Walking into the Specialist Team Royal Engineers office in Split, Croatia, is uncannily like entering the design office of any UK consultancy.
Engineers pour over design calculations, draughtsmen sit at AutoCad terminals and the shelves are filled with codes, standards and health and safety files. Refreshments are on tap and the chairs are padded.
In charge of STRE are Major Duncan Cook and Major Bill Laing. Both are chartered engineers and members of the ICE, having studied on the Army's professional engineering course.
The team's role in Bosnia is to provide technical assistance to the Royal Engineers on any structural or engineering matter that cannot be readily solved in the field. All construction designs are either carried out or approved to UK standards by the office. Since the introduction of the Construction (Design and Management) regulations in the UK, STRE also acts as planning supervisor on every project.
'We run CDM in a very strict and formal way,' says Cook, admitting it is often more rigidly followed than anyone would attempt in the UK. 'No one starts work on a project without having method statements and safety files approved by us first.'
The temporary nature of most of the work, he explains, and the frequency of staff moving on, means that upto date safety files on each structure will be vital when they are eventually disassembled.
In addition, he says, running such a formal process helps when working with local contractors, which are of course not governed by UK regulations. As this does not excuse the Army from complying, detailed method statements included in all contracts help ensure tightly supervised work on site. This supervision is usually handled by a separate team composed of trained clerks of works and surveyors.
'Everything we do is very conservatively designed,' explains Cook. 'Not because they are not built to a high standard but because the guys on site are usually well trained but out of practice. We generally go for the simple rather than the elegant solution.'