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Local Standards and Specifications

posted Apr 3, 2022, 9:19 PM by jeffery jim

A few days ago, a friend talked about a general statement which I find quite a common paradigm or paradox among local engineers. It existed in the ecosystem of engineering locally, I can certainly refer this as a dogma. It always come to my attention that local engineers always use a getaway card when confronted with their ability in determining the adaptability of foreign standards and specifications in local setting. The most irresponsible reason for a quick getaway card is to blame their alma mater for not teaching so. This renders that particular individual’s qualities – complacent, ignorant, irresponsible and to a certain degree; obstinate! This happened not only in the private sector but also within the government bodies and structures. Academia has no difference as well. All three sectors are jointly accountable for such tenet and are nexus which allows the use of such getaway card when there is an occurrence which lacks of accountability, breaches, insufficient standards of care and low duties of cares, and diminished diligence in discharging their responsibilities.

2. Construction and build environment requires finest engineers to lead the development of the country and yet, we are plagued with individuals who make no effort in upgrading themselves with common knowledge requires by the Engineer’s Act. The crux to such circumstances within the engineering community and communal ecosystem came from complacency where almost everyone within the industry tolerates and reside to such level of low value when it comes to engineering. How did such complex phenomenon be explained in parsimony?

3. There is no such thing as there is no local standard specifications without considering local settings and environment. This kind of argument is certainly coming from debilitated individuals who no longer hold the key to answer his uncertainties when confronted. There have been ongoing researches and publications of local specifications with the introduction of Malaysia Standard and standards published by smaller organizations or collective academicians and practitioners. In certain newer fields, there are morbid collection which speaks about engineering gaps, call for papers and even initial investigation which may paved a route as generally acceptable parameters and practices.

4. Let us take some examples from Malaysia Standard and some of the local settings which are considered and adopted from other foreign standards and specifications. The recent development of the Eurocode which is a transition and compilation of general specifications within the European Union (EU) from British Standard (BS), Deutsches Institut für Normung (DIN) and et cetera. These standards are then compiled and renamed with additional prefix to their code with the introduction of “EN”. Now, British Standard within the EU renamed their standard specification codes as “BS EN” while the Germans with their assigned code of “DIN EN”. In certain cases, for international acceptance and synchronization primarily with other countries such as Japan and United States, the standard specification maybe be extended and introduced with “ISO” which is part of the International Standard. The gist to such introduction allows minimal conflict in measurement. Another great example would be the American Standards for concrete by American Concrete Institute (ACI) where standards are categorized in metric and imperial units with the introduction of “M” suffix after the imperial-based code.

5. Malaysia is no different than other countries which capitalize on standards and specifications established by these developed countries. This does not mean that Malaysia allows direct adaptation without making substantial changes. If engineers spent their time making inferential between international code and local codes, they will be surprised that what local academicians and industrialists have introduced. When addenda or addendum were made for international codes, the Standard Department of Malaysia will either re-established and re-code it accordingly or introduced local annex.

6. One can conduct a retrospective study and see how some of our most common codes have developed, re-written and their continuity. For example, the development of Code of Practices for Reinforced Concrete in Malaysia setting. In the early years circa 1970, 1972 to be exact; the United Kingdom came out with CP110 which is adopted by Malaysian Engineers thereafter. This particular standard specification is bare bone standard and speak less about durability. The introduction of BS 8110 in 1985 made some adjustments and expanded into 3 volumes which highlights the needs for more robust concrete by introducing higher strength concrete based on ingression of agent and exposure which capitalizes on lower cement/water ratio for higher density and less air voids within the concrete. After two amendments and the harmonizing all European codes, BS EN 1992 series were introduced in 2004 which sees some amendment to the similar issue, which is durability of concrete. There are a few other complimentary codes which need to be read in the light of BS EN 1992 which is BS EN 1990, BS EN 1991 and BS EN 1998. Partial Safety Factor is the main change and it is not limited to reduction from ratio of 1.6 to 1.5 for imposed load but also further reduction when condition(s) is far feasible and permissible. In local setting, Malaysia came out with MS 1195:1991 where some tweaking to suit local conditions were made based on the BS8110:1985 and now superseded and replaced by MS EN 1992. MS EN 1992 is not a direct copy of BS EN 1992 but it is akin to the mentioned British counterpart and referred as Local Annex. Adjustments and presumptions were made to suit the country’s condition. Therefore, it is an invalid and more over obstinate to state that an engineer is not aware about the suitability of existing codes for local context.

7. Another code that sees effort of the country structural specialists and academicians is the Code of Practice on Wind Loading for Building which sees the introduction of MS1553:2002 where wind speed envelopes were introduced specifically based on local studies and exposures. The migration from MS1553:2002 to MS EN 1991-1-4 finally occurred in 2017 with more comprehensive researches have been done for a fixed parameter for further wind speed calculation. Similarly, the changes and adaptation of seismic peak ground acceleration computation with the newly introduced MS EN 1998 based on a simple study of rock background which will due to be updated in years to come as suggested by the panels.

8. Based on these paragraphs, I would say that there is no way a design engineer or engineers generally within the country to not know the whole development and the use of appropriate codes. Worst, to lament blatantly on the lack of standards and specifications built for our local setting in not only irresponsible but a mirror which renders the kind of engineers we encounter these days.

9. Now, who are to be blamed when we are facing engineers who have been carrying a creed to heart where they can vindicate their ignorance without shame? All three! The government bodies who are empowered did not forcefully enforced the need for proper justifications and used of local setting although in recent years, I see design briefs are checked by Independent Checking Engineers (ICE). The Private design and construction firm is to be blamed for not equipping their design office with local standards, specifications and related annexes. For these group of professionals which I have encountered most time when doing design check, the wrong interpretation and design brief may lead to colossal variation in price. A change from 0.05 G to 0.08G in earthquake design may lead to increase of steel capacity by 15% and may lead to additional RM2 million for medium size development. Lastly, academicians should step up and understand the local scenarios and issues and stop relying in making references based on text books and slides provided by publishers from the West.

10. I hope this particular write-up will be an eye-opener to many of you and put to end a non-existence issue of not knowing the local standards and specifications when these standards and specifications are three to four times cheaper (almost subsidized) compare to our other international counterparts. If I were to say that engineers are accountable based on Tort Law, would you still try to vindicate yourself with ignorance in front the honourable judge and spend time in jail because you do not read enough? Think and reflect; go and read a book.