The reluctance of civil engineers to pick up and run with the new structural Eurocodes could cost British construction companies dearly, consultant McBains Cooper has warned.
Last week an exclusive NCE survey revealed that two thirds of civil engineers feel unable to confidently use Eurocodes, less than two months before British Standards for structural design are withdrawn.
An online survey of 400 engineers carried out by NCE last month revealed that just 34% of engineers feel comfortable using Eurocodes.
Ignorance is being compounded by a lack of education. Only 29% of respondents said they had received formal training in the new design codes.
Next month the British Standards Institution is withdrawing a total of 57 structural design codes because they are deemed to have been superceded by 58 parts of the 10 new Eurocodes. From 1 April the withdrawn codes may still be used but they will not be updated and, significantly, public projects in England, Wales and Northern Ireland must be specified using Eurocodes instead.
Now property consultant McBains Cooper has warned the industry that it must step up its efforts.
“Don’t be fooled - the Eurocodes will sneak up and bite any UK construction company or professional services business that does not recognise their importance. Many in the industry trust the British Standards that are currently in use will run side-by-side with the new codes until they eventually become obsolete,” said McBains Cooper associate director Gordon Lane.
“The EU directive states that national codes are to be withdrawn on 31 March 2010, and the BSI has confirmed they are complying with that directive and will not be supporting changes to British Standards beyond March. The updating of Building Regulations to reflect this directive will not take place until 2013. Many engineers see this as the point of no return when they must use the Eurocodes. The fact is that it is the contracts that will decide when we must change, particularly public contracts which will undoubtedly require the change to take place immediately.
“Engineers can view this change as a hindrance or an opportunity. Those who do not buy into the adoption of the codes in April will have their work opportunities restricted. Beyond 2013 these may dry up completely.
“Eurocodes give us exciting opportunities. There is no better CPD and refreshing learning than buying into the Eurocodes. The codes will open up new markets for consultancy practices within the Eurozone,” he said.
Lane said removing the barrier of national codes was a major opportunity.
“The barrier of national codes has prevented businesses like McBains Cooper from exporting its complete interdiscipline design approach to the European community. The dissolving of this barrier and implementation of normative procedures throughout Europe allows us to introduce our way of working to new markets. Factor in the favourable exchange rate and the opportunities for British engineers are there for the taking.
“As with all markets, those who follow trends will be left in the wake. This is an opportunity for British construction design consultants to set the pace for the rest of Europe to follow. Those who are slow on the uptake may come to rue their reluctance.”