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First International Conference on Construction In Developing Countries (ICCIDCI)

Advancing and Integrating Construction Education, Research & Practice
August 4-5, 2008, Karachi,, Pakistan

Aggregate Characterization - An Important Step towards Addressing
Construction Issues in Pakistan

S. M. Zaidi
Research Assistant, Department of Civil Engineering, NED University of Engineering & Tech., Karachi,

S. F.A. Rafeeqi
Professor & Dean, Faculty of Civil Engineering and Architecture, NED University of Engineering
&Tech., Karachi, Pakistan

M. S. Ali
Professor & Chairman, Department of Urban and Infrastructure Engineering, NED University of
Engineering & Tech., Karachi, Pakistan

A. M. Khan
Professor & Chairman, Department of Petroleum Engineering, NED University of Engineering & Tech.,
Karachi, Pakistan

Aggregate is a material vastly used in the construction industry related to concrete structures, asphalt
bases and pavement. To achieve required dimensional stability, durability and strength of structures,
aggregate characteristics and related engineering properties is one of the main issues needed to be
addressed. The city of Karachi is receiving massive quantities of aggregates supplied by several sources
present within and along its periphery, however, no concerted effort has been witnessed to document
aggregate characteristics, leading to all sort of durability problems and threatening service life of
structures. There is a dire need to develop a data-base that contributes to the suitability of material in
asphalt and concrete mix. Aggregate characterization technique is a forefront vision to enhance the
quality of HMA and concrete along side being a pioneering move to select construction materials. It
focuses on quality and performance in roads and buildings and determines suitability of their use in Hot
Mix Asphalt and Concrete Mix Design, thus addressing issues related to applicability in given situation,
strength, durability and maintenance and monitoring and rehabilitation.

This paper aims to present a methodology for aggregate characterization based on their physical
properties, petrography examination and engineering properties. Visits of construction sites in all eighteen
towns of Karachi city revealed that Hub River is the major source of raw material. Based on experimental
design formulated to evaluate the physical properties and engineering behaviour of rocks and crushed
rock respectively, statistical techniques have been applied to ascertain significance of relationships
between various properties governing aggregate characterization. Conclusions are drawn regarding
suitability of characterization of aggregates in relation to their construction application and ability to
address construction related problems. The aggregate characterization model thus developed has the
capacity and potential to be utilized and extended for various scenarios.


Aggregate Characterization, Engineering Properties, Petrographic Studies.

1. Introduction

Understanding construction material and its behaviour in asphalt and cement applications has always been
a challenge to construction industry. It is of utmost importance to assess and evaluate the properties at
material level and as part of the mix for durability and monitoring point of view.

Aggregate characterization is the first step needed to facilitate construction industry which focuses on
quality and performance issues related to their application in cement concrete, asphalt and other
construction. Being a high seat of learning, NED University has assumed the responsibility to take up the
task of developing a comprehensive mechanism of aggregate characterization which would cover all
aspects of variation in aggregate. These variations include aggregate physical and engineering properties
as well as their chemical and reactivity considerations. All this calls for attempting aggregate
characterization based on source rock, inherent variation, crushing plants limitations and brought down to
laboratory testing of various properties.

Bringing all this into one framework is the major objective of the research reported in this paper. It aims
to provide a methodology for characterization of aggregates which can encompass various construction
issues pertaining to Pakistan. The scope of the current research is limited to coarse aggregate as they
possess major variability as well as they are required in large volume.

This paper dwells upon a conceptual framework which visualizes the aggregate characterization as a
comprehensive endeavour covering all major causes of variation in the aggregate properties. This way the
conceptual framework may be considered as a step towards addressing construction issues including
aggregate availability, aggregate quality and aggregate functionality. The paper provides the details of a
conceptual framework envisaged as part of a comprehensive research agenda. The methodological aspects
of converting concept into applicable targets are identified. The workability of the methodology is
presented by carrying out field and laboratory examination of aggregates collected from Hub, the largest
source supplying aggregates for the construction industry, prevalent in the mega city of Karachi. The
conceptual frame work presented here will eventually lead to mapping out all related sites; crushing plant
as well as quarries across Pakistan.

2. Aggregate Characterization And Understanding Of Construction Issues

2.1 Aggregate Characterization Attempts and Aspects Studied

Documentation of aggregate resource area provides a semi-quantified estimate of construction aggregates
available in the area to satisfy construction needs (Division of Mines and Geology, 2000). Aggregate
characterization is the process of classification of aggregate resources on the basis of its rock source,
properties and performance in various construction applications. It includes the cataloguing of the quarry
and evaluation of its functional properties by laboratory testing so that it can be utilized according to its
required property.

California Geological Survey (CGS) reported general information about the current availability of
Californias permitted aggregate resources on a Map having a scale of 1:1,100,000.All aggregate data and
any reference to aggregate on the map pertain to construction aggregate that meets standard specifications
for use in Portland Cement Concrete (PCC) or Asphalt Concrete (Kohler, 2006). Every potential deposit
must be tested to determine how much of the material can meet the specifications for a particular use, and
what processing is needed to work with it. This is of major importance when planning for future
availability of aggregate commodities because of their versatility, value and relative scarcity. The
aggregate resource map of Colorado-Wyoming developed in 1997 predicts the location of potential
source of aggregate with understanding of geology which is utilized for regional planning and land use
management (Langer et al., 1997).

Correlation of textural properties were reported (Liu et al., 2004), which were studied through
microscopic imaging, and mechanical properties, obtained from laboratory tests. The following tests were
conducted, and properties of aggregate affecting the asphalt concrete performance were evaluated. I)
Resistance of an aggregate to fragmentation by Los Angeles test; II) Measurement of rock aggregate
resistance by Aggregate Abrasion Value; III) Determination of the resistance to wear by Aggregate
Impact Value (AIV) test and brittleness test; IV) Determination of aggregate geometry by Length-
Thickness (LT) index test and flakiness index test and V) Evaluation of the plasticity characteristic of fine
aggregate sand equivalent value.

In view of long term aggregate resource planning, the location and classification of sand, gravel and
bedrock deposits is an essential first step in managing the resources. If one valuable aggregate deposit is
identified in conjunction with other resources value then reserve area can be established for preservation
and future use (Baker et al., 2005). As aggregate demand is increasing day by day, the quarries producing
aggregate are depleting fast and the future production is bound to be decreased if the identification of new
resources is not carried out. To fulfil the continually changing demand of construction aggregate and
satisfaction of target market, exploration of new quarries is imperative.

2.2. Construction Issues

2.2.1 Durability of Aggregates
The preliminary need of the aggregates is its inherent durability against natural and man created
disturbances. The aggregate provide volume, stability, resistance to weathering and other physical
properties to the building and road structures. There are common issues in construction related to
characteristic of material such as; suitable aggregate gradation, shape, density and source. Deterioration of
construction aggregates loses the durability requirement and progressive performance of structure.
Prediction of aggregate characteristic before placement and starting the construction activity can manifest
the un-expected happening and can prevent the post construction material problems. In this regard,
keeping in view other construction requirement, aggregate sampling and testing is needed to make the
construction workable and long-lasting.

2.2.2 Quality assurance
The construction industry needs to move toward material laboratories in order to ensure quality and
establish adequate confidence regarding the material used to satisfy given requirement and quality during
the service life. Quality assurance of materials, therefore, as a first step needs testing of materials on the
basis of specifications that should ensure and increase the confidence regarding fitness for the purpose of
product and services.

2.2.3 Hauling, availability and supply of material
The deposits supplied to the construction sites must be technically and economically effective to be used
for the construction work. The aim of the construction site needs to grasp the quarry where maximum
aggregate quantity is available at required rate of production with lowest possible cost. Aggregates
resource map is a comprehensive and advisory indication to provide the occurrence of rock/aggregates
that can be used in construction industry for various applications.

2.3 Research Potential for Pakistan

Literature search reveals that no such attempt has been witnessed in Pakistan which shows the evidence of
aggregate characterization, technique to achieve this target and mapping of aggregate resources (Rafeeqi,
2007). It is, therefore, imperative that a concerted effort should be carried out for characterization of
aggregates serving the construction industry; by integrating all possible sources affecting their
performance in concrete, HMA and other related construction materials. The current study, therefore,
would not only resolve the issue of regional resource planning, tempro-spatial dynamics of the area but
would also possess the potential to resolve major construction issues.

3. Conceptual Framework

Aggregates reaching construction sites possess variability in properties caused at-least at three stages. The
first stage right at the bed rock, as bed rock is formed under natural phenomenon and inherits
mineralogical and chemical properties. Gravel and boulders obtained from these bed rocks become the
second stage where the shape, size and weathering of these stones results in redefining the properties of
aggregates inherited from the bed rocks. The next stage causing variation in aggregate properties is at the
crushing plants as gravels and boulders when turned into crushed aggregates possess further variation in
their properties. The aggregate characterization attempt, therefore, must include variation caused at each
of these stages.

The Conceptual Framework for characterization of aggregates is presented through Figure 1. It comprises
of three stages; stage 1 incorporates the evaluation process in which material is collected from the quarry
and crusher. The sampling of material is to be done according to the prescribed procedure established by
the standards for petrographic studies and carrying out engineering tests. Stage 2 consists of the quality
evaluation of material in the light of standards and specifications for their use in various applications,
such as cement concrete, HMA and others, so as to use it for various purposes. Stage 3 defines the
development of aggregate resource map as a ready reference for the use of material that can be utilized for
the selection and availability of material in relation to the construction site.

4. Methodology

Aggregate characterization is the process of indication of source, evaluation of aggregate properties and
designation of material sources so as to generate a data bank of construction material that can be utilized
for instant reference in construction industry. To achieve this process, as a pilot study, field visits to the
construction sites located in 18 towns were carried out in order to identify the sources of material coming
within the city of Karachi. It has been found that Hub Naddi remains to be the major source supplying
construction aggregates to these areas. The gravel of hub river basin is predominantly limestone inclusive
of minor elements of other rocks which in the presence of water alters the representative characteristic of
the main rock. Further basic contents (carbonate of Ca and Mg) of the material due to the exposure of
water are removed and leads to the higher concentration of alumina, iron oxides, hydroxide and formation
of clay minerals, where as the hot climatic condition disintegrate the rock to weathered condition (West
et al., 1970).

The methodology is primarily focused toward developing a conceptual framework which deals with
aggregate characterization on the basis of physical properties, petrographic examination and engineering
properties, eventually leading to the development of Adaptive Aggregate Characterization Model
(AACM). The study, therefore, comprises of field investigation which includes reconnaissance field
survey and the material collection for aggregates sampling from quarry and crusher plants of Hub Naddi
for characterization (Ali et al., 2008). Further the gravels colleted from Hub Naddi were utilized for
petrographic examination while the crushed material was utilized for engineering tests. Correlation charts
have been developed to illustrate the mechanical behaviour of aggregates with the raw gravels and further
the behaviour of aggregates in asphalt and cement was also observed to prioritise its usage in the two
binders. These charts, however, are not made part of this paper.

(Area, Material, Number)
Study of Engineering
Cutting Crushing
Suitability of Aggregate
Conveyor Route to
Construction Sites
(Hauling Distance)
Sufficient Amount
(Availability and
Distribution to
Sites (Supply to
how many sites)
Aggregate Resource Map
Structure and
Hydrology of
the Area

Lithology of
Rock Type
GPS and Area
Standards and Specification
Stage 1
Stage 2
Stage 3
Application in

Building and


Figure 1: Conceptual Framework for Aggregate Characterization

4.1. Surveys and Sampling

Initially 18 towns of Karachi were visited to determine the source of aggregates being used. Based on this
information, the survey of the quarries and crushers installed at the Hub Naddi was conducted to collect
the samples from quarries and crushers and distinguished as Hub Naddi gravel and crushed aggregate.
The material was sampled according to the experimental design and estimated numbers of samples were
prepared to perform petrographic examination and engineering properties. Keeping in view the
appearance of material, the gravel were sorted out according to colour in three (03) categories; red, yellow
and grey along with its condition of being either fresh or weathered. The percentages of each colour and
condition were estimated so as to check intensity of each gravel in a representative sample collected from
a quarry (Ali et al., 2008).

According to the sample size four (04) gravels were randomly picked from each colour and condition to
study the physical properties. Each sample was labelled according to its source, location and property.
From the entire Hub Naddi initially two (02) quarries were chosen for the evaluation of properties. The
coarse aggregates from the crushed rock of each quarry were also separated on the basis of colour (red,
yellow, grey) to conduct engineering tests, and samples of each colour with required sizes were separated
and labelled. Figure 2 illustrates the sampling of rock and crushed rock (aggregates).


Figure 2: Study of Engineering and Petrographic Examination of the Sample

4.2.1. Petrographic examination

Petrographic testing is a microscopic examination that evaluate the aggregate material (French, 1991) and
is used to examine the Alkali-Aggregate-Reaction (AAR) risk in carbonate aggregates which remains to
be one of the major cause of damage in concrete (Lopez-Buendia et al., 2006).

The petrographic examination, therefore, included the description and systematic classification of rock
and studying thin sections by means of microscope. The gravels after physical description were cut into
thin slices, trimmed and reduced to 0.03mm thickness and pasted on glass slide to be studied under
microscope and then compiled in the form of designed data table.

4.2.2 Engineering tests

The sets of engineering tests for evaluation of aggregate in relation to its behaviour in asphalt and cement
concrete were identified and conducted according to ASTM and BS standards (Dhir et al., 1971; Akbulut
et al., 2006; Pan et al., 2006 and Brandes et al., 2006). The list of selected tests for the current study were:
a) Flakiness Index; b) Elongation Index; c) LA Abrasion; d) Specific Gravity and Absorption; e) Crushing
Value and f) Impact Value. The samples utilized for conducting these tests, however, remained confined to
crushed aggregates obtained from crushing plants.
Hub Naddi
Selection of
Quarries on the
basis of Variation
in Material
(Maru Dakka)
Quarry 2
(Hasan Pir Hill)
Crushing of
Engineering Properties
Rock Samples
Crushed Rock Samples

As said earlier, the coarse aggregates were sorted out on the basis of colours; red, yellow and grey, while
engineering tests were performed to check the mechanical behaviour. The results were then compiled and
the qualitative analysis of the engineering and petrographic studies is presented through Table 1a & 1b.

5. Preliminary Results And Discussion

Table 1 (a & b) show the qualitative analysis of engineering properties of aggregate collected from
crushers and petrographic studies of rock collected from quarries, according to the variation observed
within the aggregates. Table 2 shows the evidence of methodology being adopted for evaluating
engineering properties of aggregates in terms of allowable limits needed for asphalt and cement concrete.
It has been found that both the quarries supplying these aggregates have satisfactory quality and may be
recommended to be utilized for roads and building application.

6. Conclusion

The paper presents a conceptual framework which puts forwarded a vision for aggregates
characterization. It integrates three major facets of characterization viz. the aggregate source, the crushing
plant and the basic properties obtained through physical and engineering testing. The above three facets
are linked with application side where the standards come in place to define suitability of the aggregate
for a given application such as concrete, asphalt etc. The output of the characterization is an aggregate
resource map which can provide geographically referenced database for ready utilization. It may be
concluded that the ongoing study would provide results which would be highly beneficial to the
construction industry in Pakistan.

Table 1 a: Qualitative Analysis of Engineering Properties and Petrographic Studies of Rock
Quarry: Maru Dakka
Crusher: Rais Goth

Sample Engineering Properties Petrographic Studies
RED AGGREGATE Flakiness Index: High Texture: Grain supported
Elongation Index: Low Sphericity of grains: Medium
Absorption: Low Intensity of Fossils: Medium
Crushing Value: Low
Impact Value: Medium
LA. Abrasion: Medium

Sample Engineering Properties Petrographic Studies
YELLOW AGGREGATE Flakiness Index: High Texture: Mixed
Elongation Index: Low Sphericity of grains:
Absorption: Low Intensity of Fossils: High
Crushing Value: Low
Impact Value: Medium
LA. Abrasion: Low

Sample Engineering Properties Petrographic Studies
GREY AGGREGATE Flakiness Index: High Texture: Mixed
Elongation Index: Low Sphericity of Grains: Low
Absorption: Low Intensity of Fossils: High
Crushing Value: Low
Impact Value: Medium
LA. Abrasion: Low

Table 1 b: Qualitative Analysis of Engineering Properties and Petrographic Studies of Rock
Quarry: Hasan Pir Hill
Crusher: Hasan Pir

Sample Engineering Properties Petrographic Studies
RED AGGREGATE Flakiness Index: Low Texture: Matrix Supported
Elongation Index: Medium Sphericity of Grains: Low
Absorption: Low Intensity of Fossils: High
Crushing Value: Medium
Impact Value: Medium
LA. Abrasion: Low

Sample Engineering Properties Petrographic Studies
YELLOW AGGREGATE Flakiness Index: Low Texture: Mixed Texture
Elongation Index: Medium Sphericity of Grains: Low
Absorption: Low Intensity of Fossils: Medium
Crushing Value: Medium
Impact Value: Low
LA. Abrasion: Low

Sample Engineering Properties Petrographic Studies
GREY AGGREGATE Flakiness Index: Low Texture: Grain Supported
Elongation Index: Low Sphericity of Grains: Low
Absorption: Low Intensity of Fossils: High
Crushing Value: Medium
Impact Value: Low
LA. Abrasion: Low


Table 2 a: Aggregate suitability analysis results

Table 2 b: Aggregate suitability analysis results

7. Refrences

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Pavements. Building and Environment, Vol. 42, pp 1921-1930.
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River Aggregates, Sindh, Balochistan Area, Pakistan. 1st International Conference of Transportation
and Infrastructure, Beijing, China.
Baker, D., and Hendy, B. (2005). Planning for Sustainable Construction Aggregate Resources in
Australia. The Queensland University of Technology Research Week International Conference,
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