Standardization News

Safety and Quality: Assured

Paul Shipp

Standards are integral in the product life cycle at building material manufacturer USG.

For more than 100 years, USG has prided itself on putting safety and quality first. As a leading manufacturer of building materials, the company recognized early on that using standards was the best way to safely and efficiently produce and deliver the highest quality products for its customers.

Today our products are used in all types of product development, from single family residences to the tallest skyscrapers in the world. And ASTM standards play an essential role in every aspect of the product life cycle, starting with product development, certification and code approvals, to manufacturing, packaging, transportation, installation and use.

Building products are required to satisfy a multitude of regulatory requirements regionally, nationally and internationally. These building codes rely heavily on standards that define the requirements for building materials before they can be approved for use in construction. For example, the International Code Council's International Building Code, which is used predominantly in the United States, but also the Middle East, Central America and elsewhere, extensively references ASTM specifications and test methods. Without exception, USG products must satisfy those specifications wherever the building authority uses the IBC.

While we value these standards, we also recognize that these are living documents that continuously need to be reviewed to ensure that they continue to specify performance values and factors relevant to the industry. USG has a tradition of leading by driving technological innovation, such as the invention of USG Sheetrock® brand gypsum wallboard and many other construction breakthroughs that are now iconic in modern buildings. Because of this, USG has been, and will be, a participant in standards development and revision to ensure that we are delivering the highest level of quality and safety to our customers.

Performance and Standards

From the product design stage to actual use, literally hundreds of tests are conducted on each product. Having clear and unambiguous test methods and classification criteria that provide measurable, repeatable and reproducible test results is essential, and ASTM standards make that possible.

Acceptable performance levels in many key areas of our product lines, including gypsum panels, cement board, acoustical ceiling tiles and grid, and roofing products, are defined by ASTM standard specifications. These include dimensional tolerances, strength, stiffness, fire performance, acoustical properties, moisture tolerance, mold susceptibility and many more. Standards provide the basic building blocks from which we work. Then we apply our creative process to assemble those blocks together and create new products to meet the evolving needs of our customers and users. ASTM test methods are commonly used to determine how those characteristics and attributes are measured.

Products and Standards

An important part of USG's product line is gypsum board, designed for use on walls and ceilings. Gypsum board labeled in accordance with ASTM C1396/C1396M, Specification for Gypsum Board, must pass a number of tests that ensure its performance and durability. These include flexural strength, dimension tolerances and other physical parameters. The test methods for evaluating these properties are found in C473, Test Methods for Physical Testing of Gypsum Panel Products.

Special fire-resistant gypsum board, used in fire-rated partitions and ceilings, must be tested in accordance with E119, Test Methods for Fire Tests of Building Construction and Materials, as specified in C1396. Likewise, all USG products are rated Class A for low flame spread and smoke development as determined by using standard E84, Test Method for Surface Burning Characteristics of Building Materials.

More Products with Additional ASTM Standards

USG products are tested for structural performance, strength and durability. Many of these evaluations are accomplished with standards from Committee E06 on Performance of Buildings. Our roofing products must meet standards from Committee D08 on Roofing and Waterproofing. Cement board products must meet standards from Committees C01 on Cement and C09 on Concrete and Concrete Aggregates.

In multi-family housing and offices, sound transmission - the ability of sound to travel through a wall, floor or ceiling - is an important consideration. USG makes acoustical tile targeted for the desired performance both in sound transmission and sound absorption. These measurements are performed according to tests from Committee E33 on Building and Environmental Acoustics.

All in all, USG participates in more than 20 different ASTM committees that are responsible for standard specifications and test methods strategically important to our businesses. And with a continued drive toward innovation, we remain committed to ASTM standards to help us provide the highest quality materials and systems to create safe, comfortable, healthy and attractive buildings where people live, work and play.

  • USG Corp., Chicago, Illinois
  • Founded 1902
  • Annual revenue: $3.7 billion (2014)
  • Manufacturer of building products, including gypsum panels and joint compounds, cement board, exterior sheathing and roofing products, and acoustical ceiling tile and grid
  • Number of USG employees: nearly 9,000 in more than 30 countries
  • Number of staff who are ASTM members: 30+
  • Number of ASTM technical committees with USG staff participation: 20+

Paul Shipp, Ph.D., is principal research associate for USG's Corporate Innovation Center in Libertyville, Illinois. An ASTM member since 1987, Shipp is a past chairman of Committee E05 on Fire Standards; he is also a member of Committees E37 on Thermal Measurements, E60 on Sustainability and G03 on Weathering and Durability. Shipp has served on the ASTM board of directors.

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