Mobilizing the Materials Testing Laboratory

Have you ever had to visit a separate diagnostic center to complete doctor-prescribed lab tests, and then waited weeks for the results to arrive at your doctor’s office? Have you thought how much easier it would be to have your tests performed right there in the doctor’s office and cut out the extra steps?

On-site materials testing solves a similar problem in the construction industry. A temporary, on-site materials testing laboratory offers on-the-spot testing, decreasing costs and getting laboratory results to the project team faster. Recognizing these benefits, proactive companies have invested in on-site testing laboratories to bring complete testing capabilities directly to any construction site.

As the AASHTO Materials Reference Laboratory (AMRL) prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary next month, I’m reminded of how much the materials testing industry has changed over the decades. In 1965, virtually all construction materials testing was performed by a few states and federal laboratories located in research universities and state/federal highway facilities. The testing equipment was bulky and expensive and, in most cases, had to be imported from Europe.

The recognition that testing is a vital part of quality control and quality assurance for any construction or engineering project has driven most of the changes we see today. Budget cuts for state and federal highway projects have also shifted the burden of testing to privately owned commercial laboratories. This move resulted in unprecedented growth in commercial construction materials testing laboratories. In 1988, AMRL introduced its voluntary accreditation program to regulate the standards used by these commercial labs.

EBA has participated in AMRL’s accreditation program since 1993. Over the years, EBA has also developed and set up on-site materials testing laboratories for multiple projects, including the Patapsco Wastewater Treatment Plant, Intercounty Connector, and Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant. These projects required several hundred thousand cubic yards of concrete. To ensure quality concrete was used, EBA set up testing facilities at each project site to deliver quick results to all stakeholders.

EBA has expanded on-site laboratory testing to our latest design-build project—Phase 2 of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s multibillion-dollar Silver Line Extension into the Dulles Corridor (Dulles Metrorail)—where we will help provide total quality control. Unlike our previous on-site materials testing laboratories, which focused on concrete testing, this laboratory is equipped to test soils, cement mortar, grout, shotcrete, and aggregates.

The Dulles Metrorail laboratory was accredited in August 2015 for various standards in soil and concrete testing. The laboratory has met and exceeded the standard requirements for sampling and testing soil and rock products in accordance with ASTM D3740, as well as concrete and cement products in accordance with ASTM C1077.

EBA’s materials engineers, inspectors, and certified technicians are responsible for verifying all materials used on the Dulles Metrorail project. This includes inspecting, sampling, and testing soils, concrete, shotcrete, and hot mix asphalt. Our on-site laboratory provides the fastest turnaround time without additional rush processing costs, as well as quick and centralized access to test data.

Our clients, contractors, and partners can observe the testing at any time and receive on-the-spot results. Contractors appreciate this kind of access, because it supports transparency and eliminates the need for additional third-party testing if questionable test results occur. AMRL accreditation for each of our laboratory’s testing procedures also increases client confidence in the accuracy of the test results.

Whether performed on-site or in the office, materials testing remains a vital component of quality construction that will stand the test of time. To learn more about EBA’s on-site materials testing laboratory capabilities, contact Jason Kolenda at 410.504.6125 or


Articles, View All
Jason Kolenda