WASHINGTON — A national engineering research group and the Composites Institute are starting a study that industry officials hope will cement the place of composites in building roads, bridges and other parts of the nation's infrastructure.
The study, to be conducted by the Civil Engineering Research Foundation, may answer some of the construction industry's skepticism about composites, industry officials say.
The building industry tends to be ``risk averse'' because of liability issues and has questions about whether composites are durable enough to replace time-tested materials such as cement and steel, said John Meyer, director of research and international programs for CERF.
``In construction applications, composites is a relatively new kid on the block,'' he said. ``Overcoming that takes some effort.''
CERF, the research arm of the American Society of Civil Engineers, will have complete control of the study. The $100,000-plus cost will be picked up by the Composites Institute of New York, an arm of the Washington-based Society of the Plastics Industry Inc., Meyer said.
Generally, CERF considers composites to be a good building material, Meyer said. Washington-based CERF does not formally certify materials but its opinions carry weight with civil engineers.
The yearlong effort, which is the first phase of a multiyear study, will produce a report highlighting the best places to use composites in building and a database that outlines how composites perform under certain conditions.
Later phases of the project will implement a research agenda to answer how composites perform in conditions for which there is no data, said John Busel, the manager of market development for CI.
He said he hopes the study will hasten the normal 15- to 20-year acceptance for new materials in building, particularly important since much of the country's infrastructure will need replacing by then. Composites are used widely in some repair projects, but their use in new structures has been much more limited, Busel noted.
The study is the first time CERF has looked broadly at an entire class of building materials, Meyer said.