and CEB 2006 NRC Canada

Soleymani

201

Table 1. Physical properties and chemical compositions of Portland cement, fly ash, and silica fume.
Chemical composition (%)
Materials
Cement
Fly ash
Silica fume

SiO2

Al2O3

Fe2O3

20.9
61.9
94.3

4.4
20.0

3.0
4.51

Physical properties
CaO
63.0
5.72

MgO
3.71

Fig. 1. Combined aggregate particle size distribution.


100
90

Percent passing

80
70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0
0.01

0.1

1
Sieve size (mm)

10

100

Table 2. Concrete mix proportions for 1 m3.


Concrete ingredient

Quantity

Coarse aggregate (14 mm rock)


Fine aggregate (10 mm rock)
Fine aggregate (5 mm sand)
Cement (Type 10) - (c)
Fly ash (Type F) - (f)
Silica fume
Water
Air entraining admixture
HRWRa admixture
NRWRb admixture

992 kg
152 kg
603 kg
461 kg
85 kg
41 kg
121 kg
200 mL/100 kg (c+f)
100 mL/100 kg (c+f)
1000 mL/100 kg (c+f)

a
b

HRWR, high range water reducer.


NRWR, normal range water reducer.

FIP model code. The measured shrinkage strains on unloaded specimens were subtracted to give the creep strain
only. Furthermore, in these figures the time axis is time under load, and is arithmetic rather than logarithmic.
For concrete with strength in the range of 4060 MPa, a
reduction factor between 1 and 0.67 must be applied to calculate the creep strain. It must be mentioned that for the calculation of elastic strain, e, by CSA S6-00, eq. [1], from the
same code, was used to calculate the modulus of elasticity
for 28 d concrete strength.
In Fig. 5, for all standard creep curing ages considered in
this study (3, 28, and 92 d), CSA S6-00 estimated the creep
strains greater than the measured values after 28 d under
loading. Measured creep strains at 92 d after loading were
8% to 23% less than what CSA S6-00 predicted.
Figure 6 compares the measured and predicted creep
strains using the ACI 209 model. For 3 d standard creep cur-

SO3
2.69
0.06
0.18

Loss of
ignition
2.09
0.5
2.79

Fineness retained
on sieve 325
7.22
32.4
1.98

Density
(g/cc)
3.15
1.93
2.29

ing specimens, measured creep strains at all loading times


were 1.14 to 1.50 times higher than the ACI 209 prediction
model. However, the measured creep strains for specimens
tested after 92 d were lower than the ACI 209 model for all
ages under loading. The difference reached to 33% higher
creep strain prediction by the ACI 209 model after 90 d under loading. It must be noted that the ACI 209 creep model
is based on a loading age of 7 d for moist-cured concrete,
while this study used 3 d moist curing specimens.
By comparing Figs. 57, it can be concluded that the
CEB-FIP creep prediction model, over-predicted creep
strains for 28 and 92 d age at loading specimens, however, it
under-predicted creep strains for 3 d age at loading specimens until 28 d after loading. For 3 d age at loading specimens CSA S6-00 suggests higher than measured strains and
ACI 209 and CEB-FIP models predict values smaller than or
comparable to measured creep strains. The CEB-FIP code
gave the closest prediction to measured values for these
specimens. When specimens were loaded after 28 d curing,
CSA S6-00 predicted values similar to measured strains,
while CEB-FIP and ACI 209 models suggested higher
strains than measured strains at all times under loading.

Drying shrinkage
Two shrinkage prediction models, including ACI 209 and
CSA S6-00, were studied and the results from these models
were compared with measured shrinkage strains.
Shrinkage values from the triplicate companion cylinders
of the 3 d age at loading creep tests are reported in Fig. 8.
The specimens were moist cured for 3 d, and then cured at
23 C and 50% relative humidity. The shrinkage strain resulting from 28 d of drying at 50% relative humidity (after
3 d moist curing) was found to be approximately 400 106.
While extrapolation is difficult, the ultimate shrinkage appears to be approximately 600 106 (i.e., 600 micro strain).
About two-thirds of this ultimate shrinkage occurred within
the first 28 d of drying. The CSA S6-00 significantly underpredicted the shrinkage strains, as did the ACI 209 method,
but to a lesser degree.

Density
The unit weight of the plastic concrete, as determined by
CSA A23.2-00, was 2227 kg/m3. The density of the hardened concrete was determined by the volumetric method
with nominal 150 mm 300 mm cylinders. The average
density was approximately 2200 kg/m3 but varied depending
upon the moisture content. Cylinders that were saturated surface dry had an average density of 2232 kg/m3. The same
cylinders had an average oven dry density of 2117 kg/m3.
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Can. J. Civ. Eng. Vol. 33, 2006


Table 3. Compressive, flexural, and splitting testing strength results.
Compressive
strength (MPa)

Age (d)
2
2
2
3
3
3
7
7
7
8
8
8
14
14
14
28
28
28
28
28
38
38
56
56
56
91
91
91

Average

28.3
27.9
28.3
31.0
30.8
31.0
37.0
40.6
40.0
42.1
42.1
42.1
47.5
47.9
47.5
51.5
53.7
52.7
56.2
54.9
60.2
59.5

4.24
4.00

2.97
2.97
3.14

5.05
4.66
5.49

4.19
4.26
4.15

30.9

39.2

42.1

47.6

53.2

59.9
4.82
4.87
5.09

68.3
67.0
67.7

67.7

Fig. 3. Measured and predicted modulus of elasticity as a function of compression strength.

120

50 000

Measured
CEB-FIP
ACI-209
Log. (Measured)

Ec (S6-00)
Ec (A23.3 Eq. 8-6)

Modulus of elasticity (MPa)

Compressi ve strength (MPa)

Splitting test
(MPa)

28.2

Fig. 2. Compressive strength gain with time.

100

Flexural strength
(MPa)

80
60
40
20

40 000

Ec (A23.3 Eq. 8-7)


Measured

30 000

20 000

10 000

0
0

10

20

30

40

50
Age (d)

60

70

80

90

100

This corresponded to saturated water content of 115 kg/m3,


which in turn corresponded to 11.5% saturating air voids.
The average density for cylinders that were moist cured for
14 d, followed by 14 d of drying at 50% relative humidity,
was 2203 kg/m3. One would expect that the in-service moisture conditions would lead to a long-term density somewhere between 2117 and 2203 kg/m3.
A density of 2300 kg/m3 is typically assumed for plain
concrete. Thus, the concrete under discussion is about 5%
lighter than expected. Assuming a steel reinforcement content of 3% by volume and a plain in-service concrete density

0
0

20

40
60
Compressive strength (MPa)

80

100

of 2200 kg/m3, the resultant unit weight of reinforced concrete will be 23.2 kN/m3. For comparison purposes, CSA
S6-00 indicates that, in the absence of more precise information, the unit weights of reinforced and prestressed concrete
should be taken as 24.0 and 24.5 kN/m3, respectively.
Coefficient of thermal expansion
Knowledge of the thermal properties of concrete is important for design and construction of the bridge deck, where
thermal differentials may occur from environmental effects.
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203

Strains per k Pa stress (micro-strain)

Fig. 4. Measured creep strain per kPa stress for 3, 28, and 92 d age at loading.
3 d age at loading, initial elastic strain 608 micro-strain
0.20

28 d age at loading, initial elastic strain 442 micro-strain


92 d age at loading, initial elastic strain 425 micro-strain
y = 0.0171Ln(x) + 0.0606

0.15

R = 0.9754
y = 0.0074Ln(x) + 0.0418

0.10

R = 0.9858

0.05

y = 0.004Ln(x) + 0.0382
R

= 0.9796

0.00
0.1

10
Time under load + 1 (d)

100

1000

Fig. 5. Measured and predicted creep strains by CSA S6-00 arithmetic plot.
1800

3 d age at loading predicted by CSA S6-00


28 d age at loading predicted by CSA S6-00
92 d age at loading predicted by CSA S6-00
3 d age at loading measured
28 d age at loading measured
92 d age at loading measured

Creep strain ( micro-strains)

1600
1400
1200
1000
800
600
400
200
0
0

10

20

30

40
50
60
Time under load (d)

70

80

90

100

70

80

90

100

Fig. 6. Measured and predicted creep strains by ACI arithmetic plot.


1800
3 d age at loading measured
28 d age at loading measured
92 d age at loading measured
3 d age At loading predicted by ACI 209
28 d age at loading predicted by ACI 209
92 d age at loading predicted by ACI 209

Creep strain s (micro-strains)

1600
1400
1200
1000
800
600
400
200
0
0

10

20

30

40
50
60
Time under load (d)

The coefficient of thermal expansion of concrete was measured from triplicate cylinders that were nominally
150 mm 300 mm. Three cylinders were soaked to provide
fully saturated conditions, and three cylinders were air dried
in the laboratory at 30% to 50% relative humidity to provide
partially saturated cylinders. Temperature conditions were
established by placing the cylinders in chambers at various
temperatures ranging from +26 to 31 C.
In conducting these experiments, the lengths of specimens
were measured at 1, 2, 3, and sometimes 4 d after changing

their temperature. In addition to the primary (instantaneous)


movements due to temperature, there was a small secondary
movement that dissipated with time. It is also believed that
the equilibrium moisture content varies with temperature
and that the secondary movements are associated with moisture movement into or out of the specimens. The coefficient
of thermal expansion of concrete measured in this study
ranged from 9.1 to 13.4 106/C, with a mean value of
10.7 106/C. For comparison purposes, CSA S6-00 indicates that a value of 10.0 106/C should be used in the ab 2006 NRC Canada

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Can. J. Civ. Eng. Vol. 33, 2006

Fig. 7. Measured and predicted creep strains by CEB-FIP arithmetic plot.


1800

3 d age at loading predicted by CEB-FIP


28 d age atloading predicted by CEB-FIP
92 d age at loading predicted by CEB-FIP
3 d age at loading measured
28 d age at loading measured
92 d age at loading measured

Creep strain (micro-strains)

1600
1400
1200
1000
800
600
400
200
0
0

10

20

30

40

50

60

70

80

90

100

Time under load (d)

Fig. 8. Comparison of measured and models for drying shrinkage after 3 d moist curing.
600
Measured
Predicted by ACI 209
Predicted by CSA S6-00

Shrinkage (micro-strain)

500
400
300
200
100
0
0

10

20

30

40
50
60
Drying time (d)

sence of more accurate data. It is recommended by ACI 209


model that this value be used for ordinary thermal stress calculations when the type of aggregate and degree of saturation are unknown. For estimating thermal movements in a
bridge, the above-mentioned codes recommend using a
range of values. Lower and upper values for the coefficient
of thermal expansion are 8.5 106/C and 11.7 106/C.
The measured values exceed this range.
Chloride ion permeability
Rapid chloride permeability tests (Coulomb rating) were
conducted in accordance with an ASTM C1202 (1993). This
is essentially the same document as AASHTO T277 (1986),
which suggests testing of three 10 cm diameter by 5 cm
thick samples at an age of 28 d. A Coulomb rating of 552
was achieved by the permeability tests. The CSA S6-00 provides no information regarding requirements for chloride ion
permeability. For comparison purposes, CSA S413 (1994)
recommends that an average Coulomb rating must not exceed 1500 for a low-permeability concrete, which is a concrete with a w/c ratio that does not exceed 0.4. Based on the
results of this test, the concrete permeability could be considered as very low. However, some researchers have questioned the reliability of this testing procedure in evaluating
the permeability of concrete.

70

80

90

100

Air void system analysis


Air void system analysis was performed in accordance
with ASTM C457 (1994). An air voids content of 9.45%,
with a spacing factor of 0.14 mm and specific surface of
25.38 mm2/mm3, was measured. The air content value was
higher than that measured by the air meter when the samples
were cast, but it was lower than the one inferred from the
difference between saturated surface dry and oven dry densities. While the air content appeared to be higher than expected, the spacing factor was lower than expected.
Normally, the air void system is considered acceptable, if the
spacing factor does not exceed 0.26 mm (CPCA 1994).
Thus, the air void system would be considered to provide acceptable freezethaw resistance.

Summary
One type of concrete was characterized for its structural
engineering properties. Laboratory testing results were compared with several codes, standards, and specifications.
Comparison of measured and predicted parameters confirmed that each concrete is unique and its properties could
be different than those of another concrete. Therefore, using
general models could result in unrealistic designs. For the
2006 NRC Canada

Soleymani

concrete used in this study some comparison results for different engineering properties are as follows:
The best prediction for the modulus of elasticity was
given by CSA S6-00. Despite the fact that, in most cases,
engineers use simplified CSA A23.3, the elastic modulus
predicted by this standard was 10% to 20% higher than
measured value.
Creep predictions based on CSA S6-00, ACI 209, and
CEB-FIP do not match the test data under all conditions.
While the CEB-FIP provided the best predictions for
specimens that were moist cured for a short time, CSA
S6-00 predicted results closer to measured creep strains
for specimens that were moist cured for a long time before loading.
Shrinkage was significantly underestimated by CSA S6-00,
while ACI 209 also underestimated the shrinkage, however, to a lesser degree. The long-term trends suggest an
ultimate shrinkage strain of 600 106. This is less
shrinkage than is usually assumed.
The difference between the oven-dry and saturated densities was 115 kg/m3, suggesting an air content of 11.5%.
The linear traverse measured the air content as 9.45%. A
portion of the difference may be due to differences between the physical samples tested, however it is more
likely that the linear traverse measures only the air in the
paste and not the air in the aggregates.
For purposes of concrete dead load computations, the plain
concrete density was approximately 2200 kg/m3. Allowing
for a steel reinforcement content of 3% by volume, gives
one a reinforced concrete unit weight of 23.2 kN/m3, which
is somewhat lower than that suggested by CSA S6-00.
The coefficient of thermal expansion is somewhat greater
than usually assumed. It was found to vary from 9.1 to
13.4 106/C with a mean value of 10.7 106/C. Use
of the lower and upper values should be considered in
thermal stress and thermal movement calculations.

Acknowledgements
Dr. Dave Rogowsky was the principal investigator of this
project. His significant contribution to this paper is acknowledged. Financial support for this project was provided by the
Province of Alberta through Stantec Consulting Ltd. Managerial support was provided by Dr. Reed Ellis. The Alberta
Ready Mixed Concrete Association (ARMCA), with advice
from Mr. Ed Kalis of ARMCA, Mr. John Dutton of Lafarge
Canada Inc, and Mr. John McClafferty of the Inland Group,
developed a generic mix design and provided the concrete
used in this study. EBA Engineering Consultants Ltd., and
Thurber Engineering Ltd. performed a number of tests for

205

this research. Mr. David Robson, P.Eng., of EBA Engineering Consultants Ltd., and Mr. Suresh Gurjar, P.Eng., of
Thurber Engineering Ltd. provided invaluable advice and
suggestions during the planning and execution of the work.
The University of Alberta provided support for this project
through the use of various test facilities on campus. University staff and students who contributed to the work include
Mr. Larry Burden, Mr. Richard Helfrich, Mr. Ehab Abdel
Wahab, Ms. Carlene Ramsay, Ms. Neilu Rishi, and Mr. Michael Paulsen.

References
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Transportation Officials, Washington, D.C.
AASHTO. 1999. Guide specifications for design and construction
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Highway and Transportation Officials, Washington, D.C.
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ASTM C1202. 1993. Electrical indication of concretes ability to
resist chloride ion penetration. American Society for Testing and
Materials, Philadelphia, Pa.
ASTM C457. 1994. Standard test method for microscopic determination of parameters of the air-void system in hardened concrete. American Society for Testing and Materials, Philadelphia,
Pa.
ASTM C469. 1994. Standard test method for static modulus of
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Mississauga, Ont.
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2006 NRC Canada