What Is Compaction Control?

compaction-controlDue to loose and layered materials, earthwork and flexible pavement require compaction control to establish solid foundations for further construction or public use. Without it, soils will prove too unstable to support construction, and asphalt will degrade and wear prematurely, both of which can lead to costly delays or repairs. To avoid such an outcome, a compaction testing company can ensure that materials are at their optimum “relative compaction,” or stable enough to be used in construction. 

As one of California’s premier geotechnical engineering firms, we’ve supported countless airport, highway, port, and rail projects with our inspection, testing, and compaction control expertise. This includes runways at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), the federal highway Cima Road, and numerous others. By assuring project owners that their materials meet quality standards, they can avoid the stress of delays or potentially disastrous outcomes, such as a bridge built on material that’s still settling.

Learn about the ins and outs of compaction control, including the compaction control process, before exploring G3 Quality’s work for LAX and Cima Road. 


Compaction Control, Defined

Compaction control is how contractors and owners measure and monitor the level of effort needed to achieve a solid base, which allows for the next layer of construction. 

It involves determining the “relative compaction,” or “percent compaction” of materials, to confirm that they meet project requirements. Compaction specifications usually call for around 95% compaction, but different materials can pose separate requirements. Soils at an airport, for example, typically require 100% beneath the runway. 

“Compaction control, at its core, is providing instantaneous feedback to the contractor doing the work and asking, ‘is the effort that they’re putting into the material achieving the desired result? Is it meeting contract standards?’”

  • Zachary Wheeler, G3 Quality Director of Operations 


Why Compaction Control is Crucial to Construction

The ultimate goal of compaction control is to prevent issues such as settlement and material movement, especially with bridge and runway projects. 

These issues can be protected against with a trusted compaction control partner with deep knowledge of material properties and characteristics, construction best practices and project specifications. Controlling moisture content during compaction is also top-of-mind so that optimal density and strength are established. 

By working with a compaction testing company that specializes in achieving relative compaction, owners and contractors can establish a stable foundation capable of withstanding anticipated loads and environmental conditions – ensuring that standards are met and stakeholders are kept happy.

“When they’re putting down a runway that’ll be landing Dreamliners on it, you don’t want what’s under that pavement to fail – to sag, to move. We ensure that materials are as tight as reasonably possible, so that when you put weight on it, there’s no issue.”

  • Zachary Wheeler, G3 Quality Director of Operations 


The Compaction Control Process

Compaction control, just like anything in construction, is a process with a handful of steps. It starts in the lab, where a compaction testing company will test the material and provide feedback, before attempting to achieve relative compaction. Here are the steps in a bit more detail:


Lab Testing

A representative sample of the material is first collected and analyzed to determine its theoretical maximum density.


Targeted Compaction

Contractors work alongside compaction control specialists such as G3 Quality, who provide real-time feedback on density and relative compaction levels.


Achieving Relative Compaction

We leave it up to the designer to provide compaction specifications based on the type of material, use, and factors of safety. With the real-time feedback provided, specifications can be met and production moved forward. 


Avoiding Overcompaction

Airport soils projects aside, excessive compaction can lead to undesirable outcomes or inefficient processes, such as reduced permeability in soils, rutting in asphalt, or inefficient construction processes. No matter the material, it’s important to strike the right balance. 


Compaction Control Case Studies

Over the past decade, our inspectors and testers have achieved relative compaction for airport runways, federal highways, and numerous other large-scale projects, ensuring solid foundations and long-term material performance. Here are two of our most recent compaction control projects, which we carried out for LAX Airport and Cima Road:


Case Study: LAX Runway Project

G3 Quality was called upon to carry out materials inspection and compaction control for the LAX Runway 24R project, including both asphalt and soils. Our services helped confirm that materials were stable and durable enough to support heavy aircraft operations. 


Case Study: Federal Highway – Cima Road

Compaction control and inspection services are also employed during the dirt work portions of highway projects. This can be seen in our work on Cima Road, a 15-mile-long corridor that acts as a key link between Interstate 40 and 15. G3 Quality carried out inspection and testing services for the road’s compaction levels, ensuring that its foundation met the necessary standards for long-term performance. 


Ensure Material Quality with G3’s Compaction Control Services

Compaction control plays an integral role in earthwork and flexible pavement projects, ensuring a stable foundation that won’t move or settle. Without it, contractors won’t know how dense their materials should be, or what relative compaction to aim for. If your airport runway, highway, or port project requires quality assurance for materials, look no further than G3 Quality – the golden state’s preferred QA/QC firm for the past decade. 


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