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International Engineering Standards

Bernard Antieul, Client Services Director at hurleypalmerflatt, talks about global standards and whether they should be taken with a pinch of salt.


Globalisation within client markets has progressed faster than that of engineering standards. Organisations should be aware that there will not necessarily be one size fits  all solutions. 


Where companies have established global standards, these standards should be considered as guidance. It is more important to understand the concepts behind the standards and adopt local solutions that support the concept. Strict compliance can have unfortunate consequences.


Language and terminology can lead to misunderstanding, for example, in some countries ‘trunking’ is ‘ductwork’ and asking a contractor to run all his cabling in trunking has led to scratching of heads on site and consequently necessitated rework to remove the recently installed cabling from the air conditioning ductwork. 


The involvement of local staff and discussions with people on the ground will often help in this regard, but it is worth having early involvement, especially if there will be a necessity to change existing global specifications. 


There are four broad aspects within which international standards can be considered:

1International standards i.e. IEC 

2Country standards i.e. BS, DIN, NEN, IS, etc

3Country legislative requirements i.e. Building Regulations, National Building Codes, etc

4Local customs and practice


Most manufacturers will provide plant and equipment that complies with International Standards where they are appropriate. These are often accepted, and where specialised equipment, such as close control air conditioning units and UPS are designed in the US or Europe and the manufacturer has established a local factory to produce them, the US or European standards will often still apply. 


In specialist areas, there are often no local equivalent standards. In these instances the solution is simple and universally accepted.


There are many countries where it would be necessary to obtain the country standard and have it translated, for which it is recommended that a technical translator is used, in order to obtain the correct interpretation. 


This attracts significant cost and time. In many countries, there are not equivalent standards to American or European standards, and it is not possible to purchase equipment manufactured to these levels. This is particularly a problem when trying to attain LEED or BREEAM certification where you are reliant on meeting certain US or UK standards to demonstrate compliance.


Local legislative compliance can be a veritable minefield, especially where for example a National Building Code exists, but each member state of the country concerned applies or ignores some of the Code. This implicit knowledge is not written anywhere, and is subject to change without warning.


The process that one has to follow to obtain regulatory approval and sign off varies with every country and the way that bureaucracy has developed over time.  In our experience, the best way of resolving this is to engage local staff or expertise to guide one through the process. However, it is best not to believe what the first person tells you, try and get a consensus. Regular interrogation and verification is essential for a successful outcome. 


There are some countries where a centralised Government department or regional authority has established requirements that are not written anywhere, but people familiar with the local market are aware they exist and you often cannot get your installations certified unless they comply. 


Custom and practice dictates how installations are completed and insistence in the application of another country’s practices can reveal a lack of appropriate in-country skills and material. The end result can be less than required and often worse than adopting the local approach, and will certainly be more expensive. 


Many of the local practices have been developed to suit their markets, so for example countries that have high levels of airborne dust and pollution, coupled with a virulent rodent population, may deter the use of raised access floors. 


In India, they generally do not use galvanised walkways or platforms for plant access as it is much more cost effective to manufacture from steel and paint it regularly. This also allows for simple on-site modifications in case it turns up wrong in the first place.


The best advice is to share knowledge and work together with the local experts, a vigorous top down approach will inevitably not achieve the best results.