- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 24 Dec 2019
Asphalt is a mixture of asphalt cement and aggregates, hot-mixed in an asphalt plant and then laid hot to form the surface course of a flexible pavement. Asphalt paving provides a stable, safe and durable road surface.
Asphalt is specifically designed to carry the loads without any shear. It is also flexible as it distributes any imposed load by deflecting it slightly without cracking or deforming. It is skid-resistant and allows quick drainage of water from its surface. It is durable and becomes more dense over time, with the use of traffic.
The SuDS Manual, published by CIRIA in 2015 defines asphalt as a: '...European standard description of all mixtures of mineral aggregates bound with bituminous materials used in the construction and maintenance of paved surfaces.'
HMA durability is related to one or more of the following:
If the thickness of the film surrounding the aggregate particles is inadequate, it is possible that the aggregate may become accessible to moisture through holes in the film. Should it be hydrophilic, water will displace the asphalt film, and the cohesion will be gone. This process is typically referred to as stripping. The optimum asphalt binder content is determined by mix design which should provide adequate film thickness.
 Air Voids
Excessive air voids (on the order of 8% or more) increase permeability and allow oxygen easier access to more asphalt binder thus accelerating oxidation and volatilization. HMA design seeks to adjust the items such as asphalt content and aggregate gradation to produce design air voids of about 4%. Excessive air voids can either be a mix design or a construction problem.
HMA must not distort under traffic loading.
Rounded particles tend to slip by one another causing HMA distortion while under heavy loads while the angular particles interlock with one another providing a good deformation resistant structure. Brittle particles cause mixed distortion as they tend to break apart under agitation or load. The aggregate which has good surface and abrasion characteristics can be blended to provide better overall characteristics.
Gradations with excessive fines cause distortion as a large amount of fine particles tends to push the large particles apart and act as lubricating ball-bearings between these larger particles.
Aggregate texture, shape and size- flat, elongated or angular particles tend to interlock with one another rather than slip by making placements and compaction more difficult. Tests for particle shape and texture can identify as possible quality problems.
Gradations with excess fines can cause a tender mix. A gradation resulting in low VMA or excess asphalt binder content can have the same effect. Gradation specifics are used to ensure acceptable aggregate gradation.
Asphalt binder works as a lubricant between the particles as they are packed together. Thus low asphalt binder content reduces this lubrication resulting in a less workable mix. Not that a higher asphalt binder content is good for workability but bad for deformation resistance.
Asphalt surfaces with good drainage that is laid and installed by professionals last for an average of 20 years before they need a full re-surfacing. With certain climates, however, high-quality installations can last up to 35 years nowadays. Hiring a reliable paving professional is the best way to get the longest life as well as your money's worth out of the paving job.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
Featured articles and news
A quick introduction to a very complicated subject.
CIOB suggests the economic reach of construction is double the official figures.
The first US building to achieve BREEAM Outstanding In-Use.
70 buildings from 70 years of Concrete Quarterly. Book review.
Conserving the iron roof at the Albert Dock.
Delivering an infrastructure revolution.
The admissibility of evidence.
How many can you name? 37 anyone?
CIOB respond to the points-based system.
When is the weather considered 'exceptionally adverse'?
ECA backs call for a rolling programme of rail electrification.