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Designers face massive costs as Eurocodes loom

SWITCHING TO the structural Eurocodes will cost design consultancies millions of pounds, which they are unlikely ever to recover in fees, a report from the Institution of Structural Engineers claimed this week.

All the Eurocodes will be published between 2004 and 2007. The British Standards Institution will start withdrawing the equivalent British Standards soon after this date.

Consultants will be left with little option but to switch, especially if the government starts applying the Public Procurement Directive in the near future.

Typical costs for a consultancy with 16 fee-earning engineers would top £250,000. This would include £25,000 plus for the new codes, supporting documents and software, the same amount for staff training, and a massive £128,000 for loss of productivity in the first year of the changeover.

These figures are featured in the IStructE's report to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) on the proposed national strategy for the implementation of the structural Eurocodes. This was prepared in a frantic three month period, but has been delayed waiting for ministerial approval since the IStructE submitted it at the end of April (NCE 5 February).

The report also calls for a clear strategy from the ODPM on the implications of the Public Procurement Directive which comes in next year and which appears to make the use of Eurocodes mandatory as soon as they are published for government-funded projects. 'If the design of public works is to be carried out to the Eurocodes as soon as they are published? much of the necessary guidance material is not likely to be in place at that time and there may be safety risks as a result, ' says the report.

On the cost of conversion the report comments: 'With their fee levels already under pressure some designers are likely to resist making this expenditure for as long as possible. During the transition it is inevitable that the times taken both to carry out and check a design will increase.

'However, clients are unlikely to accept increased design costs when they find there to be little, if any, economic advantage to using Eurocodes.'

Flint & Neill consultant Brian Smith said the £250,000 cost estimate represented 'a very high proportion of the annual income of a small practice - it could be the entire profit margin.'

And he backed the report on the probable reaction of clients, especially the less informed among them. 'These costs are unlikely ever to be reclaimed, ' Smith concluded.

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