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Talking Point

Eurocodes will bring in a lot of change for the UK geotechnical industry, so planning for this change must begin now, says Brian Skinner.

Bill Gates famously said in 1981: “640K should be enough for anyone”.

It just goes to demonstrate that attempting to predict and anticipate what lies ahead is fraught with uncertainties, but nevertheless an essential exercise.

Never more so to the UK drilling and geotechnical industry that is entering a period of major change.

There is now much talk of Eurocodes affecting us in March 2010 - how many are aware that much of Eurocode 7 Part 2: Ground investigation and testing, is already with us in the form of supporting BS EN ISO Standards which should be being used today?

For example, 22476-3 Standard Penetration Test was published in 2005 and replaced the requirements of BS 1377.

More important, 22475-1 appeared in 2007 and effectively bans the U100 as currently available from taking class 1 samples - its area ratio of ~28% or with plastic liner of ~48% far exceeds the 15% upper
limit for class 1 driven or pushed sampling.

Industry is working on producing a conforming U100 but days are numbered for its plastic lining in class 1.

Cable percussion has played an important part in UK geotechnics.

Its availability, low cost, acceptance and conformity with standards have maintained its attraction.

However, a number of factors, not just Eurocodes, are combining to raise questions about its future longevity - not least safety, manual handling, alternative methods, tachograph requirements and the ageing workforce.

Looking further to Eurocodes for other potential changes, if fully observed, the volume of UK ground investigation has to rise significantly.

Eurocodes point to minimum levels for investigations.

The paucity of good-quality and sufficient investigation data available to piling contractors (FPS survey 2006) should be improved under Eurocodes.

Where previously a few dynamic sampling holes with a cable percussion hole may have (dubiously) been seen as enough, Eurocodes will demand more.

The paucity of good quality and sufficient investigation data available to piling contractors (FPS survey 2006) should be improved under Eurocodes.

Hesitation exists, however, over the use of the term “should”.

Who is carrying the message to clients that they have to conform to Eurocodes, commission more ground investigation and spend more?

The responsibility lies with us all - no single individual, enterprise or trade association can carry the message alone, but we all have to contribute.

Ground Forum can and must be enlisted to take the message forward.

Eurocode 7 Part 2 is directed at what shall be done, in what way and by whom.

Rubbish in, rubbish out is ‘regulated’ against.

The “whom” is important in the 22475 standard, which covers geotechnical investigation and testing.

BSI has decided to adopt and publish as British Standards parts 2 and 3 of 22475, which set down qualification and conformity assessment for enterprises and personnel.

Lead drillers, for example, shall be audited on a regular basis - BDA AUDIT provides this service over and above the NVQ land drilling qualification to meet this thrust of the Eurocode.

“Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future,” said the Danish physicist Niels Bohr, but that’s no excuse for failing to grasp Eurocodes, understand their requirements and plan for change.

  • Brian Stringer is national secretary of the British Drilling Association

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