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A long time coming

British Standards Institution launched the revised BS 5930: Code of practice for site investigations in January. Ground Engineering looks at some of the more significant changes to this important document.

After nearly a decade of work, and nearly 20 years since its last revision, the latest version of BS5930 arrived earlier this year.

The first edition of BS5930, Code of practice for site investigation, was published in 1981.

It dealt with all aspects of site investigation from the desk study to the final reporting of work. Its main focus was ground investigation practice, covering all aspects of the methods of drilling, sampling and insitu testing of soils, rocks and groundwater.

Revision began in October 1990, with the first meeting of a committee set up to review the code. Official British Standards Institution approval for a full revision was given in July 1991.

Although fundamentally the same document, the new code, BS5930: 1999 Code of practice for site investigations for civil engineering purposes, has undergone a number of significant changes, reflecting developments in both techniques and attitudes in the industry since the 1981 edition was published.

BSI says the revision set out to clarify the scope of the code, to revise any obsolete material and make minor amendments, to maintain compatibility with BS 1377: 1990 Methods of test for soils for civil engineering purposes and, as far as possible, to keep in line with future Eurocodes.

Many of the amendments are subtle, such as the change of 'civil' to 'geotechnical' engineer and wherever possible the mention of the need for flexibility in investigations.

However, three of the code's sections have undergone significant rewriting.

The first section on preliminary works has been expanded and includes a new appendix on contaminated land.

Geophysical techniques are dealt with in far more detail and the soil and rock description process has been made more user-friendly.

Laboratory testing is now only briefly described, with reference given to more detailed descriptions in BS 1377.

Admittedly, much of the new content is based on concepts that will have been seen before, as they are based on published work carried out since the first edition appeared.

Section one relies heavily on the ICE Ground Board Site Investigation Steering Group's Site investigation in construction series published in 1993. David Norbury, Ken Child and Tim Spink's work carried out in the late 1980s and early 1990s on the description of soils and rocks forms the basis for the revisions in BS5930.

Un for tunate ly, an er ror dur ing the production process has meant that the publication's new title, Code of practice for site investigations for civil engineering purposes - intended to bring the code in line with BS 1377 - was not used and the old title has been retained.

This, as well as the misnaming of the AGS as the Association of Geotechnical Experts, will be addressed in a list of amendments to be published at a later date, says BSI.

l BS 5930: 1999 is available from the BSI priced £148 (£74 to BSI subscribing members). Contact BSI Customer Services, 389 Chiswick High Road, London W4 4AL; Tel: 020 8996 9001; fax: 020 89967001; email:

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