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01 June 2023

EUROCODE Conference 2023 at DIBt: Great interest in the 'second generation' of the Eurocodes

It is not every day that more than 1,500 structural design engineers, architects, specifiers, experts and regulators from 66 countries around the world come together for a hybrid conference. The EUROCODE conference on 24 May 2023 at DIBt in Berlin was one such occasion.

The topic on the agenda: an overview of the state of play and the most important novelties and changes in the 'second-generation Eurocodes' as the in-depth revision of the EU’s design standard suite is called. The chairman of the CEN committee responsible for the 'Structural Eurocodes', CEN/TC 250, and the chairs of the subcommittees presented the key developments first-hand. Starting with a general overview and the basic principles of structural design, the journey continued with metal and glass , concrete, concrete-steel composites, as well as masonry to arrive at timber, geotechnical and seismic design.

The event was organised by DIBt in co-operation with the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre and sponsored by the Federal Ministry for Housing, Urban Development and Building (BMWSB), the Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport (BMDV) and the Initiative for Practice-Oriented Rules in Building Construction.

Gerhard Breitschaft, President of DIBt and vice-chair of CEN/TC 250, welcomed the live audience and the over 1,500 online attendees. He also answered the question why this conference was taking place at DIBt. DIBt looks back on a long history with the Eurocodes since the Institute provided the first chair of CEN/TC 250. To this date, the Institute contributes to the development of the Eurocodes by initiating and supporting research work and taking an active role in numerous working groups and committees. 'Germany has made the first generation of the Eurocodes mandatory as part of its regulatory framework. […] And DIBt will do its best to ease the transition for the stakeholders and ensure a swift implementation of the second-generation Eurocodes.'

Keynotes were given by Gwenole Cozigou, Director for Construction, Machinery and Standardisation at the European Commission, and Dietmar Menzer from the Federal Ministry for Housing, Urban Development and Building (BMWSB)

Mr Cozigou highlighted the overarching goal of the Eurocode series: facilitating the exchange of knowledge between experts and making the huge technical expertise that exists in Europe available to all technical engineers. He explained that while the first generation of the Eurocodes provided a strong basis for a common European approach, it sometimes resembled a theoretical work. By ensuring broader participation of all interested parties, CEN/TC 250 had now found a way of providing a transparent format that addresses the needs of professional users. He concluded: 'These standards were written by and for you […] So we thank you for all the efforts done, for the work achieved, but be ready that we will ask you to contribute more in the future.'

Mr Menzer stressed the fact that, increasingly, economic and ecological, and especially sustainability demands were being placed on structural design. 'If these aspects are taken into account, the second generation of the Eurocodes will be a success story.'

The chairman of CEN/TC 250, Steve Denton, gave an overview of the enormous work programme covered by M/515, the European Commission’s mandate for amending and extending the scope of the structural Eurocodes. With around 1,500 experts involved at the EU level and probably 15,000 operating at the national level, it is the largest standardisation programme in European history. One focus of Steve Denton’s talk was also on the two overarching objectives for the recast of the Eurocodes: enhancing ease of use and achieving exemplary levels of international consensus. As he said, in his closing remarks: 'The most important indicator of success will be the reaction that we get from practitioners. It will be about ease of use and about whether the content that we have added in the standards helps people to tackle the situations that we have to tackle, the new imperatives that we have, especially in relation to sustainability.'

Following up on Mr Denton’s presentation, the chairs of the Subcommittees presented the fundamental changes and technical advancements in 'their' Eurocodes. The details of these talks can be followed using the conference recording or by having a look into the presentations.

The audience took an active part in the conference by submitting a number of pointed and sometimes probing questions via the chat function. These were answered by the speakers during the Q & A sessions moderated by Ronald Schwuchow, head of DIBt's work area on the basic principles of structural design and delegate to CEN/TC 250.

Here are some of the general lines of thought and discussion that emerged from the conference:

The second generation of the Eurocodes contains a considerable number of updates to reflect the state of the art. New materials, technologies, design methods and requirements have been taken into account, including

  • the development of a new Eurocode 10 on structural glass,
  • enhanced consideration of numerical methods, e.g. FEM in steel construction
  • a note in EN 1990 stating that 'the basic requirements for an existing structure can be different form the basic requirements applicable for a new structure'. This note gives the national regulators leeway to promote the conservation of existing buildings.
  • giving due consideration to future impacts of climate change
  • linking safety levels to possible consequences of failure and to quality management measures
  • and many more

Despite all amendments and developments there is a clear continuity between the current and the future suite of the Eurocodes, as the speakers pointed out on several occasions. Experts who are familiar with the first generation of the Eurocode standards will have no difficulty in using the second generation.

'It's an evolution, not a revolution.' (Paolo Formichi, CEN/TC 250/SC 10)

The different CEN/TC 250 groups and committees also took the task of improving ease of use very seriously. Redundancies were eliminated, clauses of little practical relevance dropped, and alternative methods reduced. The texts were restructured, edited, and streamlined and flow charts, drawings and correlation tables were added. Special consideration was given to eliminating overlaps and inconsistencies between the individual parts of the Eurocode series which are most frequently used in combination. The interface between the Eurocodes and the Construction Products Regulation (EU) No 305/2011 has also become an increasingly important work area. The ongoing CPR Acquis process provides a unique window of opportunity for rethinking and improving the consistency of construction product and design standards, which is so fundamental for the safety of buildings and other engineering works, in a systematic manner.

The experts all agreed that the number of pages is no valid indicator for ease of use, given that many technical advances and novel aspects had to be included in the standards.

'Is ease of use related to a reduction of the number of pages? The answer is definitely: no!' (Stefan Winter, CEN/TC 250/SC 5)

There were also many questions from the audience about the timeline for the implementation of the second-generation Eurocodes. Here, the speakers had to point out repeatedly that implementation was not in their hands but in those of the national regulators. There were also several appeals to the National Standardisation Bodies to start working on the National Annexes early.

The conference day ended in a tribute to the outstanding collaborative effort behind the first and the second generation of the Eurocodes and with a big thank you to all those involved.

'We have included new materials and methods and can respond to new demands in relation to sustainability, protection of natural resources and climate change impacts. It was and is a huge task.' (Gerhard Breitschaft, DIBt president, vice-chair of CEN/TC 250)

'I’m immensely proud of all the work that has been done. I’m very proud of the approach that we’ve taken. When we came into this project, there was no playbook for how to do a standardisation project of this scale and this importance.' (Steve Denton, chair of CEN/TC 250)

[Translate to English:] Steve Denton & Gerhard Breitschaft am Diskussionstisch
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