Eurocodes Evolution – What to Expect from the Second Generation

This article provides an overview of the background, status and transition timetable for the second-generation EN Eurocodes that are in development.

image showing the Eurocodes logo

In a significant shift in the construction industry landscape, the British Standards Institution (BSI) announced its decision to withdraw British Standards (BS) codes in favour of the Eurocode standards in 2010. This move marked a pivotal moment in the harmonization of construction standards across Europe. With the withdrawal of BS codes, the Eurocodes emerge as the primary framework for structural design and engineering practices in the United Kingdom, aligning British design methodologies with those of the wider European community. The decision reflected a strategic effort to streamline regulatory frameworks, enhance interoperability, and promote cross-border collaboration within the construction sector.

The Eurocodes, which were first released between 2002 and 2007, and marked the culmination of over three decades of collaborative international development efforts. After the withdrawal of conflicting British Standards in March 2010, the Eurocodes emerged as the principal set of standards utilized for structural and geotechnical design in the United Kingdom.

With the implementation of these new standards across Europe, many nations aimed for a period of stability for practicing engineers. Consequently, there have been minimal major alterations to the initial suite of standards. However, there has been a substantial international initiative to develop the second generation of the EN Eurocodes. This comprehensive and coordinated revision of all Eurocode components is expected to bring about significant updates and introduce new components.

The initial standard of the second-generation has been sent to National Standardization Bodies (NSBs). Efforts are underway to ensure that the entire second-generation suite will be available by early 2026. By early 2028, all countries are required to withdraw their first-generation documents. While significant changes to most commonly used standards may not happen soon, it’s crucial to begin preparing for the transition now. Therefore, the purpose of this article is to explain the status of the second generation of the Eurocodes and what to expect from them.

Who is Responsible for the Eurocodes?

Responsibility for overseeing the Eurocodes falls under the jurisdiction of the CEN Technical Committee 250 (CEN/TC 250). CEN, which stands for the European Standardization Body, comprises 34 full National Standardization Body (NSB) members, including BSI. All CEN members are bound by CEN regulations, ensuring that all standards are developed in accordance with internal rules.

CEN/TC 250 is a dynamic committee, boasting nearly 100 formal subcommittees, working groups, and task groups. National representation within these committees and working groups is facilitated through NSBs, which typically establish mirror committees to establish national viewpoints. In the UK, pivotal national mirror committees include BSI B/525 for building and civil engineering structures, and BSI B/526 for geotechnics.

Each CEN Technical Committee benefits from a secretariat provided by one of the NSBs. Notably, BSI fulfills the crucial role of secretariat for CEN/TC 250, offering exemplary support. Additionally, with the Chair of CEN/TC 250 hailing from the UK, and strong UK representation and engagement across all CEN/TC 250 activities, the UK wields significant influence in shaping the evolution of the Eurocodes.

The Eurocode Evolution

Back in 2012 the European Commission issued what was known as Mandate M515 to the technical committed responsible for the Eurocode. This was a giant step in the evolution program for two reasons. First it unlocked the potential for financial support for the evolution program both from the EC and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). Secondly it affirmed the confidence that the aforementioned institutions have in the Eurocodes.  The total funding provided by EC and EFTA went to the tune of 11million pounds, making it the highest standardization programme ever of its type by funding level.

In response to Mandate M/515, CEN/TC 250 formed a panel tasked with drafting its technical response, outlining the comprehensive planned work program. This program was structured into four simultaneous phases, allowing for efficient management and coordination of standards and drafting efforts.

Furthermore, CEN/TC 250 conducted formal ‘systematic reviews’ of all existing Eurocode parts, providing an opportunity for input and recommendations from all CEN members regarding potential changes to the standards. This extensive feedback played a crucial role in shaping the detailed work program of CEN/TC 250, influencing the scope of updates and new initiatives.

The response to Mandate M/515 provided clear descriptions of the standards to be reviewed in each phase, along with background information, rationales for proposed changes, anticipated benefits, and expected outcomes. Significant updates included the extension of current regulations for assessing existing structures, strengthening requirements for structural robustness, and considerations for the impact of climate change on structural and geotechnical design.

In order to execute the work program effectively, over 70 funded project teams, each comprising five or six experts, were established. These teams worked according to predefined objectives under the direction of CEN/TC 250 and the relevant subcommittee or working group. The leadership and membership of these project teams were determined through open international competitions, facilitated by three calls for experts held in 2015, 2016, and 2017 respectively, with the Netherlands’ NSB, NEN, overseeing the selection process and managing associated contracts.

Objectives of the Eurocode Evolution

From the start, CEN/TC 250 collectively established two main goals to steer its actions and focus for the development process: firstly, to improve the accessibility of the Eurocodes; and secondly, to attain a commendable degree of global agreement.

Enhancing the Ease of Use

The goal of the Structural Eurocodes’ next generation is to establish a suite of design standards that users worldwide consider the most reliable and preferred. To achieve this objective, the Chair of CEN/TC 250 formed a Chair’s Advisory Panel (known as ‘CAP on ease of use’) in 2013. Comprising 15 members, this panel ensured a balanced representation of Eurocodes stakeholders, with a notable presence of practitioners. The CAP’s recommendations, unanimously approved by CEN/TC 250, have been pivotal in aligning efforts to meet users’ requirements.

Among the CAP’s key recommendations was the identification of a clearly defined primary target audience to guide Eurocodes authors. This audience, defined as ‘Practitioners – Competent engineers: Civil, structural, and geotechnical engineers,’ represents qualified professionals capable of independent work in their respective fields. Furthermore, the CAP delineated nine additional user categories and established statements of intent to address each group’s needs (See Figure 1).

image showing the categories of eurocodes users
Figure 1: Categories of Eurocodes users and CEN TC/250 statement of intent1

CEN/TC 250 formulated a set of guiding principles and priorities to steer the drafting process. These principles encompassed broader objectives such as enhancing comprehensibility, navigation, and consistency across Eurocodes. Specific aims included providing clear guidance for typical design scenarios, fostering innovation while maintaining consistency with existing standards, and minimizing fundamental changes to design methodologies unless thoroughly justified.

To bolster ease of use, CEN/TC 250 implemented various innovations and initiatives. These measures encompassed the introduction of the M/515 Technical Reviewer role to scrutinize evolving drafts, the development of comprehensive guidelines and examples to supplement drafting rules, and the facilitation of multiple ‘informal’ inquiries on drafts to solicit feedback from users via National Standardization Bodies (NSBs). Through these endeavors, CEN/TC 250 has received thousands of constructive comments, further refining the Eurocodes to better serve the needs of their users.

Achieving a Level of Consensus

Ensuring a high level of agreement among stakeholders is crucial for CEN/TC 250’s goals, but it’s no easy task given the size, complexity, and global impact of the Eurocodes and their development program. To tackle this challenge, several specific measures have been put in place. These include establishing clear behavioral expectations and implementing a five-step process to address disagreements within the committee.

Ultimately, the true test of achieving exemplary consensus lies in the formal votes cast by National Standardization Bodies (NSBs) on the final drafts of the Eurocodes. While the results are yet to be finalized, early signs are promising. Out of the numerous votes cast during the decision-making process, only a handful of direct negative votes have been recorded, indicating a high level of overall agreement among stakeholders.

Development Process

The development process for each Eurocode part follows CEN rules and comprises several stages (see Figure 2). Once the Project Teams finalize their work, the relevant subcommittee or working group begins preparing the standard for CEN formal enquiry (ENQ), during which NSBs provide official feedback on the draft prEN standard. Before ENQ, the prEN draft undergoes scrutiny by the CEN/TC 250 Chair and Secretary, review by the CEN editorial team, and translation into French and German.

article showing the procedures of the eurocodes evolution
Figure 2: Eurocode development process2

Additionally, as mentioned earlier, to support the objectives of ease of use and consensus-building, multiple informal enquiries are conducted by CEN/TC 250 during the project team drafting stage for all Eurocode parts. These inquiries gather and address comments on interim drafts.

Following the ENQ stage, comments from NSBs are addressed by the relevant subcommittee or working group, which then prepares the final EN draft. After additional checks, editing, and translation, the CEN Formal Vote (FV) is initiated. During this stage, NSBs submit their final votes on whether they agree with the draft standard.

What are the Key Changes?

The second generation of the Eurocodes incorporates improvements to the existing suite and extends its scope. The new suite will ensure the standards remain fully up to date through embracing new methods, new materials, and new regulatory and market requirements, namely:

  • Promoting further harmonization and improving the practical use of Eurocodes for day-to-day calculations (ease-of-use)
  • Introducing requirements for the assessment, re-use and retrofitting of existing structures;
  • Strengthening of requirements for robustness.
  • Developing a new Eurocode on structural glass;
  • Advancing pre-normative work on fibre-polymer composite structures (FRP), tensioned membrane structures, and respective CEN technical Specification

What’s On the Horizon?

The year 2023 reached a significant milestone for the Eurocodes. About twenty-five Eurocode parts went to ENQ, including most parts of EN 1991, EN 1993, EN 1995, and EN 1998. Additionally, eleven Eurocode parts, including the new CEN/TS 19102 focusing on tensioned membrane structures, moved to the FV stage in the same year. As mentioned earlier, all Formal Votes (FVs) will be wrapped up, and the new standards will be accessible to National Standardization Bodies (NSBs) by early 2026.

While the finalization and formal acceptance of the second-generation Eurocodes are in full swing, CEN/TC 250 is gearing up for communication efforts to facilitate the transition to the new standards. This includes creating general presentations outlining the key changes in each of the Eurocodes, which you can find on the JRC Eurocode website. Moreover, a series of ‘Eurocodes Evolution Explained’ videos is currently in production, and there are plans for in-depth technical briefings.

At the national level, the development of new national annexes and the enactment of transition plans by relevant authorities are on the agenda. These topics will be covered in upcoming articles. However, it’s essential to note that until then, the current suite of first-generation Eurocodes remains the go-to standards for structural and geotechnical design and should continue to be utilized accordingly.

Also See: Principles of Design to Eurocode

Sources & Citations

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