Ignorance about the details of a key standard for ground engineering could lead to on-site disputes when it becomes effective in April, experts said this week.
A lack of training among smaller consultants and a general lack of awareness of the details of Eurocode 7 (EC7) and supporting documents such as execution standards are behind the fears.
This means that designer specifications could vary from the details provided in contractors’ construction methods outlined in the execution standards, leading to on-site disputes.
“There are lots of documents that people are not aware of,” explained EC7 committee member Andrew Bond.
“Eurocodes depend on other documents, such as execution standards. Consultants are not fully aware of these but, by default, a contractor will use these and that could lead to a dispute on the contract,” he said.
EC7 becomes the standard for ground engineering work from 1 April and will be compulsory on all public sector projects.
Contractors and major clients such as the Highways Agency agree that execution standards are not well known.
“Some of them have been around for 10 years but they do tend to get forgotten,” said Highways Agency head of geotechnical engineering Alex Kidd.
The agency has brought in consultant Arup to help rewrite its specifications, ensuring that these take account of all the relevant documentation.
Designers who ignore execution standards could find themselves in conflict with contractors. Over for example tolerances for pile verticality.
“There could be an issue where the designer is not aware of what values are given in the execution standard and they are tighter than specified,” said Bond.
“It is all about the detail, some things have changed, some are the same but you have to look at specifics.
“It is a new set of documents and the main thing is that everyone works together.”
However consultants say that they are ready for the new codes. “Major consultants are ready and there has been a lot of training over the last 18 months and most have done some design using EC7 already,” said Arup director and EC 7 committee member Brian Simpson, although he conceded that training could be an issue for smaller consultants.