Supporting Infrastructure Worldwide

The Role of Standards in Infrastructure
Katharine E. Morgan

At a historic United Nations summit in 2015, world leaders adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Since then, governments, businesses, and civil society have partnered with the United Nations to develop strategies in support of each goal and mobilize efforts to achieve specific targets.

Goal 9 is to “Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization, and foster innovation.”
It has long been recognized that investment in infrastructure is foundational to economic and social welfare. Yet basic infrastructure such as roads, information and communication technologies, sanitation, electrical power, and water supplies remains scarce in many developing countries. 

Much of ASTM International’s work with developing regions and nations focuses on helping them use ASTM standards related to these basic infrastructure needs. We achieve this through our Memorandum of Understanding program, which provides training in the development and use of these standards. Due to efforts like this and their market relevance, standards from ASTM underpin the transportation systems of roads, bridges, highways, tunnels, and ports used by citizens around the world every day. 

In fact, ASTM was founded in 1898 to support infrastructure needs, specifically those of the railroad industry.
And throughout its first century, ASTM International’s technical experts in many industries boosted industrial progress and exploited the vast potential of new industrial materials while striving for improved quality, safety, and performance. Our process and our people rose to the occasion. Our standards have supported the great continuum of public infrastructure, from the building of U.S. railroads in the early 20th century to the completion of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, UAE, in 2010.  

We will take an opportunity to highlight the importance of standards in 21st-century infrastructure at a July Congressional briefing at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Standards activities like these play a critical role in infrastructure both here and abroad:

  • Standards are under development for new types of asphalt mixes that can reduce construction time, use less material, and improve the life-cycle costs of construction projects.
  • Manufacturing plants will be able to better recycle returned fresh concrete thanks to standards being developed for this practice.
  • Our pipe committees continue to develop standards for innovative products related to the safe transport of potable and wastewater. Innovations such as trenchless technology offer cost-effective alternatives to replacing existing piping networks. 
  • A draft guide for the management of public infrastructure will help local elected officials determine how and what kind of public services and infrastructure are provided, maintained, and upgraded, as well as how they would be budgeted, financed, and procured. 
  • The committee on cement has created a new subcommittee to develop standards for new, alternative cementitious materials that have the potential to decrease the carbon footprint of cements.

The need is great, but so is our ability to work together to respond. Technological progress in infrastructure — transport, structures, energy, materials, and communication technology — is crucial to achieving sustainable development and empowering communities in many countries. ASTM International is proud that its standards and related services support that transformation. 

Katharine E. Morgan
President, ASTM International

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