History of ACI

Founded in 1904 and headquartered in Farmington Hills, MI, the American Concrete Institute (ACI) is a leading authority and resource worldwide for the development and distribution of consensus-based standards, technical resources, educational & training programs, certification programs, and proven expertise for individuals and organizations involved in concrete design, construction, and materials, who share a commitment to pursuing the best use of concrete. ACI has over 95 chapters, 110 student chapters, and nearly 20,000 members spanning over 120 countries.

The history of any organization is a reflection of the ideals and activities of individuals or organized groups within it, and their influence on the accomplishment of the established objective or its revision to meet changing conditions. So it has been with ACI and its antecedent, the National Association of Cement Users. This brief account attempts to point out significant developments that have guided the Institute to its present position. Space does not permit naming all the "greats" who have contributed so generously of time and effort to ACI work and progress of the industry.

The history of ACI is, of course, closely tied to the history of developments in concrete technology. This development is recorded as it occurred in the pages of the Institute's publications.

A detailed history of ACI and the concrete industry is available in the publication, ACI: A Century of Progress, which was prepared for the ACI Centennial in 2004 and is available for download as a pdf file.


List of Past ACI Presidents »

The Formative Years

Early in the 20th century, a competitive market with a serious lack of standard practice in making concrete block had resulted in unsatisfactory conditions. By the summer of 1904, Charles C. Brown, editor of Municipal Engineering, at the suggestion of A. S. J. Gammon of Norfolk, VA, and John P. Given of Circleville, OH, undertook the formation of an organization to discuss the problem and attempt to bring order to this rapidly expanding use of concrete. An editorial in the September 1904 issue of Municipal Engineering publicized the idea and requested suggestions of those interested as to the advisability of forming an association to promote these concrete-related issues.

The hearty response resulted in an informal meeting in October 1904 during the Engineering Congress at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis. The original suggestion was to form an association of manufacturers of concrete block machines to educate the users of such machines in the proper methods of making good block. After the informal meeting, the scope of the organization was extended to cover all the various uses of cement to bring about a better knowledge of the art.

In the ensuing months, this trio of enthusiasts was instrumental in arousing interest in a convention dealing with concrete problems. The convention was held in Indianapolis, IN, January 17-19, 1905. At that meeting, a society known as the National Association of Cement Users was organized with the adoption of a constitution and bylaws.

The objective of the new society, "to disseminate information and experience upon and to promote the best methods to be employed in the various uses of cement by means of conventions, the reading and discussion of papers upon materials of a cement nature and their uses, by social and friendly intercourse at such conventions, exhibitions, and study of materials, machinery, and methods, and to circulate among its members, by means of publications, the information thus obtained," was not materially different from the present aims of ACI.

ACI Emerges

On July 2, 1913, as a result of action of the Board of Direction of the National Association of Cement Users, the name of the society was changed to the American Concrete Institute. The objectives of the organization were unchanged, the new name being considered more descriptive of the breadth of its aims and interests.

President Richard L. Humphrey in 1915 thus summarized the progress of the organization in the first 10 years of its life:

The past decade has probably been the most critical in the history of the cement industry and there is no member capable of fully realizing the vital importance of the part this Institute has played in its development. Its educational work, its conventions, its expositions, and particularly its committee work in preparing recommended practices and standard specifications have guided the use of cement along safe and practical lines and assured the permanency of the construction in which this material is used.

Although this organization has produced more than 18 standards and recommended practices, its work has only just begun. The existing standards must be revised, new ones developed, and there never was so much need for work of this character as at the present time.

By 1919, the work of the Institute reached a point where it became necessary to engage a "staff." At its November 1919 meeting, the Board of Direction appointed Harvey Whipple Secretary of the Institute. At that time, Whipple was editor of the magazine Concrete Cement Age, and accepted the position of secretary in addition to his duties on the magazine. His ACI responsibilities grew into a full-time position in a few years, and he continued as the principal staff member until his retirement in 1952. In his 32 years with the Institute, he came to be considered "Mr. ACI."

Journal Introduced

By 1929, it was evident that the annual Institute conventions and annual volume of Proceedings were not adequate to present the vast amount of research data and field information becoming available. Thus, to increase its output of technical information, ACI began publication of the Journal of the American Concrete Institute.

In its first 25 years, the American Concrete Institute, including its predecessor, the National Association of Cement Users, was identified directly or indirectly with most of the research work that had been carried on in the field of concrete. The usefulness of committee contributions was possibly no more evident than in the acceptance of various ACI Building Codes. By the end of 1931, many municipalities and organizations had adopted, either in full or part, one of the Institute Codes (editions of 1925, 1927, or 1928), or permitted designs based on them.

Committee Work & the Formation of TAC

Committee effort has always been a mainstay of Institute activity. The volunteer efforts of members have produced standards, recommended practices, design handbooks, codes, and reports in every important area of concrete technology.

In 1947, to provide better control of Institute technical affairs, the Technical Activities Committee (TAC), which has responsibility for the technical content of Institute convention programs and for its technical publications, was formed. By 1954, the volume of committee work had become so large that staff expansion to assist this vital work became necessary.

Publications

The Institute's publications program has been the major avenue of information exchange. From 1905 to 1929, the Proceedings were published annually following the convention. As the volume of papers grew, the annual publication gave way to periodic publication in the JOURNAL. Continued rapid growth of concrete technical literature led to the establishment of a series of symposia of related papers in 1963.

In 1968, the size and content of the JOURNAL were changed to reflect the expanded needs of the Institute's members. As a result, the JOURNAL started to feature practical articles and expanded member news coverage.

Starting in 1979, the Institute published a second monthly periodical, the magazine Concrete International. As a result of ever-expanding membership requirements, the JOURNAL, as it was known until 1979, was split into two parts. The Proceedings section of the old JOURNAL became the major part of the archival new JOURNAL. The new magazine carried timely and practical information. In 1987, the archival JOURNAL was divided into the ACI Structural Journal and the ACI Materials Journal.

Committee reports and standards have played a major part in the Institute's role as information disseminator. Reprinting of individual standards and reports following their appearance in one of the periodicals has long been a means of accomplishing this task. In about 1945, a compilation of Institute standards was published for the first time. In 1967, the Book of Standards became the ACI Manual of Concrete Practice, which includes the most current Institute committee reports as well as standards.

A series of special publications began in 1928 with, appropriately enough, the Concrete Primer by Franklin R. McMillan (later revised by Lewis H. Tuthill in 1973 and by Bryant Mather and Celik Ozyildirim in 2002). Added to this were the Inspection Manual, Reinforced Concrete Design Handbook, and Formwork for Concrete. A rapid expansion of the "SP" series came about through the development of symposium volumes, which include a number of papers on specialized topics from convention sessions developed by ACI technical committees or from special conferences.

ACI publications have long been one of the basic sources of concrete technology and information throughout the world, and have been the measure of the Institute's vital role in this valuable segment of the construction industry. The Institute's publications have been the major avenue of member-to-member contact and information exchange.

ACI Publishing Milestones

Some of the publishing "milestones" have been:

1905-First Proceedings volume (reported on first convention)
1906-First committee reports appeared in Proceedings V. 2
1907-First standards adopted in Proceedings V. 3
1910-First "building code"
1913-First "journal" appeared; publication ended in 1915
1920-First newsletter
1928-First Concrete Primer, SP-1
1929-ACI Journal introduced
1929-First publications committee formed
1939-First design handbook, SP-3
1941-First Building Code with "ACI 318" title
1941-First Inspection Manual, SP-2
1945-First Book of Standards (six standards)
1947-First Detailing Manual
1947-First cumulative index (1937-1947)
1949-Journal available on microfilm
1950-20-Year Index (1929-1949)
1955-First bibliography
1960-55-Year Index (1905-1959)
1962-First separate symposium volume
1963-First edition of Formwork for Concrete
1964-First monograph
1965-First Building Code Commentary
1967-First Manual of Concrete Practice (17 standards, 23 reports)
1967-First "ultimate strength" design handbook, SP-17
1973-Concrete Abstracts acquired by ACI
1978-Microfiche editions of periodicals available (suspended in 1993)
1979-Concrete International introduced
1982-Craftsman Series introduced
1987-Journal divided into ACI Structural Journal and ACI Materials Journal
1993-ACI Manual of Concrete Practice introduced on CD-ROM
1996-Toolbox Meeting Flyers introduced
1996-First Practitioner's Guide
1998-First Innovation Task Group standard
1999-First Concrete Repair Manual
1999-Documents available for download from ACI website
2000-Concrete International on-line
2001-First Emerging Technology Series document
2002-First document in the International Publication Series

Meetings

Since January 1905, ACI has held at least one regular meeting per year.

In 1947, a second, smaller regular meeting was added. This smaller meeting planned to serve the members in a small regional area most distant from the annual convention of that year. By 1962, the small and regional character of these meetings had disappeared.

Today, full-scale conventions of the Institute each year provide members with the opportunity for valuable face-to-face contact. Most Institute committees meet during one or both of these conventions.

Permanent Quarters

In the fall of 1955, an important step affecting the future of the Institute was taken when the Board of Direction approved the purchase of a site for an ACI headquarters building in northwest Detroit, MI. The building was completed in 1958, and for the first time in 53 years, the Institute had permanent quarters of its own.

The expansion of ACI activities over the next four decades, despite several building expansions, crowded the original headquarters beyond capacity and the search for a new location for the Institute began. In 1989, the Board authorized the purchase of land in a Detroit suburb as the site of a new and expanded headquarters facility. In the fall of 1991, ACI launched a Capital Campaign to raise funds for the new facility through voluntary contributions. Construction of the 47,000 ft2 building, located on a five-acre tract in Farmington Hills, MI, began in 1995, and staff moved to the new location in April 1996.

Chapters

In 1958, a new direction of ACI activities was originated by a group of members in southern California who proposed the formation of a local chapter, the first in Institute history. The stated objectives of the southern California group were to stimulate participation and interest in the programs of ACI, including educating local authorities and organizations on the value of referencing the ACI Building Code in the concrete portions of their local building codes. The chapter was envisioned as a liaison agency and as a clearinghouse for information. Local discussion meetings and expanded local committee work were foreseen as other possibilities. All of this came to pass in California and quickly expanded to many other regions of the U.S., and then throughout the world.

New chapters are being formed all the time, especially international chapters, as ACI's international reputation grows. In addition, in 1982, the formation of student chapters was authorized and there are now over 110 student chapters.

International Activity

From its earliest days, ACI has been active internationally, principally through the exchange of speakers at conventions and meetings. The first ACI convention outside the U.S. was in Montreal in 1956, and ACI has met in Canada and Mexico numerous times since.

In 1958, formal contacts with the Comité Euro International du Béton (CEB) resulted in an invitation to send observers to the meeting of CEB in Vienna in April 1959. This was a high-level conference of representatives from most of Western Europe. Its purpose was the pooling of research reports and research efforts as the first move in the direction of a unified basis for building codes in the respective countries. The coordination and cooperation between ACI and CEB has continued to grow as CEB joined with FIP to form fib. Cooperation and liaison with groups all over the world has been a continuing function of ACI.

ACI's international efforts have resulted in an exchange of information, translation of ACI publications, and the formation of ACI chapters and International Partner Agreements. As of 2016, 30 partnerships have been established. The program is designed to create more formal relationships between ACI and other concrete-related organizations located in countries outside the U.S.

Annually, the Institute conducts or cosponsors various symposia and conferences on an international level. This expansion of international activities by ACI reflects the fact that over 20% of the Institute's members come from outside the U.S.

In 1992, ACI anchored its international commitment by assuming the secretariat of ISO/TC-71 on Concrete, Reinforced Concrete, and Prestressed Concrete. This is a standards committee of the International Standards Organization (ISO).

Education

Educational activities have been a major part of ACI's work. In 1968, the Institute established the staff position of Director of Education (now Managing Director of Engineering & Professional Development) to further this goal. The Board of Direction then created the Educational Activities Committee (EAC) in 1970 to oversee the Institute's educational programs and products. This committee is related to ACI's educational functions as the Technical Activities Committee (TAC) is to technical programs.

ACI offers online professional education that provides continuing education credit through ACI University. ACI members can purchase access to a number of courses using their ACI Member Credits. ACI webinars are delivered by industry experts and feature popular concrete topics. In addition, Seminars and Free Online Presentations on a variety of subjects are available.

Certification

The ACI Certification Committee was formed in 1980 to oversee the Institute's programs for training and certifying experienced concrete personnel. The first program, Concrete Field Testing Technician-Grade I, was implemented in 1983. Many other programs for technicians, inspectors, and craftsmen have since been implemented by the Institute.

In 1991, the Certification Committee was given Board Committee status and its name was changed to the Certification Programs Committee (CPC). The work of the Certification Programs Committee has resulted in publication of a growing number of instructional manuals, videotapes, and examinations. Furthermore, the committee has expanded to include ten subcommittees with over 100 individual members.

Since 1983, ACI has administered programs to test over 400,000 concrete technicians, construction inspectors, and concrete finisher craftsmen. ACI currently administers more than 20 certification programs with over. 100,000 certifications currently maintained by ACI.

Research

In 1984, ACI expanded its role in concrete research by establishing the Concrete Materials Research Council. In 1991, the name of the Council was changed to the Concrete Research Council and the mission was expanded to include research of concrete construction and structures, in addition to concrete materials. The Council promotes the advancement of knowledge of concrete materials, construction, and structures by soliciting and selecting research proposals, assisting in financing them, guiding the research, and publishing results, all in coordination with ACI technical committees.

The council is composed of individual members selected for their ability to contribute to the objectives of the council, as well as sponsoring members who provide financial support of research.

Proposals that are selected as being worthy of supporting are financed through Council funds, which may be supplemented by other sponsors. The Council will monitor the work as it is in progress, and advise or render other assistance as appropriate. Proposed publications resulting from the research are reviewed critically by the Council, and if approved, can carry the Council's name in subsequent publications.

ACI Foundation (formerly ConREF)

In late 1989, ACI took a second step in research by establishing the ACI Foundation (formerly ConREF), a nonprofit educational and research foundation to receive, administer, and expend funds for educational and research purposes. The foundation efforts are directed at increasing the knowledge and understanding of concrete and its uses, and supporting programs that improve the quality of concrete design and construction. It also supports special projects of ACI that cannot be undertaken by the Institute using its regular budgeted financial resources.

The ACI Foundation oversees the following councils: the Concrete Research Council (CRC), the Scholarship Council, and the Strategic Development Council (SDC).

Creative Association Management

In 1989, the Board of Direction established Creative Association Management (CAM) as a for-profit subsidiary of ACI. CAM uses the expertise available to ACI to provide consulting, publication, development, meeting planning, and management services to other organizations as requested. CAM has offices in Farmington Hills, MI.

Electronic Documents

ACI has used information technology to improve both the quality of concrete and operations. The Institute has been gathering and distributing information about the benefits of computer applications in concrete technology since 1963, when Committee 118 was established.

The ACI Manual of Concrete Practice (MCP) is available as an online subscription, on USB, and as a hard copy set. The MCP is fully searchable using Adobe Acrobat™ Reader with print capability for individual users.

You can order and download publications from the ACI Store, apply for membership, register for conventions and seminars, search an events calendar, and committee members can view and discuss documents undergoing revision.

Headquarters provides electronic versions of committee reports and standards to committees to assist them in revising and updating their documents.

The Customer Service Department uses electronic databases to integrate its varied responsibilities relating to membership maintenance and processing, publication inquiry and orders, seminar and convention registration, subscriptions to ACI periodicals, and search and retrieval of concrete-related technical documents.

Summary

The Institute is at the highest level of activity in its history, and predicts an even higher level of future participation by ACI members in effectively contributing to better knowledge of concrete. ACI will continue as an expanding, alert, and informed organization prepared to stimulate imaginative applications of concrete and better knowledge of its properties and uses, and will take an increasingly active part in solving problems affecting the public welfare.

The years since the first convention in 1905 in Indianapolis have seen the Institute gather the materials for the foundations of good practice in design, construction, and manufacturing. By maintaining a high standard of professional and technical ability in its committee memberships and in the authorship of papers, ACI has contributed to a detailed knowledge of concrete and its wide acceptance. ACI's stature as a technical organization has resulted from the cooperation of a host of members in administrative affairs, service on technical committees, and individual efforts in the preparation of technical papers.

The objectives set down by the founders of ACI point the way to continued technical advancement and service to the engineering profession, the needs of a broad spectrum of membership, and the public interest.