Kenyan engineers will soon be required to abandon the use of British Standards and Codes of Practice for engineering structures and adopt the use of Structural Eurocodes in line with a shifting process that began in 2012.
Over the years, British Standards and Codes of Practice have been widely used in structural engineering practice in Kenya. However, in 2010, British Standards Institution (BSI), European Union member countries as well as European Free Trade Association (EFTA) changed from the use of British Standards to the use of Structural Eurocodes, amove that aims to break trade barriers due to different technical specifications and design approaches used from one country to another in Europe.
With only a few years left to the Vision 2030 deadline, fast-tracking deployment of robust and high-quality infrastructure facilities is fundamental to transforming Kenya into a middle-level economy that is competitive and prosperous with a high quality of life as envisioned. President Uhuru Kenyatta’s development blueprint, the Big 4 Agenda, comprising of Food Security, Affordable Housing, Manufacturing, and Affordable Healthcare also spotlights sound structural facilities as the backbone of development.
Globally, structural engineering standards establish common design criteria, methods, and understanding regarding the design of structures between owners, operators, and users, designers, contractors, and manufacturers of construction products. This ensures increased structural safety and quality and the removal of non-tariff trade barriers.
Since the British Standards are no longer supported by the original developer, British Standards Institution, they are no longer subjected to regular reviews to incorporate new knowledge and advancements in science and they are, therefore, withdrawn. Normally, a standard should be reviewed constantly, approximately every five years.
It is important to note that Eurocodes have over thirty (30) years of development which means they are technically superior standards. They emphasise structural safety, the robustness of design, fit for use to ensure that the structure will not collapse or fail to serve the intended function. Eurocodes also require that design and execution should be done by qualified and experienced persons. Another best practice in the Eurocode is adequate supervision and quality control during and after design and construction.
A notable change in the Eurocodes is the difference in design approach. For example, in structural design, the Eurocode uses cylinder strength as opposed to cube strength. Factors of safety and design parameters such as the axis, symbols, design in shear have also changed. Additionally, specifying and testing of concrete which was largely based on cube strength is now based on cylinder strength.
In addition to EU-EFTA member countries, many countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, Oceania, and South America have since adopted the Eurocodes. In Africa, South Africa, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Madagascar, Ethiopia among others are in different stages of adopting Eurocodes.
Recently, the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) begun the process of harmonizing Eurocodes. This has allowed the development of a National Annex with Nationally Determined Parameters factoring in the country’s climatic conditions that vary from one region to another in designing infrastructure. Some of the climatic factors put into consideration include Earthquake Design and Wind Map, among others.
For Kenya to fully adopt Eurocodes, there is a need for training and practice. Universities should teach in Eurocodes and at the same time, structural designs for approval should be submitted in Eurocodes. Specifications in contracts, general and specific conditions in design and construction need to reflect and apply the use of Eurocodes. All design software, testing equipment, and quality control processes also need to be calibrated and adjusted to Eurocodes.
Additionally, there is a need to facilitate close collaboration and sensitization of all stakeholders including engineering professionals, government agencies, training institutions, and consumers. This will ensure a unified system that safeguards consistency in materials, design, execution, and testing as outlined in the Eurocodes for safe, reliable, functional, economical, and resilient structures that can withstand climatic threats such as wildfires, floods, and droughts.
It is expected that any country that adopts Eurocode will increase its global competitiveness, quality, safety, and reliability of its structures like buildings. Adopting Eurocodes will also help improve health, fire safety, and innovation. Other benefits include enhanced energy economy, stability of structures as well as environmental considerations.
By Engineer Shammah Kiteme and Jane Maina. Eng. Kiteme is a Member of the National implementation committee on Eurocode at the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS), while Jane Maina is the Manager-Mechanical and civil Engineering standards at KEBS.