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COMPARISON OF ISI AND ACI METHODS FOR ABSOLUTE

VOLUME CONCRETE MIX DESIGN



Amarjit Singh, University of Hawaii at Manoa, USA
Kamal Gautam, University of Hawaii at Manoa, USA

30th Conference on OUR WORLD IN CONCRETE & STRUCTURES: 23 - 24 August 2005,
Singapore

Article Online Id: 100030048


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1. Introduction
Mix design is a process of specifying the mixture of ingredients required to meet anticipated
properties of fresh and hardened concrete. Concrete mix design is a well established practice around the
world. All developed countries, as well as many developing countries, have standardized their concrete
mix design methods. These methods are mostly based on empirical relations, charts, graphs, and tables
developed as outcomes of extensive experiments and investigations of locally available materials. All of
those standards and methods follow the same basic trial and error principles.
Some of the prevalent concrete mix design methods are: a) ACI Mix Design Method, b) USBR Mix
design practice, c) British Mix design Method, and d) ISI Recommended guidelines. The scope of this
study is to compare ACI and ISI recommended mix design guidelines. A major part of concrete used in
rural and semi-urban areas in India falls in the range of 15 - 20 MPa [1]. Similarly, concrete of strengths
up to 40 MPa are widely used in USA. Therefore, similar ranges of concrete strengths are widely
applicable in both India and USA. The scope of this paper is limited to absolute volume and concrete mix
design for compressive strengths less than 6000 psi (~40 MPa). In order to compare the two methods,
calculation processes are briefly summarized, flow charts are made to illustrate the design steps, and
sample tests are performed with the two techniques to produce 20, 30, and 40 MPa concrete. Basic data
used in both methods is illustrated in Table 1.

Table 1: Basic data used in the ISI and ACI Mix Design Methods

Parameter ISI Method ACI Method
Characteristic compressive strength at 28 days yes yes
Standard deviation of compressive strength yes yes
Degree of workability Compacting factor Slump
Type and maximum size of aggregates yes yes
Nominal maximum size of coarse aggregates (NMSA) yes yes
Dry rodded unit weight of coarse aggregates (DRUW) no yes
Fine aggregates (sand) Grading zone Fineness modulus (FM)
Specific gravity of cement, coarse and fine aggregates yes yes
Water absorption and moisture content adjustment yes yes
Type of construction yes yes
Exposure condition no yes
Air/Non-air entrainment no yes

2. The ISI method:
The Indian Standards Institution (ISI) has recommended guidelines for concrete mix design based on
cement and other materials locally available in India [2, 3].These guidelines are applicable for normal
concrete (less than 60 MPa) mix design. Use of gap graded aggregates, various admixtures, and
pozzolana is beyond the scope of IS 10262-1982 [2]. The design steps for mix proportioning as
recommended in IS 10262-1982, is presented in the form of a schematic flow chart, Figure 1. The steps
are outlined below:
1. The target average compressive strength (
ck
f ) at 28 days is determined by using equation 1:
=
ck
f st f
ck
+ (1)
where,
ck
f =characteristic compressive strength at 28 days,
s =standard deviation of compressive strength,
t =a statistic, depending upon the accepted proportion of low results and the number of tests.
2. The water cement (w/c) ratio is chosen from an empirical relationship (a graph) for the given 28-day
target mean strength. The w/c ratio is checked against the limiting w/c ratio to satisfy the durability
requirements.
3. Air content, amount of entrapped air in fresh concrete, as percentage of volume of concrete, is
estimated based on the nominal maximum size of aggregate (NMSA).
3

Figure1: Design flow chart of ISI method

Sand
adjust
Sp.gravity
of agg. &
cement
C. agg.
content
B C
Water
content
Check w/c is
satisfactory
Absorpt-
ion &
moisture
B
Target
strength
Cement
content
Batch volume
Volume of all
items

Moisture
content
adjustment
W/C
ratio
Air
content
Standard
Deviation
Design
strength

Check minimum
cement content
Type of
aggregate
Sand
grading
zone
A
Sand
content
Water
adjust
C
Satisf-
actory
NMSA
Comp-
acting
factor
A
4
4. Initially, water content, as mass (kg) per unit volume (m
3
) of concrete, is selected based on the NMSA
and the target strength. Then, the initially determined water content is adjusted for workability
conditions depending upon the compacting factor and types of aggregates.
5. Sand content, as percentage of total aggregate volume, is selected based on the NMSA and the
target strength. Then, the initially determined sand content is adjusted for workability conditions
depending on the sand grading zone, w/c ratio, and type of aggregates.
6. The cement content is calculated from the w/c ratio and the water content. The cement content, thus
calculated, is then checked against the minimum cement content to satisfy the durability requirement.
7. With the quantities of water and cement per unit volume of concrete and the percentage of sand in
the total aggregate already determined, the coarse and fine aggregate contents per unit volume of
concrete are calculated from the following equations, respectively:
) 1 ( 1000 p S
S
C
W V C
ca
c
a

(

+ = ....(2)
fa
c
a
pS
S
C
W V f
(

+ = 1000 ...(3)
where,
a
C =total mass of coarse aggregate, [kg per m
3
of concrete],
a
f = total mass of fine aggregate, [kg per m
3
of concrete],
V =absolute volume of fresh concrete, equal to gross volume minus the volume of entrapped air,
W =mass of water (kg) per m
3
of concrete,
C =mass of cement (kg) per m
3
of concrete,
c
S =specific gravity of cement,
p =ratio of fine aggregate to total aggregate by absolute volume,
fa
S =specific gravities of saturated surface dry fine aggregate,
ca
S =specific gravities of saturated surface dry coarse aggregate.
8. Finally, water content is adjusted based on the absorption and the current moisture content to
generate equivalent of saturated surface dry condition of the aggregates.

3. ACI Method:
In 1991, the American Concrete Institute (ACI) published its guidelines for normal, heavyweight and
mass concrete mix design [4]. The Absolute Volume Method of mix design as described by the ACI
Method [5] is revisited, and the design steps for mix proportioning as recommended by ACI Committee
211, is presented in the form of a schematic flow chart, Figure 2. The steps are discussed below:
1. The required (target) average compressive strength (
cr
f ' ) at 28 days for mix design is determined by
adding up an empirical factor ( k ) to the design compressive strength ( f ' ) as per equation 4:
k f f
c cr
+ ' = ' ....(4)
2. The W/C ratio is selected based on the target strength and the type of concrete (air-entrained or non
air-entrained).
3. Air content, as percentage of the concrete volume, is estimated depending upon the air-entrained or
non-air-entrained type of concrete, exposure conditions, and NMSA.
4. Slump, as measure of workability, is selected depending upon the type of structure and complexity of
the pouring conditions.
5. Water content is determined based on the NMSA, type of concrete (air-entrained or non-air-
entrained), and specified slump. Then it is adjusted for the types of aggregates.
6. Cement content, is calculated based on the w/c ratio and the water content.
7. Coarse aggregates content, as dry rodded bulk (percentage) of concrete unit volume, is determined
based on the NMSA, and the fineness modulus of sand.
5



Figure 2: Design flow chart of ACI method

Fineness
modulus
& DRUW
Air
content
Types of
aggregate
Water
content
Slump C. agg.
content
Standard
Deviation
Design
strength

Air entrai-
nment
Satisf-
actory
NMSA
Type of
constr-
uction
Target
strength
W/C
ratio
Cement
Content
Sp.gravity
of agg &
cement
Volume of all
items
Batch Volume
Exposure
condition

Volume
of sand
Moisture
Content
Adjustment
Absorpt-
ion and
moisture Check minimum
cement content
6
8. Once the water content, cement content, air content, and the coarse aggregate content per unit
volume of the concrete is determined, the fine aggregate (F
agg
) is calculated by subtracting the
absolute volume of the known ingredients from unit volume of the fresh concrete (in this case 1 m
3
)
as following:
Y F
agg
=1 ... ..(5)
where,
Y =sum of all other ingredients (air, water, cement and coarse aggregates) in cubic meter calculated
for 1 m
3
of concrete.
9. Finally, water content is adjusted based on the absorption and the current moisture content of the
coarse and fine aggregates, in account of saturated surface dry condition of the aggregates.

4. Similarities of ISI and ACI Mix Design Process
Both of the methods are based on the empirical relations. These relations are derived from extensive
experiments done in each of the countries with the locally available materials. Thus, both methods
extensively use tables and graphs during the design process and follow logical determination of the
ingredients by establishing the targeted strength for trial batch. Such trial batch strength is derived from
the required design strength of the structural concrete and the statistical analysis to ensure that the mix
design meets or exceeds the design strength. This is related to statistics of the quality control. Once the
target mix design strength is established, both methods advance the process with the determination of
w/c ratio.
It is common in both cases that the cement content is calculated based on the relationships of two
parameters: the w/c ratio and the cement content both derived separately and independently. Both of
these parameters are checked against the limiting values in order to ensure the durability conditions.

5. Differences of ISI and ACI Mix Design Process
Differences are manifest throughout the mix design process. The following highlight the major
differences:
Target strength: The ISI method uses equation (1) and the ACI method uses equation (2) to
determine the target average compressive strength. Although both methods utilize the standard deviation
to calculate the target strength, there is a difference in the technique of calculation. When sufficient data
are not available to establish standard deviation, the ACI method has recommended empirical values to
determine the target strength, whereas the ISI method has suggested the value of standard deviation.
Measure of workability: The ISI Method uses the compacting factor as a measure of workability,
whereas ACI uses the slump.
W/C Ratio: In the ACI method, w/c ratio is determined in combination with the target strength and the
type of concrete (air/non-air entrainment). Although, the ISI discusses the air entrainment, the selection
of w/c ratio in the ISI Method is a sole function of target strength.
Water content: The ISI method determines the water content based on target strength, type of
aggregates, NMSA and compacting factor. In the case of the ACI method, water content is dependent on
air-entrainment, types of aggregates, slump, and NMSA. In the case of the ACI method, water content
can be determined independent of target strength, whereas in the ISI method, target strength influences
the water content.
Coarse and fine aggregate content: In the ACI method, coarse aggregate content is determined
without knowing the absolute volume of fine aggregates. Contrary to the ACI method, the ISI method first
determines the fine aggregate content, as percentage of total aggregate by absolute volume; the coarse
aggregate content is determined next once the proportion of all other ingredients are known. In the ISI
method, specific sand grading zones are used as a governing parameter for sand content determination,
whereas the fineness modulus is used in the ACI method for selecting the bulk volume of dry rodded
coarse aggregate. The ISI method does not utilize the fineness modulus and dry rodded unit weight of
aggregates.

6. Numerical Example of the Mix design
In order to compare the two design techniques, calculations were performed using the procedures
prescribed by both methods for design strengths of 20 MPa, 30 MPa, and 40 MPa. The mix proportions
are presented in Table 2.
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Table 2: Design mix calculated for 1 m
3
of fresh concrete

Ingredients, 20 MPa 30 MPa 40 MPa
ISI ACI ISI ACI ISI ACI
Water, kg 162 173 164 175 160 176
Cement, kg 403 361 518 451 618 488
Fine aggregate, kg 555 905 524 823 358 790
Coarse aggregate,

kg 1302 958 1230 959 1322 959
W/c ratio 0.401 0.479 0.317 0.388 0.259 0.361

The calculations indicate that although the design strength (characteristic strength) is the same, the
proportion of the ingredients for ISI and ACI mixes are different. Although, the water content results are
quite close, the w/c ratios are different, and therefore, the cement content is different between the ISI and
ACI results. The calculations show that ISI uses higher cement content than ACI, although both methods
tend to increase the cement quantity as the desired strength increases. The high cement content of the
ISI method may be owing to the relatively low quality of Indian cement in earlier decades when the codes
were produced. Another reason for the high content may be the fineness of Indian cement, 225 m
2
/kg,
compared to American cement, 300-500 m
2
/kg [6, 7].
Both methods indicate that fine aggregate content tends to decrease as the desired strength
increases. The coarse aggregate content does not seem to change in the case of the ACI method,
whereas this tendency is not stable in the case of the ISI method. The w/c ratio is higher in the ACI mix
than ISI.

7. Experimental Results
Concrete cylinders of 4 | and 8 height size were prepared and tested according to ASTM standards
for 7 days and 14 days. Three samples were cast in each case. The tests were done using local
materials in Hawaii, such as Hawaiian cement (Type I-II), Halawa aggregates (3/4), and #4 Halawa sand
(fineness modulus 2.93). During the sample preparation it was observed that the workability was
consistently higher in the ACI method. The strength results are presented in Table 3.

Table 3: Tabulation of experimental results


Target Strength
ISI, MPa ACI, MPa
7-Day 14-day 28-day* 7-Day 14-day 28-day*

20 MPa
31 40 45 24 27 31
31 36 41 24 29 33
31 36 41 24 27 31

30 MPa
21 30 34 33 38 43
24 32 36 33 38 43
22 29 33 33 39 44

40 MPa
35 34 39 35 41 47
31 33 38 33 40 46
33 35 40 34 41 47
* 28-day strength is projected from 14-day strength: 28-day strength =14-day strength0.887

8. Analysis of the Experimental Results
The test results indicate that the ISI 20 MPa design has significantly higher strength than anticipated.
For example, anticipated 7-day test results of ISI 20 MPa should be in the range of 75% of 20 MPa, i.e.,
15 MPa; instead, the test results of ISI 20 MPa were 31 MPa, which is more than double the anticipated
strength. The 7-day test results for ISI 30 MPa and ISI 40 MPa were within the expected range. The 40
MPa results show that the ISI technique makes for slower strength gain compared to the ACI, in spite of
increased cement use, and may not meet the strength requirements, as well.

Basic statistical analysis, such as deviation measurement and correlation analysis were undertaken
for 28-day compressive strength results. A summary of the analysis is presented in Table 4.
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Table 4: Analysis of 28-day compressive strength

Target Strength
MPa
(1)
Average Strength, MPa Strength Deviation,
MPa
Correlation coefficient, r
ISI
(2)
ACI
(3)
ISI
(4)
ACI
(5)
ISI
(1) vs. (2)
ACI
(1) vs. (3)
20 42.42 31.44 22.42 11.44
-0.48

0.94 30 34.47 43.56 4.47 13.56
40 38.64 46.21 -1.36 6.21

9. Conclusions
Based on the analysis of the pilot tests, the following conclusions can be drawn:

1. The ISI technique performs better for lower strengths than higher strengths.
2. Whereas, the ISI technique meets the strength criteria for 20 MPa, the actual strength achieved is
almost double. This appears to indicate a waste of materials, since such a high strength is not
required. It may be that the high strength obtained is specified to offset hand mix conditions in rural
and remote India.
3. The correlation between desired strength and actual strength is r =0.94 for ACI and r =- 0.48 for ISI.
This indicates a higher correlation between designed and actual strength for ACI, indicating not only
that it is a more consistent and reliable technique, but that the ISI technique may give the inverse of
what is desired.
4. The ACI method is more likely to meet 30 MPa and 40 MPa design strengths.
5. Higher strength fluctuations for ISI are evidenced by fluctuations ranging from -1.36 MPa to 22.42
MPa compared to ACI ranging from 6.21 MPa to 11.44 MPa. This indicates that the ACI technique is
more reliable.
6. The fines content in ACI is higher, which makes for higher workability. Presumably, It also
contributes to increased strength as the voids are filled, especially as observed in the 30 and 40 MPa
test cases. In the case of ISI, fine aggregate content is reduced as the design strength requirement
goes up. Therefore, voids are likely to be higher for higher strengths, thus leading to decreased
strength in such cases.
7. The cement content for higher strengths in ISI increases at the expense of fine aggregates, making
for an overall lower fines to coarse ratio, which possibly affects the strength achievement.

The conclusions are based only on a limited number of trial batches. Results may vary for larger number
of samples and with the use of different quality of cement, sand and coarse aggregates.

10. Acknowledgements:
The authors thank Mr. Timothy S. Folks, Manager of Technical Services, Hawaiian Cement /
Hawaiian Laboratories, for use of their concrete lab facility.

11. References:
1. Kumar, P. and Kaushik S. K., 2003, Some trends in the use of concrete: Indian scenario, The Indian
Concrete J ournal, December 2003, pp.1503-1508.
2. Indian Standard, Recommended guidelines for concrete mix design, IS 10262-1982, 1983, Indian
Standard Institution, New Delhi, India.
3. Handbook on concrete mixes (based on Indian Standards), 1983 (SP: 23-1982), Bureau of Indian
Standards, New Delhi, India
4. ACI Committee 211, 1991 (re-approved in 2002), Standard practice for selecting proportions for
normal, heavyweight and mass concrete. American Concrete Institute, USA.
5. Kosmatka S. H., Kerkhoff B. and Panarese W. C., 2002, Design and control of concrete mixtures,
Portland Cement Association, Skokie, Illinois, USA.
6. Indian Standard, Ordinary Portland cement, 33 grade- specification, IS 269:1989, 1990 (third print
2000), Bureau of Indian Standards, New Delhi, India.
7. Portland Cement, U. S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration,
www.fhwa.dot.gov/infrastructure/materialsgrp/cement.html, accessed on J uly 5, 2005.