As part of the European Union's desire to remove technical barriers to trade, a set of European Codes of Practice in the field of civil and structural engineering works is currently in the course of development by the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN).
The European Commission's objective is for the Eurocodes to establish a set of common technical rules for the design of buildings and civil engineering works that will ultimately replace the differing rules in the various member states.
The process was started in 1989 when the Commission established a mandate to transfer the preparation and publication of the Eurocodes to CEN. In doing so the new codes will have the status of European Standards. Member states are required to adopt Eurocodes for structural products and construction works and recognise that the use of these Eurocodes raises a presumption of conformity with the Essential Requirements of Directive 89/106/EEC.
According to Guidance Paper L Application and Use of Eurocodes, some of the intended benefits and opportunities for Eurocodes listed include:
Eurocodes are foreseen to improve the functioning of the single market for products and engineering services by removing obstacles arising from different national practices and to improve the competitiveness of the European construction industry, and the related professionals and industries. Thus the Eurocodes should give engineering firms, contractors, designers and product manufactures the freedom to provide their services in the construction industry in any member state throughout Europe.2
While Eurocodes will be voluntary European Standards (ENs), they are expected to gradually replace national codes (eg UK Codes), which are traditionally called up (with modifications) in Ireland. Member States must withdraw any conflicting National Standards and so they will therefore not be maintained in the long term. Eurocodes will be called up for Public Procurement purposes and in Technical Guidance Documents to the National Building Regulations. Eurocodes will also be used in the drawing up of harmonised standards and technical Approvals for construction products where structural calculations are involved in the process
Initially CEN published the Eurocodes as pre-standards ( ENVs) and most were published between 1992 and 1998.CEN Technical Committee (TC) 250 was established in 1990 and is involved in transforming the pre standards into European Standards. The process of converting the ENVs into European standards is well underway and publication of the EN Eurocodes is expected between 2002-2006.
The structural Eurocodes cover basis of structural design, actions (i.e. Loading), each of the main structural materials, geotechnical design and design for earthquake resistance.
Other than EN 1990 "Basis of Structural Design" each of the codes are divided into a number of parts covering specific aspects of the subject. All of the Eurocodes relating to materials have a part 1-1, which covers the design of buildings and civil engineering structures. They also have a part 1-2 for fire design. The codes for concrete, steel, composite construction, timber and earthquake resistance have a part 2 covering design of bridges. In each case part 2 is to be used in combination with the appropriate part 1.
In total there are 58 Eurocode parts in 10 Eurocodes EN 1990 1999 inclusive.
According to Guidance paper L, the determination of the levels of safety of building and civil engineering works remains within the competence of the Member States. Possible differences in geographical or climatic conditions as well as different levels of protection etc. that may prevail at national, regional or local level will be taken into account by provision of choices in the Eurocodes for identified values, classes or alternative methods so called National Determined Parameters (NDP's). This allows Member States to choose the level of safety, durability and economy applicable to works in their territory. To this end Eurocodes recognise the responsibility of regulatory and other relevant authorities in each member state and have safeguarded their right to determine values related to safety matters at national level. This is to be achieved by the development of a National Annex, which will contain the NDP's for the member state.
The acceptance of a Eurocode part by CEN is based on a qualified majority vote of the National Standard Bodies of each member state. Once voted positively the part will be made available to National Standards Bodies by CEN on the date of availability (DAV).
In the two years after the DAV National calibration is to be carried out in each member state in order to determine the Nationally Determined Parameters. Thereafter the NSB's can publish the standard as a national standard with the national foreword and a national annex.
A coexistence period will begin at the end of the National Calibration period where either Eurocodes or the National requirements may be utilized. The Eurocode parts have been grouped into Packages, each of which must be published with their respective National Annex before full implementation of that set of Codes may begin. A maximum of 3 years, from the National Publication of the last part of a package, is allowed before the with-drawl of all the national codes i.e. five years from the DAV. Full implementation is expected in 2008-2010.
Up until the end of October 2004 there are six parts that have been issued by CEN (i.e. reached the DAV stage). These include the following:
The Eurocodes Expert campaign includes a new website at www.eurocodes.co.uk, which includes details of all codes and their progress together with listings of all recent Eurocode-related publications and forthcoming institutional events. There will also be an on-line users forum, an email updating service, regular networking events and a periodic newsletter Eurocode News (see below). Commenting at the launch of the campaign, ICE director general Tom Foulkes said: "The Eurocodes will require engineering designers throughout the UK and Europe to think in a different way and to use more supporting guidance and software than they do at present. Eurocodes Expert aims to be the primary reference for all users, advising them on the latest developments, training events and support resources.